Television host Bill Maher on Friday night discussed the stabbing of his “dear friend” Salman Rushdie the previous day, saying that “Sal had a good reason to be fearful.”
Maher faulted Islamic extremism for Rushdie’s stabbing, saying, “Sal did have some enemies in the past, as I recall, so I’m guessing Hadi is not Amish,” referring to attacker Hadi Matar.
Rushdie was stabbed in the neck on Thursday before he was scheduled to give a lecture at a center in New York and is still recovering from severe wounds.
The author has a past fraught with death threats from Islamic extremists for his controversial writings dealing with the religion.
Former Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Islamic extremists to kill Rushdie in 1989 after the author published “The Satanic Verses,” a book that depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammad in ways Khomeini considered “blasphemous.”
“Salman Rushdie living in most Muslim countries without getting stabbed every day is unthinkable,” Maher said, comparing Rushdie’s relative safety in the U.S. with his lack of safety elsewhere.
He added: “So don’t come at me with ‘Islamophobia.’ Phobic means fear right? Well, Sal had a good reason to be fearful.”
Maher took issue with use of the term “Islamophobia” in debates, saying that it acts as a scapegoat for people to avoid the real issues.
“When you say ‘phobic,’ it’s just a way to shut off debate, you know, they use ‘transphobic,’ ‘Islamophobic,’” he said. “And we should have a debate about this, sorry, but you know, these things don’t go away.”
The talk show host also described Islamic fundamentalism as “dangerous,” adding that Islam is a “much more fundamentalist religion than any of the other religions in the world.”
“That has been dangerous for a long time, it’s still dangerous,” said Maher, adding: “This was 1989 when he was first threatened.”