Bill Maher has been the subject of major controversy after criticizing Islam on the Oct. 3 edition of his show, "Real Time with Bill Maher." On the program, the host said that Islam is "the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book." It is a mistake, he continued, to think that "just a few bad apples" are responsible for perpetuating this attitude.
Maher received backlash for his comments, including from religious scholar Karen Armstrong in an interview published on Salon, and from students at the University of California Berkeley who started a petition advocating disinviting the comedian from speaking at their winter commencement ceremony.
Now, Maher has responded to the criticism in an interview with progressive commentator Sally Kohn published in Vanity Fair. He is unapologetic, to say the least.
On Karen Armstrong's remarks that this "the sort of talk that led to concentration camps in Europe. The sorts of things that people were saying about Jews in the 30s and 40s."
"It doesn't sting because it's beyond stupid. Jews weren't oppressing anybody. There weren't 5,000 militant Jewish groups. They didn't do a study of treatment of women around the world and find that Jews were at the bottom of it. There weren't 10 Jewish countries in the world that were putting gay people to death just for being gay. It's idiotic."
On the UC-Berkeley petition:
"The irony of the Berkeley situation is I thought campuses were places where free speech was championed. And one of my problems with Islam is that they are not big on free speech--which so offended the Muslims at Berkeley, they wanted to ban my speech."
He continues with a message to the students: "You know, I'm a liberal. My message is: be a liberal. Find out what liberalism means and join up. Liberalism certainly should not mean squelching free speech. And by the way, that petition, it was online, so anybody could sign it. You didn't have to go to Berkeley to sign it, you could sign it more than one time... So it was kind of a bullshit thing to begin with. Uh, so I don't think there were that many people against it. Even people who don't agree with everything I say about Islam certainly were on the side of letting me speak. The comments I read were just almost embarrassed for the kids.
And I would just say to all liberals: we should own the First Amendment the way the right-wingers own the Second."