This week political comedian Bill Maher once again found himself at the center of a One Direction scandal after comparing the very recently former band member, Zayn Malik, to Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon Bomber, during an episode on his show Real Time with Bill Maher. Having images on the screen of Malik and Tsarnaev side-by-side with very similar haircuts, Maher joked, “I think that after everything we’ve been through, I at least deserved the common respect of being told face to face. Just tell me two things, Zayn. Which one in the band were you? And where were you during the Boston Marathon?” Although it may be within Maher’s rights of free speech to make an insensitive joke, he should be more aware that his near-slanderous commentary might offend different groups of people.

The 30-second clip sparked outrage with a myriad of One Direction fans who proceeded to seek vengeance by going viral with their anger through social media. Using the hashtag #RespectforZayn, as well as setting up a petition on Change.org, fans urged Maher to apologize for his insensitive comment. Forcing an apology from someone who was expressing his personal view is unconstructive, but I agreed with fans prompting of the conversation because it demonstrates that people aren’t going to let Maher’s comment pass without recognition.

Maher, who often defends himself by citing freedom of speech when under scrutiny, is unlikely to issue an apology, but is probably thrilled at the coverage and publicity his show is receiving. Maher should take into account that freedom of speech is a right, but also a privilege. His opposition holds the same right to speak out against his hate-promoting speech. As a public figure, Maher should reconsider the way he tries to articulate his “witticism.”

A self-proclaimed “proud liberal,” this is not the first time that Maher has come under fire for making what some would consider Islamophobic comments. Last spring, students at Berkeley protested a commencement speech given by Maher where he compared Islam to the Mafia during a heated debate with Ben Affleck. Maher said, “[Islam is] the only religion that acts like the Mafia, that will [explicit] kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Affleck, forever right in my book, called the comment “racist” and “gross.” Maher, again in this instance, was out-of-line in his aggregating a whole group of people to the actions of few. But, again, he held the right to publicly discuss his “racist” and “gross” views.

The types of Islamophobic comments that Maher makes regarding the Muslim community is because of his constant need to criticize groups of people that are already targeted by the public. As a political comedian with a show on HBO, Maher is always looking for ways to stay relevant and Malik, as well as Tsarnaev, who were both raised Muslim, have been at the center of the public this past month for very different reasons. The two share very little connection and Maher’s forced attempt to make his Islamophobic comments funny failed in this case. Aside from a similar haircut, it’s an insult to compare Malik to Tsarnaev because they could not be any more different.

We will have to see if this will have a negative impact on Maher’s show’s ratings, though I doubt many Directioners will be tuning in to hear future commentary by Maher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.