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Maher accused of Islamophobia for comparing Zayn Malik to terrorist

24th Apr 2015

Elham Asaad Buaras

American political satirist, Bill Maher, has been criticised for Islamophobically comparing the former band member Zayn Malik to the Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

During his Real Time show the comedian was discussing the 22 year-old’s exit from the One Direction when he likened him to Tsarnaev.

During a skit in his show, Maher said: “I think after everything we’ve been through, I at least deserve the common respect of being told face to face [that you’d quit One Direction].

“Just tell me two things Zayn. Which one of the band were you?

“And where were you during the Boston marathon?”

At which point, the screen split to show images of Malik and Tsarnaev side by side, while Maher suggested they looked similar.

This is not the first time Malik has been the victim of Islamophobia. In 2012, rightwing American writer Debbie Schlussel accused him of “boyband jihad” when he tweeted Eid Mubarak to his fans. She claimed that the only reason why he was chosen to join One Direction was because “Islam sells in Britain.” And earlier last month she celebrated his departure from One Direction by announcing the band is “now jihad-free”.

That same year, internet trolls and racially abusive messages led him to temporarily disable his Twitter account. In 2013, American rapper Rucka Rucka Ali released the track Zayn Did 9/11, with art that superimposed Malik’s silhouette over an image of the burning Twin Towers, and lyrics that blamed him for the September 11 attacks.

And last year Malik faced a torrent of abuse and death threats for tweeting #FreePalestine.

Fans showed their support for Malik on Twitter using the #RespectForZayn hashtag, with many believing Maher was mocking his faith.

Some fans turned the table on Maher showing tweeting physical similarity between the US talk show host and right wing Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who killed 77 people on July 2011.

This is not the first time Maher has been criticised for his comments about Muslims. In 2014, students at University of California, Berkeley, objected to the comedian giving a speech at the university’s December commencement ceremony after he likened Islam to the Mafia on his show.

Malik’s fans set up a Charge.org petition calling for Maher to apologise, which reads: “This is not about making Bill Maher a scapegoat and before you disregard this thinking 1D fans are angry because of Zayn Malik, think again. This is about how islamophobia, racism and discrimination of ANY kind is wrong, shouldn’t be ignored and must end.”

It continues: “This is completely unacceptable. Racism should not become normalised especially on national television. Bill Maher and whoever wrote the script, need to be severely disciplined and at least apologise to show that this type of behaviour is never oK.

Millions watch his TV show meaning he has an influence on many people, the fact that people in the audience laughed is proof of his negative influence.”

Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, said Maher’s joke was out of line.

“It shows that he’s really not missing an opportunity to engage in his Islamophobic themes,” Hooper says. “He serves to legitimise Islamophobia in the left which is one of the unfortunate byproducts of his intolerance of Islam and Muslims.”

Maher responded the following week in his show by branding those offended idiots.

“Two weeks ago I did a New Rule on our Internet Overtime segment about someone named Zayn Malik, who I’’d never heard of until that day,” he said. “Well, the P.C. police as usual read way more into that joke than was actually there.”

From there, Maher introduced the segment titled ”Explaining Jokes to Idiots.” During it, he did a play-by-play of the joke in question.

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