White American Men and the Liberalwashing of Islamophobic Racism

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Bill Maher

Credit: Creative Commons/Steve Anderson

On Friday evening, Bill Maher and Sam Harris did what white men in America have been doing for the last twenty-five years: they shielded their racism and anti-Muslim bigotry under the umbrella of liberal values.
Maher demonstrated this in full view when, after ticking off all of the liberal values he holds dear, from marriage equality to equality for minorities, he cast the world’s Muslims as violent and repressive people. What’s more, he did so explicitly under the guise of standing up for liberal values, calling upon his audience to do the same.
He may be the latest incarnation of the white, American ‘liberal’ man to promote his racism under the banner of liberalism, but he’s obviously not the first. Maher has had some good mentors to choose from over the years, none ‘better’ than Alan Dershowitz.
In his 1991 book Chutzpah, Dershowitz in a single paragraph touted himself as a human rights activist before calling the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians a fifth-rate issue, much like urban renewal.

It’s this type of disregard for both the rights and the humanity of Palestinians, as a “human rights activist,” which established a tradition of liberalwashing Maher gleefully continued on Friday evening.
The reason he can do so is because we live in an Islamophobic country which treats Muslims and Arabs as suspicious at best, and sub-human at worst, particularly in the wake of 9/11 and our dirty wars in the Middle East. Indeed, the number of reported Islamophobic incidents in this country over the last two decades, from violent attacks and hate crimes to media bigotry-fests, is just shocking.
The likes of Maher, Harris and Dershowitz, who tout themselves as champions of liberal values and then go on to foment a hatred of Muslims, are responsible for creating an American culture in which Muslim-American communities can be violently attacked, and Muslim-Americans targeted with racism and bigotry, with little mainstream concern.
As a Jew who frequently hears the false howling of anti-Semitism to shield extremists in Israel from critique, it’s tiring to hear white ‘liberals’ freely spew Islamophobic rhetoric with no consequences.
I can only imagine how Muslim- and Arab-Americans feel.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.