Islamophobia, Liberal Zionism and Neoliberal Imperialism

Islamophobia, Liberal Zionism and Neoliberal Imperialism
Michael Moore’s defence of Bill Maher only underscores how America’s comedy culture industry is integral to America’s global warmongering, offering it a smoke-screen liberal underpinning.
7 min read
17 Nov, 2014
'Islamophobia in the US is deeply rooted in a potent brand of liberal Zionism' (AFP

For those living outside the US and fortunate enough not to have heard of names like Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Pamela Geller, or before them Christopher Hitchens, etc., their rampant Islamophobia and repeated incitement to hatred and thus violence against Muslims worldwide may appear odd or incidental.


But for those of us who have to live here and endure their unending banalities it is not. As they and their cohorts continue to incite violence against Muslims — including disguising their specific Islamophobia under the general rubric of “new atheism” while putting ads against Muslims and in support of Israel on our city buses and subway

     Moore suggests that comedy is a "dangerous business". Indeed it is. A business for him and Bill Maher, and dangeorus to Muslims

stations — they also provide ample evidence that they are instrumental, definitive in fact, to attempts at ideological formations justifying a murderous US/Israel imperialism in the Muslim world.


In her excellent study, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire (2012), Deepa Kumar has already demonstrated how “anti-Muslim racism and the agenda of empire building” have dovetailed since 9/11. Kumar’s poignant scholarship has therefore paved the way on which we can also see how Islamophobia in the US is deeply rooted in a potent brand of liberal Zionism, feeding at the roots of American liberalism, and thus offering a variegated global ideology for its neo-liberal imperialism. When Israel goes on a rampage slaughtering Palestinians and destroying their mosques and schools — as they did this past summer — this amalgamation of Islamophobia, liberal Zionism and neoliberal imperialism goes into top gear.


Comedians of the Empire


Today, Bill Maher, a talentless comedian desperate for improved ratings (on which his salary depends) has emerged as the standard bearer for a particularly malicious onslaught against Islam and the 1.5 billon human beings worldwide who identify as Muslims. Maher has a well-documented history of rabid anti-Muslim sentiments and diatribes.


He believes: “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing.” He believes: “The Muslim world has too much in common with Isis.” He believes the entire Muslim population around the globe “are violent ... They threaten us.” He and his fellow Islamophobe Sam Harris concur that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.”


But Maher’s and Sam Harris’ Islamophobia would be meaningless without paying simultaneous attention to their liberal Zionism. In the midst of the most recent Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, Bill Maher likened Hamas to a “crazy woman trying to kill you . . . You can only hold her wrists for so long before you have to slap her” — thus letting both his racism and sexism compete for attention and ratings.


This was almost at the same time that his fellow Zionist Sam Harris was offering excuses as to why he could not quite bring himself to criticize Israel precisely at the moment that from land, sea, and air Israelis were pounding Gaza and its inhabitants — men, women, and children. It is precisely at this moment that Sam Harris fuses his liberal Zionism with his Islamophobia. If he wants to show how equally critical of Judaism he has been he says: “Let me remind you that parts of Hebrew Bible — books like Leviticus and Exodus and Deuteronomy — are the most repellent, the most sickeningly unethical documents to be found in any religion. They’re worse than the Koran.” A book held sacrosanct by millions of human being as the very word of God, of which he is less an authority than I am on astrophysics, has become a measure of criminality for Sam Harris and his fellow Zionist Islamophobes.


As for Israel, Sam Harris confesses: “My position on Israel is somewhat paradoxical. There are questions about which I’m genuinely undecided. And there’s something in my position, I think, to offend everyone.” How can you be undecided when the racist army of a self-declared Jewish state goes on a rampage slaughtering innocent human beings? If you are a liberal Zionist you find a way. What is Sam Harris’ way? “The fact that the rest of the world has shown itself eager to murder the Jews at almost every opportunity.” Who has shown this eagerness? Germans and other Europeans or Palestinians and Muslims? The fact that Israel is a European settler colony, now at the full service of American imperialism and built on the broken back of its native population is entirely outside the purview of Sam Harris and his ilk.


The moral of Sam Harris’s liberal Zionism is very simple: since everyone wants to kill Jews then Israelis must alas kill Palestinians, and in the process they have been “brutalized” by it, but that too is the fault of their enemies who have caused them to do such horrid things. Sam Harris’ argument is in fact a rehash of the Golda Meir’s old moral mendacity — that she could not forgive Palestinians for forcing her to kill Palestinian children!


This speaking in tongues of liberal Zionism — ranging from Bill Maher’s comedic dilettantism to Sam Harris’ shooting-while-crying liberalism — is precisely where Israeli-American neoliberal imperialisms these days hangs its machineguns and parks its drones.


Enter Michael Moore

Ben Affleck on Bill Maher's Islamophobia

So much of the story was clear and concise until Michael Moore entered the scene. In a bravura Facebook posting, the widely popular US documentary filmmaker came to the defense of his “friend” Bill Maher and his bigotry. Michael Moore made a reputation for himself with a number of documentaries, most famously “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004) in which he criticized George W. Bush for his invasion of Iraq. And Moore’s defense of Maher points to something even more seriously wrong in the American culture industry.


It is neither disappointing nor surprising that Moore defends Maher. They are part and parcel of the selfsame North American comedic culture industry, a prosaic dilettantism that has managed to sell itself as liberal or even “left” and thus entertain a good portion of the population angry and frustrated with barefaced US warmongering around the globe. Yet they lack the critical insight to recognize that people like Michael Moore and scores of others of his ilk are in fact integral to that global warmongering by offering it a liberal underpinning. Michael Moore's populist leftism — or what passes in the US for "the Left" — is a smoke screen that disguises the absence of a far more serious challenge this militant barbarism needs and lacks.


In his defense of Maher, Moore suggests that comedy is a "dangerous business". Indeed it is. But evidently it is a business for him and Bill Maher and dangerous for 1.5 billion plus Muslims whose daily lives are at the mercy of their racism — they indeed make a lucrative business out of their bigotry, as frightened Afghan, Pakistani or Arab children carrying names like Muhammad and Zainab tremble with fear when entering public schools in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.


What is particularly pernicious about Moore’s defense of Maher is when he cites a Pakistani woman’s rebuff of Ben Affleck, who had put up a smidgen of resistance to Maher and Harris’ racism. A Pakistani or Afghan or Iranian or Arab woman has every right to speak up against the despicable misogyny and patriarchy in her society and culture. But for Michael Moore to use that as evidence to justify his and Bill Maher's racism is yet another sign of their ignorance and illiteracy about anything Islamic or related to Muslims.


Since 1980, the US has invaded at least fourteen different Muslim countries and maimed and murdered countless Muslims. In one of its most vicious military operations in recent history, Israel this summer slaughtered thousands, maimed and made homeless tens of thousands more Palestinians and destroyed their homes, mosques and schools in Gaza during the holy month of Ramadan. These are facts. Magicians, sorcerers, snake charmers, enchanters, prognosticators and charlatan wizards – ideologues like Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and their friends and cohorts – try to cover these facts and pull the wool over our eyes as they sell themselves as “liberal seculars” and “new atheists”.


Literacy, knowledge, reason, critical thinking, sanity, knowing the limits of one’s own ability to think beyond clichés are among the virtues entirely lost to the American culture of neoliberal imperialism. This is best represented by well-funded publicists like Pamela Geller, Elie Wiesel, Bill Maher and Sam Harris. When you look at them closely they share three basic characteristics — they target Muslims, they are liberal Zionists and they are the ardent ideologues of American liberalism: the three-pronged forces of neoliberal imperialism.


Hamid Dabashi is the author Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror. He lives in New York.


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.