HBO’s “Real Time” host Bill Maher and author Salman Rushdie discussed the refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa, arguing “the answer can’t really be that we empty out the Middle East of all the moderates” and “the solution to the problem is not taking in refugees,” respectively, on Friday.
Maher stated that while “everyone, probably, even on the right, agrees that we have to do something for immediate, to help these poor people who are so desperate.” “The naughtier question, that I noticed the rest of the media avoids is, what about the long term? I mean, I so understand why moderate Muslims are fleeing their homelands but the answer can’t really be that we empty out the Middle East of all the moderates, and leave it to the ISIS and the extremists. If they just come to moderate and tolerant Europe, to some day make it less moderate and tolerant, that isn’t the answer, right?”
Rushdie stated, “First of all, I think that the solution to the problem is not taking in refugees. The solution to the problem is to fix the reason the refugees are fleeing. You’ve got this unending war in Syria, also you have, Eritrea, Ethiopia, that’s where they’re all coming from, because they’re in — they’re running for their lives. And the way to stop them running for their lives is to stop putting their lives in danger where they live.”
Both Rushdie and Maher then criticized the Gulf states for not accepting refugees.
Rushdie later added, “I slightly disagree with the view that there’s no assimilation going on. Because I think — a recent research in France, for example…where all the trouble’s supposed to be, shows that [a] very small minority of Muslims, young people identify primarily as Muslims. They identify primarily as French people, and they feel in a way hemmed in by the religious people of their own community to have to declare themselves as Muslims, whereas, in fact, they want to be French people. So, I think it is possible to argue that the Europeanization of the Muslim communities will take place. But, the problem is in the meanwhile there’s this Nazi backlash.”
Maher later said, “Let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a lot young Muslim men in European cities, who even though they are newcomers to the land, really are not humble about adopting to the ways of the Western world. They are, again, the newcomers, and yet, they bridle at the fact that women walk down the street with a mini skirt and sleeveless dresses on. Free speech is not something, we see, that they always agree with, and often their attitude is ‘We’re biding our time until you will do things our way.’ Can anyone really deny that, that element is there?”
He also argued, “I would be more sympathetic if there was a better track record, in the Muslim world, of moderates standing up to extremists. I’ve mentioned on this show before, ISIS is about 30,000 guys, the countries surrounding ISIS that say they hate them, have an army, if they put it together, of about 5 million. If million can’t stand up to 30,000, I’m a little wary about this. It seems like all the energy goes toward religion. Saudi Arabia, as you mentioned, not taking in anybody, but they want to build — they’re going to pay to build 200 new mosques in Germany. See, all the energy goes to the afterlife and that’s not how Europe rolls, they’re atheist.”
Rushdie added, “one of the big and obvious differences, is that, in Europe, religion is not a big public issue. Actually, when Tony Blair was prime minister, they had to work very hard to conceal his strong religious belief from the electorate, because he would have lost votes. Whereas here, you know, you can’t be elected dog catcher unless you go to church.”
Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett