HBO’s “Real Time” host Bill Maher argued that Americans should “stop respecting” Islamic radicalism’s “medieval bullsh*t” on Friday.
Maher, reporting on President Obama’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, said “he went to Saudi Arabia to shake hands, I mean, to meet with the guys who wouldn’t shake hands with his wife, and I thought when she wouldn’t wear the headscarf that she was kind of making the kind of statement that I’ve been trying to get across here for a long time, which is stop respecting their medieval bullshit under the guise of ‘it’s their culture,'” a line that drew loud applause from the audience. He continued “cultural relativism is nonsense. It’s the 21st century, you won’t shake hands with a woman? You’re the ones who should be embarrassed, and if that’s judgmental, good, I’m judging, yes. I’m judging that that’s f*cked up and that you’re the bigots, I’m not the bigot, you’re the bigot.”
BBC anchor Katty Kay, agreed with an earlier point made, stating “I think the more egregious thing here was that the president left India saying we’ve to have religious tolerance, you have to have respect for women’s rights, and he arrived in Saudi Arabia within nanoseconds, and didn’t mention either of those things.”
Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) said that “diplomacy creates strange bedfellows,” and that the US’ relationship with Saudi Arabia sometimes means “tolerating some things that are grotesque.”
Investor Monica Mehta argued that President Obama’s remarks towards India were “a sign of respect for India…because if you can have a conversation like that, a grownup conversation, it’s because you believe that the party on the other side is actually listening. Saudi Arabia has a culture that it’s just a nonstarter to even have these conversations.”
Maher and Kay disagreed that it was a nonstarter to talk about human rights in Saudi Arabia, particularly with the decline in oil’s influence over US foreign policy. Mehta countered by saying that oil would still be a powerful force on the world scale.
Maher then argued that US intervention to protect its oil supply was “kind of obsolete” because Middle Eastern oil wasn’t as vital to the US anymore. Kay and Castro agreed, with adding that US intervention also did not have a good track record.
Maher then turned back to the original topic, asking “what do you think the reaction would be if the people in India wouldn’t shake the president’s wife’s hand, or the people in Holland or Argentina? It just is weird that this one part of the world gets a pass on a story that i think would be just gigantic.” Kay re-iterated her point that refusing to bring up any human rights issues was worse than the refusal to shake the First Lady’s hand.
Mehta argued that the US couldn’t “walk away” from its alliance from Saudi Arabia and lose it as an ally and that it was “foolish” ” to go into Saudi Arabia and start taking this very idealistic stance.”
Castro concluded the discussion by saying “I do think you have to be culturally sensitive, but I think a lot of Americans were proud that the First Lady did what she did.”