As Salman Rushdie fights for his life after being brutally stabbed Friday while delivering a lecture onstage, Bill Maher spoke out about the circumstances underlying the attack on the author.
Rushdie, Maher’s friend and frequent guest on his politically charged HBO talk show “Real Time”, has been living under a fatwa since 1989, when Iranian ruler Ayatollah Khomeini issued an order for Muslims to kill Rushdie due to the alleged blasphemy contained in his book The Satanic Verses.
“The news is not good,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie told the New York Times, revealing that doctors had placed Rushdie on a ventilator in order to breathe. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” Wyle said.
Maher addressed Rushdie’s attack on Friday’s edition of “Real Time”, telling viewers that “a friend of mine, a dear friend of mine, good friend of this show, got stabbed today.”
"Don’t come at me with Islamophobic" pic.twitter.com/jv4nxLwUhs
— Bob Brigham (@BobBrigham) August 13, 2022
Maher explained that “Sal did have some enemies in the past,” referring to the Ayatollah’s fatwa, and detailed the circumstances of the attack.
“Sal was in Chautaugua, he was giving a lecture — how’s this for irony — about how the U.S. is a safe haven for writers and other artists under threat of persecution,” Maher said.
“And making that speech itself is unthinkable in most Muslim countries. Salman Rushdie living in most Muslim countries, without getting stabbed every day, is unthinkable,” he added.
“So don’t come at me with Islamophobic,” Maher said, countering those who would consider his criticism of Islamic fundamentalism to be Islamophobia.
“Phobic means fear, right? Well, Sal had a good reason to be fearful. And when you say phobic, it’s just a way to shut off debate. You know, they use transphobic, Islamophobic, and we should have a debate about this,” he said.
“These things don’t go away,” the Maher concluded. “Islam is still a much more fundamentalist religion than any of the other religions in the world and that means they take what is in the holy book seriously and that has been dangerous for a long time. It’s still dangerous.”
“Real Time” guest Piers Morgan pointed out that it’s not just Islam that’s problematic, but fundamentalism within every religion, particularly when it infringes upon someone’s ability to speak freely.
“The defence of free speech starts with something you can’t stand,” Morgan said, explaining that one can disagree with someone else’s opinions, “but you should be able to tolerate their right to have a different opinion.”
Morgan said he’s witnessing America move in a similar direction, comparing the attack on Rushdie to comedian David Chappelle being attacked while performing onstage.
“It’s nuts,” Morgan said.“When you stray into violence, it winds up with Salman.”