Over at salon.com, Sophia McClennen argues that we should be listening to comedian and political pundit Bill Maher when it comes to such charged topics as religion and race. She cites his ability to get people talking about things they ordinarily don’t like talking about on account of we’re too scared otherwise to question our own opinions.

There’s a certain logic to that, but let’s take a further look at McClennen’s argument because it warrants its own scrutiny:

Maher’s point it that there is an Islamic extremism that is real and the left has lost the vocabulary for speaking about it meaningfully. In an effort to avoid demonizing an entire religion, he argues, there has been silence on the very real threats of Islamic extremism. It is an issue that drives Maher nuts and it’s one that will immediately get him called out as an Islamaphobe.

Right there, the writer—reflecting Maher—misses a crucial point that even the comedian himself had to acknowledge Friday night after the attacks in Paris, namely, that they have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with U.S. policy in the Middle East.

We bomb, invade, and occupy Muslim nations, prop up brutal dictatorships that violently oppress the citizenry (after toppling or helping to topple democratically elected governments), and with the world’s largest arsenal of weapons and cash at our disposal. We spend upwards of a trillion dollars or more a year—more than the next ten countries combined—on our military and we go about using that military to savage the Middle East. Why is it extreme for them to fight back using what people and resources they have at their disposal?

Wars are not now nor have they ever been one-sided. There has always been one or more factions waging war on one or more factions, and those other factions fight back. That’s only common sense. If another nation is bombing, invading, and occupying your country, slaughtering your men, women, and children, your friends and family, imposing a puppet government on you that you never voted for and which only enriches itself while carrying out the whims of your occupiers, what would you do in response?

You’d fight back with everything you have, even giving your life so that your people and those you love can be free.

How is that even remotely extreme?

It’s not.

If someone were to punch Bill Maher in the face, is he really going to just stand there and take it? No. He’d call the police or try to hit back, or both. He’d be defending himself. And if his assailant, in response to that defense, accused him of having an extreme religion that drove him to fight back, Bill would rightly see just how nuts his assailant really is.

So why does Maher, who really ought to know better, keep using religion—especially Islam—as the rationale for practically every attack on Westerners carried out my Muslims? This is a particularly relevant question seeing as how I.S.I.S. in claiming responsibility for the slaughter in Paris cited France’s ongoing support for U.S. and Israeli war-making against the Middle East as its raison d’état.

Maybe instead of listening to Maher, we lefties should be raising our voices and making the right argument for why, at least on this topic, he’s simply full of shit.

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