A student petition to stop atheist HBO talk show host Bill Maher from speaking at the University of California at Berkeley's fall commencement ceremony has reached over 3,000 signatures. The petition has called Maher a "blatant bigot" and "racist" over his strong opinions about Islam.
"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. Bill Maher's public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities," reads the Change.org petition, started by Khwaja Ahmed, a member of the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition.
"Too many students are marginalized by his remarks and if the university were to bring this individual as a commencement speaker they would not be supporting these historically marginalized communities. It is the responsibility of the University of California to protect all students and uphold a standard of civility."
The petition offers several examples of what it calls Maher's "hate speech" toward Islam and against religion in general.
About Islam, the HBO host has made remarks such as: "The Muslim world has too much in common with ISIS" and "Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will [expletive] kill you if you say the wrong thing."
Maher's views on Islam were called "gross, racist, disgusting," by actor and director Ben Affleck during a guest appearance earlier in October, which turned into a heated debate.
Maher has not shied away from criticizing other religions as well, however. In March, several Christians, such as conservative radio host Bryan Fischer, slammed Maher's argument that God is a "psychotic mass murderer" for drowning the world in the Great Flood, in reference to the biblical story in Genesis.
The talk show host has also mocked the whole concept of religion, such as in his 2008 "Religulous" movie, where he said:
"Religions are maintained by people. People who can't get laid, because sex is the first great earthly pleasure. But if you can't get that, power is a pretty good second one. And that's what religion gives to people. Power. Power is sex for people who can't get or don't want or aren't any good at sex itself."
Marium Navid, a student senator, told The Guardian that she had no problem with Maher participating at a debate at Berkeley, but did not agree with giving him an elevated platform with no opportunity for questions or dialogue.
"He is entitled to criticize religion. Every ideology deserves to be criticized and every individual has the right to criticize those ideologies. But don't make generalizations that can perpetuate bigotry and racism," Navid said.