Islamophobe Bill Maher not welcome in Sarasota, Fla.

Islamophobe Bill Maher not welcome in Sarasota, Fla.

On October 26, people in Sarasota and Bradenton stood up to TV pundit Bill Maher when he came to speak at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. They made it known that Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, which Maher champions on his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, are not welcome in Sarasota.

Protesters held signs saying “RESPECT MUSLIM PEOPLE,” “Not all Muslims are extremists! Support our Muslim brothers and sisters!” and “Bill’s a bigot!” One large banner read: “Bill Maher is a RACIST BIGOT. Islamophobia kills.” The protest began with a tense encounter with a police officer. After being removed from Van Wezel property, the rally relocated to Centennial Park.

People driving by the rally on North Tamiami Trail honked frequently in support, showing that Bill Maher’s unacceptable stereotypes about 1.6 billion of the world’s people and wildly inaccurate beliefs about the world’s second-largest religious tradition do not carry weight with the general public. In contrast, most of the wealthy, predominantly white attendees of the ritzy event were visibly unsettled by the demonstration.

Maher has become famous for his disgustingly racist depiction of Muslims. Denying that Islamophobia exists, Maher considers the actions of a small group of extremists to represent those of all Muslims, claiming that most people who belong to Islam are dangerous and violent.
According to Maher, “vast numbers of Muslims want humans to die for holding a different idea” and they have “too much in common with ISIS.”

To support his lies, Maher makes false accusations about suicide bombings and female genital mutilation being unique and representative of Islamic doctrine and practices. He also supported anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali when Brandeis University rescinded her honorary degree for her claims that “we are at war with Islam” and must “crush it in all its forms.”

The emergency rally to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters was an inspiring display of multinational solidarity. Called only three hours in advance, the rally came together thanks to representatives from Student/Farmworkers Alliance, ANSWER Coalition, Jews for Justice in Palestine, and the friends and family of Rodney Mitchell, a 23-year-old Black youth murdered by Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in 2012.

The support of Ms. Clemons, Rodney’s mother and founder of the Rodney Mitchell Foundation , carried particular significance in light of Maher’s recent character assassination of Mike Brown, the Black youth whose execution by cops provoked the ongoing, historic uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. On his show, Maher called Brown a “thug,” a term racists use to demonize people of color and justify violence against them. It is unsurprising that Maher’s racist views extend not only to Muslims and Arabs, but to African-Americans as well.

Bill Maher’s racism and imperialism need to be wiped away for good. People of all colors and nationalities, including white allies, are making sure that happens.

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