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Bill Maher and Geert Wilders: Ideological Bedfellows

Bill Maher on Friday, March 27, decided that his statements tacitly endorsing putting Palestinians in concentration camps and denying Israeli Arabs the right to vote needed a good follow up.

On the youtube only segment, Overtime Overseas, in which Maher and his panelists attempted to tackle issues of a more international (read: European) flavor, SE Cupp and Barney Frank debated the culpability of the global Muslim population in the extreme acts of ISIS and Al Qaeda. Maher then joined in with, well, watch for yourself (Maher comes in about 45 seconds into the segment):

Something that needs to be addressed before we get to Maher: Cupp is conflating two very different things. The Catholic Church is an organized religion with a hierarchy and differing levels of responsibility in said hierarchy. Therefore, when priests molest children, the responsibility ultimately lies in the top of the hierarchical system the priests belong to, in other words, the Pope. Islam, however, has no such power structure and therefore no such levels of responsibility. Admittedly, this kind of a distinction is probably too abstract of a concept for Cupp, but it’s worth noting for the rest of us if we want to understand the central failings of this debate in general.

Let’s review what Maher is saying here. “I just wish there was somebody who could make the case in a way that wouldn’t have them be put way out there as a bigot, because there is a case to be made.” And who is he referring to as the person who is seen as a bigot here? Geert Wilders, of the Netherlands.  Maher also insinuates that Wilders’ views are not “crazy.” Let’s look at these views and see what kind “a case to be made” needs to be made by someone less polarizing, in Maher’s view.

Wilders views include: banning the Koran, mass deportation of Muslim immigrants, taxing the hijab, and a general terror of the Islamification, as he sees it, of Europe. These inflammatory views are what Maher is suggesting need to be brought to a wider audience by a less controversial figure. Note that Maher is not decrying any of the statements or positions of Wilders, nor is he calling for them to be curtailed or pulled back in any way. No, what Maher is suggesting is that these views are completely acceptable and simply need to be delivered to the Europeans in a more palatable manner.

It hardly needs to be said that the views shared by Wilders and Maher are at best incredibly xenophobic. If you doubt that, I invite you to try a little thought experiment: instead of Muslims, substitute Jews or Hindus and the relevant cultural and sartorial references. Endorsing the views of Wilder is a new low at Real Time, but it’s one that has been coming for a long time as Maher sinks lower and lower into racist crankery.

Maybe Bill Maher wasn’t endorsing all of Wilder’s views. Maybe he was just endorsing the spirit of his views in that there needs to be some sort of debate within the European community as to how to tolerate one another. It would be nice if we could give him the benefit of the doubt. But Maher has made it clear, time and time again, that when one subscribes to a point of view re religion, only the most fundamentalist and unwavering devotion to the words suffice. We should hold him to his standard.

Eoin Higgins is a writer and historian from upstate New York. He is a recent graduate of the Masters in History program at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. You can find his work at eoinhiggins.blogspot.com and follow him on twitter @CatharticMe