In his treatment of Islam, and of traditional religious faiths in general, Bill Maher seems to be oblivious to this simple fact of life: people are mostly hypocritical in nature, not puritans. They want the best out of both: the here-and-now as well as the hereafter. This makes it difficult to judge people on the basis of the holy books in which they believe, because, while they might refuse to challenge the authority of these texts, in part or as a whole, their actions and inactions come as a much better measure of what they really want.
It is not easy for me to criticize an American president, irrespective of his ideological background, because when I do, my criticism often get used by all sorts of anti-American forces in the Arab World, and beyond, in their attack against America and American values, that is, the very values which I long came to embrace, albeit always critically. For, to me, America is an idea, a worthy idea, whose advancement requires critical adherence not blind faith, and armies of analysts and scientists not militias and informants.
A mention in the Daily Telegraph:
As it happens, it was the Rushdie affair that inspired the book in the first place. The essay writing contest was the idea of the Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-educated Syrian who became disillusioned with radical Islam after the fatwa issued against Rushdie by Iran. He pointed out to the American Islamic Congress that while the Muslim world had vast, well-organised networks of people pushing extremist visions, nobody was doing the same thing for liberal ideas. “What we need is an essay contest on liberty with significant cash prizes,” he said.
A mention in the Daily Beast:
“To Assad, the rallies spurred by the Islam-bashing film were heaven-sent: they have given credence to his claims that the Arab Spring is at heart an Islamist spring and that al Qaeda and its affiliates will be empowered as a result,” says Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian activist based in America. “Meanwhile, the rallies have also distracted international attention from the current mayhem unfolding in Syria, and they might give pause to any calls for intervention.”