First Published: 2007-04-21

 
Bill Maher’s ‘Towel Headed Hos’
 

Bias against Arabs and Islam—and bashing them as a monolithic entity—is accepted across the news media, whether it is in reporting or punditry. This makes it even more important, especially in this ‘gloves off’ age of comedy, says Remi Kanazi.

 

Middle East Online

For all his chauvinistic, misogynistic and racist drivel, old man Imus finally got the boot. I can’t say I feel particularly bad, considering his confederate-style punditry and his perpetuation of negative imagery of the non-white males our society, but I still think people are missing the point. Racism, bigotry and sexism are alive and well, and generally accepted in this great country—well it depends on who you’re talking about.

Unsurprisingly, one important question has not been asked since Imus’ downward spiral: what if those “nappy headed hos” were Arab or Muslim? Regrettably, we have a plethora of examples to point to post-911, but we don’t need to rehash all of it, one can just watch a nightly episode of Fox News’s Bill O'Reilly or CNN’s Glenn Beck. Yet, my bone to pick is not with the establishment neocons, Fox News, or Ms. Malnourished herself, Ann Coulter, but rather those “peaceful” and “all-accepting liberals” who complain so frequently about Imus and those like him.

To see how anti-Arab/anti-Muslim bigotry is accepted and applauded in America, one has to look no further than HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, hosted by “left-wing” comedian and political commentator Bill Maher. “Liberal” pundits like Maher pass off their anti-Arab/anti-Muslim rhetoric as an innocent invocation of Samuel P. Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations.” Yet, Maher’s vitriolic diatribes are no different than one saying, “black people are ruthless, welfare grubbing criminals.” Nonetheless, to a “liberal,” the previous comment is racist and wrong, because black people, unlike the days of slavery, are now “like us,” meaning white Anglo-American society, whereas Arabs and Muslims (as if they are a unitary, monolithic people), can still be labeled wholly as “backwards, ruthless, Jew-hating animals.”

In Maher’s program, he regularly brings on guests that espouse anti-Arab/anti-Muslim views, some of them being supposed “self-critical” Muslims. These guests, however, principally serve to support Maher’s own bias against Muslims and Arabs, bolstering his pro-Israel feelings. These guests include conservative Israeli politician, and former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Lebanese-born neocon and political hack Fouad Ajami, putative introspective Muslim moderate Irshad Manji, and former Muslim, now professed atheist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, among many others.

Showcasing the “tolerance of liberalism,” Maher brought on his claimed “hero,” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, of the hawkish American Enterprise Institute, to help him explain to HBO viewers just what was wrong with Islam. Like a fat kid in a candy store, Maher looked to Hirsi Ali on his panel this season and stated, “[I] s Islam a religion of peace? You are one of the brave people who say it’s not really a religion of peace.” More than happy to respond, Hirsi Ali proclaimed, “It’s not a religion of peace. Immediately after 9/11 they should have said, it’s not a religion of peace, we’re up against Islam.” That’s right because Pat Robertson speaks for all Christians and the list of disgruntled students that have gunned down their schoolmates since Columbine speak for all people under the age of 25. What if Hirsi Ali said, “Immediately after the black thug robbed the liquor store, they should have said, black people are criminals, we’re up against black people.” After her enlightening comments, while she went on to trash Saudi Arabia for a moment, Hirsi Ali received a huge applause from the audience. Even Steven Weber, an actor who stars on TVs Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, had to jump in and beg the question of whether it was right to characterize a whole religion and the beliefs of 1.3 billion people this way. Apparently it is because Maher, educating the naive Weber (who was talking of moderate Islam), asserted that “no, [religions are] not all alike…no [Islam] was extremist to begin with. Mohammed was a warrior.” Maher’s lesson on the malady of Islam followed up on his earlier comments in which he said that the West is not only better, but “superior” to the rest of world. Huh, I wonder why they don’t like us.

Bias against Arabs and Islam—and bashing them as a monolithic entity—is accepted across the news media, whether it is in reporting or punditry. This makes it even more important, especially in this “gloves off” age of comedy, to make a clear distinction between comedy and news. It is equally, if not more important, to condemn bigotry that is masked as humor. We should make fun of ourselves, our ethnicities, religions, and races, but when it is done in a vindictive nature or when a seemingly comedic joke or informative political comment is enveloped with racist, sexist, or bigoted undertones, it should be rejected by all peoples. That is not the “thought police” taking over, it’s common sense. Unfortunately, Don Imus was used by reactionaries across the board, both condemners and defenders, when people should have been talking about the issue of racism and sexism long before his comments. Tragically, a couple of days ago, 33 people, mostly kids, were massacred by a student at Virginia Tech. The Imus case, like its predecessor the Anna Nicole Smith drama, has run its course in the mainstream media. Sadly, racism and sexism now seem to be out of the minds of Americans until the next big gaffe. The only question left is how big of a gaffe is necessary for Americans to come to the defense of Arabs and Muslims?

Remi Kanazi is a Palestinian-American poet and writer based in New York City. He is the co-founder of www.PoeticInjustice.net and the editor of the forthcoming anthology of poetry, Poets for Palestine. He can be contacted at Remi@PoeticInjustice.net

 

Assad in Russia for talks with Putin

Islamic republic declares end of Islamic State

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail

Israeli police arrest 33 in ultra-Orthodox draft riots

Turkish lira at new low against US dollar

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues

Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

Libya to investigate 'slave auction' footage

15 women killed in food aid crush in Morocco

Lebanon FM will not attend Arab League Iran summit

Syrian forces liberate Albu Kamal from IS

Israel votes to shut migrant centre, deport Africans

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, Turkey discuss Syria

Libya to investigate ‘slave auction’ footage

Piece by piece, Iran moves towards a ‘new empire’

Netanyahu faces new questioning over corruption case

Syria troops, allies retake most of Albu Kamal from IS

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Paris

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

US-Russia rift threatens fragile prospects for Syria peace

'Caliphate' in tatters but IS still a threat