Making a mockery of free speech
Khwaja Ahmed, above, of Irvine in California, has launched a petition calling on the University of California, Berkeley, to bar Bill Maher from speaking at the school’s graduation ceremony on December 20.
Maher, a celebrated US stand-up comedian, television host, political commentator and outspoken atheist, was invited to deliver the keynote address at UC Berkeley’s graduation.
Ironically, the University is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement this fall.
According to this report, the petition follows a much-debated segment on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” in which the host sparred with actor Ben Affleck over radical Islam, arguing that fundamentalist views are commonly held in Muslim communities, not the exception as Affleck asserted. (Watch Affleck losing his cool here).
Maher made the 2008 movie Religulous (watch it on YouTube) and often criticises organised religion on his late-night programme. But this segment went particularly viral, attracting more than 1.2 million views on YouTube, and dominating cable news panels earlier this month. In the clip, Maher said liberals should stand up for principles like free speech, but not everyone bought his argument.
In his petition, which has so far attracted just over 1,000 signatures, Ahmed says:
Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for. In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment.
Bill Maher’s public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities.
Ahmed then provides some examples of Maher’s “hate speech”. Here’s are two:
• Rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price.
• At least half of the [Ten] Commandments are stupid!
A press rep for Berkeley did not immediately respond to a request to comment. The school’s official newspaper, the Daily Californian, announced on Tuesday that Maher will speak at the school’s graduation ceremony.
Meanwhile, it is reported here that fury has erupted in Afghanistan over a newspaper article that condemned the Islamic State group and the Taliban.
In an opinion piece published last week in the English-language daily the Afghanistan Express, a journalist named A J Ahwar admonished Muslims for remaining silent in the face of Isis and the Taliban.
He also criticised Islam for not accepting other religions and minorities such as homosexuals and Hazaras, a Shia minority in Afghanistan.
The article ended by concluding that human beings are more important than God
This triggered demonstrations in several Afghan cities yesterday, with protesters denouncing the article as blasphemous and calling on the government to punish the publication.
In Kabul, a crowd of approximately 500 people, including clerics and several members of parliament, gathered in front of the Eid Gah Mosque, the city’s second largest house of worship.
Said Mangal Bader, 38, one of the protesters:
The newspaper said God can’t control people and that God is unwise.
He joined others in calling for the newspaper staff to suffer the same fate as five men who were recently convicted of rape and hanged, after great public furore.
Said Fazl Hadi Wazin, an Islamic scholar at Salam University who spoke from the outdoor podium.
The government must stop the people who insulted the prophet, the Qur’an and Islam, and prevent them from leaving the country.
Another zealot – Ahmad, 22 – declared:
They need to be executed so humans know that you cannot insult the religion of Allah.
In a public apology issued days after the controversial article, the Afghanistan Express explained that the op-ed was published due to a “technical mistake”. The apology, however, has done little to quell the anger.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Afghanistan report)