On his Friday show Real Time, HBO host Bill Maher interviewed the female rapper M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) on the end of civil war in her native Sri Lanka. Maher used the interview to denounce the ignorance of Americans, a Maher staple, but then he insisted that "we" Americans think of the Buddhists and the Hindus as "more spiritual" and peaceful than we are.
Maher explained that the Tamils (the heritage of M.I.A.) are mostly Hindu, and the Sinhalese majority are mostly Buddhist. She insisted it isn't a religious war, and Maher replied:
It’s interesting because I think in America, we think of the Buddhists especially, but also the Hindus as much more spiritual than we are, people who wouldn’t engage in atrocities and things like that. Not really the case, is it?
Later, after the interview, he returned to his theme that all religions are bad. While Americans think of Hindus as "They’re the people who run my Yoga class. They couldn’t possibly be involved in death and ethnic cleansing and slaughter. But it [religion] really doesn’t stop anybody. If anything, it justifies violence more than stops it."
Maher began by insisting Sri Lanka is a place "most Americans aren’t very familiar with. Americans are navel-gazers. They’ve very self-centered. They’re narcissistic. They don’t know a lot about other countries. Half of them can’t find Europe on a map." When M.I.A. politely protested about the audience, he said "Not our audience. These people are brilliant."
But Maher, so assured of everyone else’s ignorance, tried to get the guest to explain why everyone in Sri Lanka "sounded like Mick Jagger." He wanted to note the colonial British rule. At one point, he yelled "It’s always the f—ing British!" But M.I.A. corrected him, that not everyone had a British accent, and that she learned English while living in London.
M.I.A. complained that the Tamil minority can’t get its story out in a way that’s "not biased." So why would she go on Maher’s show?