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By Hollie McKay, ,
Published April 12, 2016
Some students at the University of California, Berkeley are calling on the school to rescind comedian Bill Maher’s invitation to speak at a December commencement ceremony. A Change.org petition titled “Stop Bill Maher from speaking at UC Berkeley's December graduation” has more than 3,000 signatures.
“Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for. In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment,” wrote petition founder Khwaha Ahmed, member of the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition. “Bill Maher's public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities.”
While Maher – an outspoken atheist – routinely condemns all forms of organized religion, the petition focused primarily on his recent condemnation of Islam, drawing upon numerous examples of what they called “hate speech” such as “The Muslim world has too much in common with Isis,” “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will f**king kill you if you say the wrong thing,” and “Dealing with Hamas is like dealing with a crazy woman who's trying to kill you. You can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her.”
A rep for the university told FOX411 that a student organization, the Californians, selects the December commencement speaker and other guests. Their decision to have the “Real Time” host was made in August.
Gina Hwang, a rep for the Californians, said in lieu of the petition, they are discussing their course of action.
“We have learned of concerns from some students and we have met with the ASUC senate leader and others, and those conversations will continue,” she said. “Ultimately we would like to find a solution that would address all concerns.”
The controversy has indeed sparked a heated debate. Kamal Nawash, a lawyer and founder of the anti-terrorism organization Free Muslims Coalition, said that Maher “constantly makes bigoted, racist statements that would not be tolerated against any other religion or group in America” and that he “fabricates allegations and assertions against Muslims.”
However Joshua Nass, Chairman and Founder at Voices of Conservative Youth, called the petition an attempt to suppress free speech.
“Political correctness is inhibiting our ability as a society to engage in a dialogue about our differences. Shunning Bill Maher's freedom of expression is un-American and runs contrary to all academic values,” he said. “Academia is meant to serve as the venue where all perspectives are expressed. The Berkeley students who have signed this petition ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
A rep for Maher did not respond to our comment request.
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