Reza Aslan in the Media

Aslan, Reza

Reza Aslan

It’s been a while since I mentioned Reza Aslan. For myself, I don’t know whether he’s duplicitous, whether he really believes what he says, or whether there’s another explanation. I do know that much of what he says is inaccurate. It’s been fifteen months since I posted Reza Aslan: Lying for Islam on FGM, and it still gets hits every day. Three other posts I wrote around the same time about Reza Aslan still get attention too:


Aslan’s representation of his academic qualifications is something that other bloggers have talked about at length too. Personally, I’ve ignored it. To me, that’s getting a bit petty. He exposes himself when he feels the need to go on about his qualifications. However, there’s no doubt he’s educated and intelligent, and not having a recognized qualification in a particular area doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from talking or writing about a subject.

The reason I’m bringing him up again is that the David Pakman Show released the video below on 11 January. It’s called Reza Aslan Cannot Be Trusted. It covers much of the same ground other bloggers and I have covered before, and brings it all together in a 25:45 video.

In the US, Aslan is frequently the “Muslim of Choice” when commentary is needed on anything related to Islam. He’s good looking, intelligent, and sounds authoritative – ideal for the TV. The problem is he’s pretty good at Lying for Mohammed, whether through ignorance, duplicity, fear, or some other reason. The inaccurate information he presents is accepted as true by the audience, and repeated as such. This leads to an ill-informed audience repeating what he says under the assumption he is a thoroughly vetted expert.

I consider that potentially dangerous. There is currently an environment of religious tension in relation to Islam, and that makes it particularly important that people are debating the facts. Oftentimes, they’re instead debating Aslan’s talking points as if they’re facts.

121 Responses to “Reza Aslan in the Media”

  1. rickflick says:

    That’s a very interesting and informative summary of Aslan by David Pakman. Let’s hope this is seen widely.

    • Cheers rickflick. I’ve since discovered Godless Spellchecker posted it too, and he has a much bigger readership than me (though not as big as Jerry), so I think it’ll at least get seen by fellow atheists.

  2. jason silverman says:

    I very much enjoy your posts on Aslan. Has anyone done a criticism of his books? Or does he report information better in them? I can’t fathom actually opening one up and reading them, but it would be interesting to know if he is more of a charlatan on TV than in print.

    • Thanks Jason. I don’t know about his books. I haven’t read any myself. They sell well, and he writes well, but I have no idea about their quality.

      • The Paxton marshall says:

        I have read both of Aslan’s books. I liked Zealot very much. I think he makes an excellent point that Jesus must have been much more of a social agitator than the mild mannered preachers he is usually portrayed as, or the authorities would not have taken his threat so seriously. I was less impressed with his book on Islam, about which, as his interviews confirm, he seemed very defensive. I wouldn’t call either book scholarly, although he had clearly done a lot of research, especially on the Jesus book. Both are very readable and not overly long.

        • I imagine he would be a good writer – he is very good at expressing himself and there’s no doubt he’s intelligent. I agree too with the hypothesis that if Jesus existed, he was a social agitator like figure. It makes much more sense to me than other explanations. At the time I supported him too because there were people, most notably Lauren Greene of Fox, who said that as a Muslim he shouldn’t be writing about Jesus:

          • rickflick says:

            Heather: It might be that Aslan is a good writer based on the fact that he is currently associate professor of creative writing at the University of California. His claims of being a scholar of the history of religion cannot be simply dismissed since he obviously did research for his books, but he has never attained a pHD in the field and true scholars have expressed reservations about his scholarship.

          • I agree. I don’t feel able to comment on his scholarship. I’m no expert in the field myself, and he’s a lot better educated than I am. He’s clearly read widely and is obviously intelligent. Whether his books are scholarly is something for scholars to decide.

            Having a Phd, or any degree really if you did it properly, are intelligent enough, and you’re disciplined, gives you the skills to educate yourself in a topic to PhD level. Sometimes I wonder if some of the criticism is just intellectual snobbery. But as I said, I don’t have the knowledge to judge, which is why I’ve kept away from criticizing him about that myself.

          • Ken says:

            Does he address the matter of whether Jesus existed? It would be difficult to make a case either way otherwise. I’ve read where there is no evidence of him outside the bible, hence the serious doubts that he is entirely fictional.

          • Paxton will have to answer your first question, but as far as I know he assumes Jesus was real.

            But you are right, there is no independent evidence of the existence of Jesus. Reader Ben Goren has studied this at length in his own time, and he has come to the conclusion Jesus never existed, and can give a truckload of reasons why he’s come to this conclusion. However, he’s pretty busy in his personal life these days and spending a lot less time on the internet so we probably won’t be lucky enough to hear from him.

            Traditionally a majority Biblical scholars have assumed Jesus existed, but they were mostly Christian, so in many cases it probably never even occurred to them he might not. That’s starting to change. When Jesus supposedly did exist there were a lot of eschatological preachers roaming around the region. A lot of scholars are starting to treat Jesus as an idea, or an amalgam of the characters that existed.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            I read Zealot several years ago and don’t remember if Aslan specifically addressed the question of Jesus’ existence. He must have at least hypothesized that he existed or his book would have made no sense. Heather is right that more scholars are questioning if he really existed, given that there are no first hand eyewitness accounts.

  3. paxton marshall says:

    There is a political correctness in the US (I won’t presume to speak for other countries)that intimidates anyone who will defend Islam or make the case that the teachings of Islam are not worse than the teachings of other religions. The MSM is full of stories of Muslim violence and jihad, but almost never mentions the US and western role in massive violence against Muslims. This video is representative of the practice of condemning Muslims while ignoring and denying western provocations.

    Anyone who dares to speak up for Islam, and few have the nerve, is certain to be subject to intense scrutiny and attempts to undermine their credibility. An example is the long tedious attempt to undermine Aslans academic credentials, which reminded me of the attack here recently on the intelligence and academic achievements of the New Atheists, which I attempted to refute. Aslan clearly has an extensive background in religion and religious history. His PhD school did not have a degree in religious history, but the professor noted that most of his course of study was in religion. That’s more than most of his detractors, who also write books on religion, can claim.

    The worst distortion in the film was the part about the 2014 Gaza attacks. As Israel would prefer, the focus was wholly on the question of human shields. No mention of the 50 year captivity of the Palestinians by the Israelis. No mention that Gazan are held in a vast open air prison, subject to a total Israeli embargo on what can come in and out of the country. No mention of the total imbalance of military technology between the two sides, which made it more of a slaughter than a war. No mention of the vast and long standing disproportion in deaths between Palestinians and Israelis. It may or may not be relevant that Pakman is Jewish, but his failure to identify that fact might be compared with his attacks on Alsan’s honesty.

    I mostly agreed with the criticism of Aslan over FGM, but clearly the intent of the video was to condemn not only Aslan but Islam. As the video shows, Aslan has been wrong on some things and stretched the truth on some things. My point is not to defend him, but to point out the pervasive anti-Islam bias in the US and that those who harp on political correctness are pointing at the wrong people. The politically correct stance in the US is to fear and distrust Muslims, and anyone who defends them or points out that many Muslims are victims of western imperialism will be vilified.

    • DocAtheist says:

      “… the 50 year captivity…”

      Gaza has three borders: The Mediterranean Sea on one side, Israel on two, and Egypt on the other. You neglect to blame Egypt for this “captivity.”

      I could go on, but this will suffice. May others investigate the real history and geography on their own.

    • What a lot of rot Paxton. I’m not a US citizen, and this post is purely about Aslan as an individual, not about Islam or Palestine, or any of the other things you mention. I only wanted to show the specific areas where Aslan has lied, not how those things relate more widely. You should know me better than that by now.

      As Jerry Coyne pointed out in his post on WEIT, David Pakman made an error in his representation of Muslims. (I noticed the error myself when watching the video, but had forgotten about it when it came to writing the post.) Pakman failed to point out that the Pew stats he presented at the end of the video were for Muslims who wanted Sharia, not all Muslims.

      I have not noticed “… a political correctness in the US…” media “…that intimidates anyone who will defend Islam or make the case that the teachings of Islam are not worse than the teachings of other religions.” You said the US, rather than your media, and as I’ve never been there I don’t know if it’s different in the general population than the media. Aslan certainly isn’t intimidated – his word is rarely questioned and he’s invited back again and again.

      As for FGM, there is a problem with FGM in Islam. Of the four main schools of Islam, two consider it compulsory and two recommend it. That is a problem. Of course there are many good Muslims that speak out against the practice, and more who at least do not subject their daughters to it. But we’re not talking about Muslims, we’re talking about the teachings of Islam. It’s a distinction that’s important.

      • Paxton marshall says:

        Nothing is ever as it seems Heather, the video is ostensibly about Aslan, but is aimed at discrediting Islam and the Palestinians. It would be interesting to know where his funding for the piece came from.

        As for political correctness, I ask again who is calling western terrorism what it is? Perhaps Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. Who is interviewing Chomsky? Who is featuring the suffering of Muslims killed and suffering from American attacks? You know there is footage somewhere.

        Gotta watch the barbarians debate. Should be fun!!

        • Saul Sorrell-Till says:

          Do you live in a bubble? The left consistently(and rightly so most of the time) criticises western foreign policy, and a majority consider the inherent evil of western intervention to be an article of faith. A subsection of that majority goes even further and engages in the most tawdry rationalisations and apologetics on behalf of Islamists, Putin’s Russia…any anti-imperialist port in a storm basically.

          MSNBC skews heavily to the left, The Young Turks also, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Salon – I don’t even know why I’m citing examples: it would take far, far less time to list the liberal-left websites/newspapers/news channels that don’t reflexively criticise western foreign policy.

          It’s more pronounced in Britain perhaps but criticism of western foreign policy is extremely well-represented in the media, mainstream and otherwise.

          As for Noam Chomsky, if he’s not appearing on major news channels I’d imagine it has more to do with his reputation as an increasingly unreliable denialist and conspiracy theorist, as well as an apologist for some of history’s quirkier totalitarian regimes.

        • DocAtheist says:

          Paxton would have us believe two wrongs do make a right, and that all sides are equal in their guilt. That, alone, is extremist.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Sorry Doc, I do not believe two wrongs make a right, but I believe one wrong may help us understand another wrong in response, and perhaps provide a solution to end both wrongs. If we focus only on Muslim jihadism without addressing western imperialism, we will neither understand or resolve the problem.

            Nor do I believe all sides are equal in their guilt. Western imperialism against Muslims preceded and was for more destructive than jihadism. Further, I am an American and have not only a right but a duty to criticize my own government when it goes wrong. You, it would seem think it’s best to just condemn the other side without examining both sides. That’s what I would call extremist.

          • DocAtheist says:

            As I understand it, ISIS/DaEsh has focused on the Middle East, so far, because it intends to “purify” the caliphate, first, then use it to go after other nations. It is targeting any who don’t subscribe to Islam, of course, but also those whose branches of Islam are not DaEsh’s own. Once the region is full of none but DaEsh types and their sex slaves, a generation of brain-washed, indoctrinated, killer kids can be raised up to take down the rest of the world, starting with Israel. There are already documentaries showing ISIS fighters training elementary school boys in how to hold and shoot a handgun and how to cut off an adult’s head.

            This wrong has no equivalent in the modern world. Such child abuse, alone, is beyond ken.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Doc, this is the apocalyptic fantasy: “Once the region is full of none but DaEsh types and their sex slaves, a generation of brain-washed, indoctrinated, killer kids can be raised up to take down the rest of the world, starting with Israel.” They may want to do this, but can’t even hold on to what they have. It is this kind of fearmongering that unites the war profiteers and the new atheists.

          • DocAtheist says:

            Their strategic philosophy is still their motivation for the horrific acts of terrorism they perform, and these are not attributable to the West. These have been going on since Sunni and Shia split.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Doc, you seem to be a bit deficient in history. Shia and Sunni haves lived together in relative peace throughout most of their history. Have you ever read about the wars of Christian religion in the 16th and 17th centuries? Mass slaughter, burnings at the stake,etc? You have no historical basis for saying that Islam has been more violent than Christianity. And certainly in the past 100 years, westerners have killed far more Muslims than the reverse. In fact westerners have killed far more westerners than Muslims have killed Muslims.

          • There’s an article in the latest issue of DAESH’s on-line magazine Dabiq that I’ve been meaning to summarize. It’s about their ideal for children in the caliphate. It’s headed by a picture of some boy scouts, expressing how evil the model is. At the bottom is a groups of half a dozen young boys sitting in a circle facing each other, wearing fatigues, automatic rifles slung on their backs, reading the Qur’an. This is apparently the ideal.

          • DocAtheist says:

            If you go to YouTube and use its search engine, you’ll see real life videos of real Muslim boys learning very real terrorist violence techniques from a very early age. It breaks my heart. Those children who succumb will be like rabid dogs, potentially incurable, fit only to be stopped by an early death. This is not how children — or adults — should be treated.

          • Thanks DocAtheist. I know those videos are there, and I really don’t want to watch them. They make me sad, angry, frustrated, and feel sick all at the same time. It’s the main reason I haven’t done the post yet – I know I’ll have to look at them to write it properly. 🙁

          • DocAtheist says:

            I send you a supportive hug. I watched some and cannot bring together the words to deal with it. Thank you for at least having it on your list of things to write about.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Doc, go to any military base and watch boys “learning very real terrorist violence techniques”. Will these boys “become like rabid dogs, potentially incurable “? Are you as disturbed at every American bomb or drone strike that kills innocent civilians as you are at the Istanbul bombing? If not, why not?

          • DocAtheist says:

            Are you aware of the differences of brain development at different ages? If so, then I take it you prefer propaganda to fact-based logic.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Are you aware of the numerous military academies that start training boys in their early teens or earlier? Are you aware that Wellington said that Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton? Raising young boys to kill has a long tradition in the west.

          • DocAtheist says:

            This post is about Reza Aslan and his duplicitous nonsense. Misdirection is trolling. No more feeding the trolls.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Doc, the fact that you can write this after writing a number of comments with nothing to do with Aslan, suggests a certain inability to evaluate your own behavior by the same criteria that you judge the actions of others. Is it possible that the same blinkered or biased view distorts your reading of the relative terrorism that Muslims and the west have inflicted on each other?

          • The West aren’t the only one that start training boys to kill from a young age. Most societies on the planet have always had a warrior class. Bringing up boys to be warriors is at least as common in the ME. I’m sure you’ve seen the images of the children of Jihadis holding up the freshly severed heads of victims – there is no equivalent of that that I can remember in the West in the last 1,000 years.

            The comment about Eton was about discipline, not killing. It was about not running away in the face of the enemy despite their fear and continuing to obey orders.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Heather, yes that is exactly my point. Most societies have always had a warrior class and trained boys from infancy to kill other humans. Most societies have always had people who did terrible things to other peoples. To women, children, people of other ethnicities, races, languages, religions, what have you. In fact I would say ALL societies. I’ve been reading Hume’s History of England. Believe me Englishmen were doing plenty of cutting off heads and displaying them a lot less than 1000 years ago. And viewing executions, burning, and drawing and quartering was high entertainment for many. And don’t forget westerners committed the holocaust in the past century. Singling out the evils of the Quran and the crimes of Muslims just doesn’t fit the evidence.

          • DocAtheist says:


            You’ll no more watch this video than you bothered to look at any other evidence. None of your claims is so true that you trust them all against evidence; this you are proving here.

          • Paxton, you seemed to be singling out the West as being the only ones who did stuff like this. Also, it sounds like you’re saying there’s justification for the actions. Explanation isn’t justification of course, and we need to get to the roots. That’s where Islam comes in as ONE of the causes. Just because some in the West justify their wrong actions in the ME using Christianity (among other things), doesn’t mean we can’t point out the role of Islamic theology. Yes, some people will take that strand (Islam) and use it to justify bigotry against Muslims, but that doesn’t mean we should shut up about it.

            And while there was plenty of horrific stuff going on in England exactly as you say, they didn’t get children to actually help in the cutting off of heads and displaying of them. When the young boys left home at seven to begin their training in another household to become knights, for example, they didn’t practice their sword fighting by actually killing people.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            No Heather, it doesn’t mean you should shut up about the faults of Islam. NAs, and I’m speaking primarily to people like Harris and Coyne, should recognize that they are contributing, whether they intend to or not, to bigotry and violence against Muslims. And if they think Islamic societies are more violent than the west or other societies they should collect and examine all the evidence, not simply focus on Muslim violence as if it were the only violence in the world. Even recognizing or mentioning the violence we have visited on them would be a good start. Until they can do that, they are simply fearmongering.

            And I don’t think we have enough evidence to conclude that young children were not involved in grisly violence in medieval Europe.

          • rickflick says:

            “No Heather, it doesn’t mean you should shut up about the faults of Islam.”
            I think you’ve restated this theme about 20 times on this thread. I think it’s perfectly clear to everyone. I’d just point out that criticizing any ideology will inevitably lead some bigots to want to harm adherents to that ideology. The point is you can’t avoid criticism where it is so obviously deserved. Think of Nazism being criticized. It lead to much bigotry against Germans in the U.S. The imperialism of the Japanese during the war – internment and much hostility to Japanese Americans. Should we have coddled Japan and Germany to avoid negative repercussions?
            If you consider Harris’s criticism of Islam, he always surrounds his remarks with plenty of caveats acknowledging that all Muslims are not Islamicists or Jihadists. Compare that to the right wingnut Donald Trump – he targets all Muslims when he calls for registration of Muslims in the U.S.. Your criticism should be aimed at Trump and other fear mongers. Harris is doing us and Muslims worldwide a great service by clarifying the risks inherent in blind obedience to a religious dogma. Especially a religion that calls for violence as a core element of its texts.
            What you say is true to some degree, but it lacks balance and perspective.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Rickflick, sorry to be so repetitious, but others keep disputing the evidence that it’s false and dangerous to single out Islam for criticism that it’s inherently violent. I have presented many historical and contemporary examples to make that point.

            I think you are wrong to compare Nazism, a hate filled ideology of the moment that lasted maybe 20 years, with a 1500 year old religion with a vast number of different sects and interpretations. And Germany was a major industrial and military power that was a significant danger to the world (though probably not to the US in the short run). There is no parallel in the Muslim world, and those who claim the threat is comparable, invoking Armaggedon, are fearmongering. And I think most people now realize that the internment of Japanese-Americans was a mistake based on the hysteria of the moment.

            Believe me, I despise and am terrified of Trump and all of the Republican candidates. most people here seem to agree, so it’s not so nevessary to insist on that point. But unlike you, I see the influence of Harris and friends to reinforce the fearmongering of the right. The subtle distinctions they try to make between Muslims and Islam is lost on all but true believers.

            Finally, please name a religion that is not violent. The Quran is based on the Tanakh, but violent as it is, it pales compared with the violence of the Tanakh. Whether we look at ancient texts, or recent events, there is no justification for singling out Islam as more violent than other religions or ideologies.

            There, I’ve said it a 21st time. Thanks for seeing there is some merit to my argument, but please tell me what balance and perspective I’m missing. My whole argument is to fill in the balance and perspective missed by those who single out Islam as uniquely dangerous. (And believe me I see Allah as just as fictional as all other gods).

          • rickflick says:

            We are back to square one. This conversation is like wearing a plaster cast and not being able to scratch the terrible itch deep inside. It’s like trying to reason with a cat. It’s like shouting at the TV monitor.

            Ha! I know your arguments well enough now, I could have written this one for you.

          • The analogy rickflick makes is sound. He’s not comparing Nazism to Islam, he’s comparing the situation – criticizing Nazism lead to bigotry against Germans. In the 1980s, when I was in my early 20s, I had a German penfriend of several years come to stay. We visited my parents who lived in another town, so we stayed a few days. My father and a friend of his were discussing her: “She’s a nice girl, but you know, she could be Hitler’s granddaughter.” We went a a friend of mine’s home. Her brother made the comment, “You’d like Australia, there’re lots of Nazis in Australia.” This was more than 40 years after the end of WWII. Does the bigotry my friend suffered from a couple of ignorant people mean we shouldn’t continue to criticize Nazism?

            Germany falls over itself to prove they’re no longer bigoted. That’s why they have laws making it illegal to deny the Holocaust. That’s one of the reason they’re more generous than most towards the migrants from the ME and north Africa.

          • For myself, I see the merit in your arguments. At the same time, you seem to be saying that those whose words you don’t like, or even whose words may be taken out of context. should shut up. I can’t accept that part of the argument.

            This is similar to one on Jerry Coyne’s site today – many people have assumed a Charlie Hebdo cartoon is racist. It’s quite obvious to me it isn’t and I would suggest to anyone who knows anything about Charlie Hebdo. However, there are still people who even though they can see that it’s satire, think Charlie Hebdo have been socially irresponsible because some people might think they’re serious, and other, even though they know it’s satire, will present it as being real in their bigoted outlets. I think that’s a completely ridiculous argument and even if it wasn’t, it’s against my commitment to freedom of speech.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            I have to confess that when I first saw the Hebdo cover, I did not identify the satire, and thought it was disgusting. I’m mortified but happy to see the real meaning. I like satire and wish the jihadists would choose militarists rather than humorists to kill.

          • DocAtheist says:

            “Tanakh.” Oddly enough, that term, rarely used by Jews in day to day communication, is bandied about on social media by many of the most Jew-hating trolls out there, as though it’s both the root of Jewish evil and the filth they feel trying to pronounce the “kh.”

            Meanwhile, since Christians were up and running by the time Muhammad came on the scene, and their bible carried even more material that is included in the Koran, it seems highly unfair to blame the Koran on the Jews.

            Unless the goal is to blame everything on the Jews.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Actually Doc, I’ve always called it the OT, but I thought it was more respectful to call it Tanakh. Anyway, I’m not blaming the Quran on the Jews, I’m just saying that if you read it, the influence of the OT stories become evident again and again. Noah gets more ink in the Quran than in the OT. Adam, Abraham, Moses, and others are prominently featured. Not so much the New Testament, though there is quite a bit of argument about why God wouldn’t have a son. I don’t think I have said anything to suggest I blame everything on the Jews.

          • So I’m allowed to talk about it, but they’re not? Harris and Coyne do mention the violence the West has visited upon the ME and criticized it. It is NOT their fault or their responsibility if others take their words out of context, misinterpret them, only mention the bits they want to etc. They are not fear-mongering – the others who misuse their words are doing that. They should not have to shut up in case that happens.

            And even if medieval Europe did have schools that taught violence to children using actual people to practice on, as you suggest is possible, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for DAESH to do it. We know that’s wrong and child abuse, and I would suggest the leaders of DAESH are more than intelligent enough to know that too, and the effects it will have on the children. We’ve been seeing the results in recent decades with the child soldiers of the LRA and other similar groups in Africa.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Heather, please. When did I ever say anyone should shut up and not be allowed to talk about something. I am saying that words have consequences and the potential consequences of Islamaphobia in western countries are terrifying (item: US/UK invasion of Iraq). What are the comparable dangers of giving Islam a pass for a while, and focus on, say Hinduism? I think it’s a rich field for religiously inspired prejudice and bias.

            Secondly, I am saying that if new atheists think Islam is uniquely evil, as they seem to say, they’d better be prepared to make a case for that, over the past 100 years and over the past 1400 years. The evidence is decidedly mixed. And if they want to make a case that the Quran is uniquely violent and misanthropic, they should make case for that too. On this question I think it is clear that the Tanakh takes violence and cruelty much further than the Quran. For scientists, they rest their assumptions on very shaky and unexamined evidence. Their conclusions seem largely driven by the events of the moment, and what gets the most press. But criticizing them doesn’t mean I’m trying to shut them up.

            Can you doubt that I abor DAESH? It’s the only thing that keeps me from going full tilt against all continued American military activity in the ME. Which would have about as much effect as my telling anyone they are not allowed to talk about something.

          • DocAtheist says:

            And, there you go with “Tanakh”, again, even after suggesting Hinduism be targeted to give Islam a break. Nice of you to keep targeting the Jews. Heaven forbid antisemitism go away.

          • By saying that there are consequences to words, you are saying that the person who said them should not say those words. That is, I think, where NAs differ from other leftist atheists. They (regressives) think that it’s okay to shut down free speech in situations other than than calls to violence.

            There is a difference with Islam in today’s world because of the belief in some Muslims of violent jihad (just like Mohammed lived in the last ten years of his life) to spread Islam, and that dying for the cause is worth it. Currently, while other religions have histories that are just as violent, if not more so, today they do not. It is about what is happening now, and now the problem is Islamist extremists.

            How we react to the terrorists is a problem too of course. We on the left need to continue to do our best to make ourselves heard so that it is only the terrorists that are stopped, and that actions like carpet-bombing of their locations and the murder of innocents are not made acceptable.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            And we know about the brutality of the English public schools. But Steven Pinker says we are getting less violent, and the west has made astounding moral progress, WITHIN our own societies in the past few centuries. What we have to avoid are the types of societal breakdowns such as Europe experienced in the first half of the 20thcentury and the Middle East is experiencing now. That’s when people regress to more primitive moralities– when they are threatened.

          • Which is the point I have been trying to make. Another interesting take on what may cause a breakdown is Western society:

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            I agree with giving priority to women and children and screening out young men unless they have a compelling claim. Most violence is perpetrated by young men, although often at the behest of older men. It’s hard to believe though that Sweden has taken in so many male immigrants as to skew its overall sex ratio that much. Maybe they just meant the sex ratio of immigrants?

          • I wondered about that myself, given the figures they give for China.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            According to Wikipedia, Sweden’s overall gender ratio (male to female) is 0.98 and in the ages 15 to 65 it is 1.03. I think the notion that immigrants in Europe skew the sex ratio very much is mistaken. Still we should screen out young men.

          • As I said above, I would be surprised if the skew is that big. Sweden’s population is less than 10 million though, so a large influx of young male refugees would probably have a noticeable and significant effect in the childbearing age groups. I think we’ll have to wait until their next census to find out exactly what it is.

          • Ken says:

            Their aggressive violence is wrong and I won’t defend it. But to ignore our own is not only to be a hypocrite, but to miss the best opportunity to reduce violence and increase security and human rights. It is too easy to just focus on the wrongs of our perceived enemies. If we want to reduce violence and oppression in the world, we must first reduce our own violence and oppression. All else is apologetics.

          • Ken says:

            “This wrong has no equivalent in the modern world. Such child abuse, alone, is beyond ken.”

            It’s terrible indeed, but no equivalent? Is this really the worst thing you can think of that has happened “in the modern world”? What about the up to 1 million children under 5 years old that died from preventable water born diseases from Iraq sanctions that kept drugs from reaching them (and which occurred after the US destroyed water treatment plants in Desert Storm)?

          • DocAtheist says:

            Reread my words carefully. They are not the same as your interpretation.

          • Ken says:

            Perhaps you should choose new words.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, I don’t know about Coyne, but Harris actively downplays all factors other than religion. Even if he is entirely right, and as you know I have at least some sympathy for his views, this both takes the discussion away from actions that could have a real material impact, and makes the religious issue look like existential and urgent. It is indeed extremely unhelpful for a liberal to do this. rickflick says the discussion needs balance. That’s exactly the point, but it is Harris that gets it so wrong.

          • DocAtheist says:

            Harris doesn’t get it wrong. He focuses on religion for its key role, while briefly acknowledging and then setting aside other factors as appropriate. This way, he doesn’t allow the other factors to cloud the points he is making about religion.

          • It’s your opinion that he gets it wrong, which is the point I’m trying to make, and we’ve agreed on before. i.e. the problem with the regressive left is that they want to shut down opinions they don’t agree with. They are more viscous towards others on the left (e.g. Nawaz is a porch monkey, Harris is a neocon, Namazie is prevented from speaking etc.) than they are their opponents on the right.

            Harris et al shouldn’t have to not express their opinions because someone on the right might take advantage of what they say to bolster their case. It is more important in that instance that they keep talking so that more know what they’re really saying and not what Greenwald, Aslan, Werleman etc misquote them as saying. In my opinion, it is important for the left to lead these discussions, because if we don’t, the right will, and that could lead to Armageddon.

            And a point was made by Nick Cohen recently in an article entitled ‘Don’t look to the pope for enlightenment values,’ he said:

            It may be objected that the New Testament is less gory that the Old. But Christ no more forbad slavery, rape, torture and genocide than did the Ten Commandments. Christians in power engaged in orgies of persecution of one another, of non-believers, of witches and of Jews. Indeed, the true Judaeo-Christian tradition was the 1,600-year tradition of Christians murdering Jews. What civilisation Judaism and Christianity possess came from the outside. They did not reform themselves, which is why calls for a Muslim reformation so spectacularly miss the point. Civilisation came from the battering that religion took from the Enlightenment, from sceptics, scientists, mockers and philosophers, who destroyed their myths and exposed the immorality of their taboos.

            Charlie Hebdo told us a truth that too many do not like to admit: anyone who tries to do the same to Islam today can end up dead.

            To me whether Harris gets it right is not the primary point. The point is the issue needs to be discussed, and too many on the left are trying to shut down any discussion that criticizes Islam in any way. There is genuine Islamophobia and Muslimophobia out there. I don’t think that will go away without honest discussion led by the left. The reason for a lot of it is ignorance and fear, and the only way to combat it is knowledge and understanding. There is value in what Harris says. There is a percentage of Muslims who see jihad as needing to be violent and not an inner struggle, and Harris has always said it’s a minority percentage (I remember a debate he had with Aslan from 2006 where he said this.) Instead of honest debate of the points where people think he’s wrong some instead make dishonest ad-hom attacks on him. It pisses me off. (I’m not accusing you of that!)

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Heather, what power would Ken and I have to shut down what Harris and Coyne are saying. We are not trying to shut down the discussion, we are participating in it, (ad nauseum, in my case according to Rickflick). Criticism is not censorship.

            Cohen’s analysis is simplistic. The enlightenment came about after the reformation had shattered the idea of a unified Christendom, and the wars of religion turned everyone sour on religious extremism (we might hope the same would happen in Islam, if we just leave them to their own devices). And it wasnt really from the outside, as most of the enlightenment thinkers considered themselves Christians.

          • Ken says:

            The role of religion is real, but not key. That is the very point.

          • DocAtheist says:

            You’d be hard pressed to clearly distinguish culture from religion, when that culture claims the religion, cites its religious texts, and derives morals, values, and, most of all, actions from that religion.

            Formerly violent religions are due to cultural changes. Based on those cultural changes, the religions are re-interpreted so as to fit the new culture.

            Attempting to make such changes when a religion is at its most culturally violent is usually a quick way to being killed. We see that happening, today, with respect to Islam. In addition, too many of its followers are carrying the murderous tradition [“family honor” my foot!] into civilizations, cultures that haven’t recognized such barbarity in hundreds of years.

            Time matters. Culture matters. And religion is the key, whether as foundation or as weapon.

          • Ken says:

            Here’s the sort of discussion that would be so much more fruitful to have instead of the Armageddon stirring that Harris does.

            The war with ISIS is, in fact, a struggle of ideas, anti-western and anti-imperialist, suffused with religious feeling. You can’t bomb an idea or a religion away. Whatever Washington may want, much of the Middle East is heading toward non-secular governments, and toward the destruction of the monarchies and the military thugs still trying to preserve updated versions of the post-World War I system. In the process, borders, already dissolving, will sooner or later be redrawn in ways that reflect how people on the ground actually see themselves.

            There is little use in questioning whether this is the right or wrong thing because there is little Washington can do to stop it. However, as we should have learned in these last 14 years, there is much it can do to make things far worse than they ever needed to be. The grim question today is simply how long this painful process takes and how high a cost it extracts. To take former President George W. Bush’s phrase and twist it a bit, you’re either with the flow of history or against it…

            And here’s a simple reality to explain to your candidate: we can’t defend everything, not without losing everything in the process. We can try to lock down airports and federal buildings, but there is no way, nor should there be, to secure every San Bernardino holiday party, every school, and every bus stop. We should, in fact, be ashamed to be such a fear-based society here in the home of the brave. Today, sadly enough, the most salient example of American exceptionalism is being the world’s most scared country. Only in that sense could it be said that the terrorists are “winning” in America.


          • Ken says:

            The thing that most urgently needs to change to reduce the violence is our own attitude and actions. These have nothing to do with their religion.

            (How do you get your comments to appear elsewhere in the thread and not at the end?)

          • He’s probably using WordPress Reader to reply, which he can do because he has his own WordPress website.

          • Ken says:

            Heather @ 19 Jan 3:13 pm

            “It’s your opinion that he gets it wrong, which is the point I’m trying to make, and we’ve agreed on before. i.e. the problem with the regressive left is that they want to shut down opinions they don’t agree with.”

            Heather, I’m not sure why you bring that up. You know I support Harris in so far as unfair ad hom attacks should simply not be tolerated. I’m criticising the substance of what he is saying, specifically the priority he puts on religion as an urgent issue, not questioning his right to say it.

            “Harris et al shouldn’t have to not express their opinions because someone on the right might take advantage of what they say to bolster their case. It is more important in that instance that they keep talking so that more know what they’re really saying and not what Greenwald, Aslan, Werleman etc misquote them as saying. In my opinion, it is important for the left to lead these discussions, because if we don’t, the right will, and that could lead to Armageddon.“

            This misses the point. Those that are unfair to Harris are wrong in their reaction, but not wrong that Harris has the wrong end of the stick. The discussion it is important that the left lead is the discussion of what actions will have real impact in reducing violence. They are correct that Harris is absolutely wrong on what the priorities are, even if they discredit themselves in how make their points. There’s very little we can do about the religion, while there is heaps we can do about the violence. Focussing on the former, particularly when downplaying the latter makes the job harder. Sorry if that seems unfair.

            “And a point was made by Nick Cohen recently in an article entitled ‘Don’t look to the pope for enlightenment values,’ he said: …”

            Can you not see that Cohen’s is a prescription that cannot be applied in the current circumstances? Islam cannot be “battered by the Enlightenment” while Muslims are being battered by bombs. The bombs drive them away from any enlightenment. I truly don’t understand why this is so difficult a concept. First things first.

            “To me whether Harris gets it right is not the primary point. The point is the issue needs to be discussed, …”

            In fact, the issue doesn’t need to be discussed, at least not right now. The discussion needs to shift to how to reduce the violence that is under our control, so that someday other things can be discussed, including perhaps this issue! Insisting on putting the cart before the horse only makes things worse. We need to get our own house in order first.

            “Instead of honest debate of the points where people think he’s wrong some instead make dishonest ad-hom attacks on him. It pisses me off. (I’m not accusing you of that!)”

            I accept that, but it’s not just about whether he is right or wrong, it’s about whether his focus is right or wrong. They are both material issues on which debate is fair. Neither require personal attacks to be argued either way.

            Sam is as wrong as they come on the latter issue of priority and you don’t need to be a regressive to say so.

          • I accept most of your criticisms. I think we’re mostly talking about different issues. Because of where I write my comments, I get mixed up on which post I’m actually commenting on. That’s what’s happened here.

            I agree Sam is wrong with the level of emphasis he puts on religion. I also think some make it seem like he makes an even greater emphasis than he does. I get wound up in wanting to defend him because so many of the attacks on him are unfair and I often fail to mention that I’m not in total agreement with him myself.

            The bit about Cohen was supposed to go in a response to Paxton on a slightly different topic in another post. But where I am, as I said, all the comments are together in order of time. I tend to read them in time order since last time I checked, then go back and answer.

          • Ken says:

            Yea, I’ve been getting confused too. Wish we could all log on and manage it better.

  4. What are the two Muslim schools that say FGM is compulsory for women? Who are the Muslim authorities who encourage or prescribe the practice of FGM?

    • From the post: Reza Aslan: Lying for Islam on FGM

      In Sunni Islam, there are four schools of jurisprudence that express an opinion on the matter. Two of them, the Hanbali and Shafi’i schools, consider FGM obligatory, while the other two, the Hanafi and Maliki schools, recommend it. In addition, there have been several fatwas issued regarding FGM over the years, the majority of which favour it. (Fatwas are not compulsory, but devout Muslims consider them morally imperative.) For example, Fatwa 60314 includes statements that express the importance of FGM within Islam and dismiss the opinions of doctors.

      There is more info about the position of scholars in the post.

      • Neil Godfrey says:

        Thanks for this, but I’m actually looking for sources and context. Can you help me track down the sources for the assertions made here, and the context of the particular fatwa — who declared it, where, when, and who the followers are, etc.


        • I got that particular info from Wikipedia. The article may, of course, have changed since I did my post.

          Fatwa 60314 was issued by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which Wikipedia describes as “one of the most respected universities of the Islamic world”. A Google search “Fatwa 60314 fgm” will give you the full text.

          All the info in the article was sourced on-line. Because of a hack attack since I wrote the article, a lot of the links have gone missing in the restoration. There was a UNICEF report, but the link to that doesn’t seem to be working anymore. However, you might be able to get it via the UNICEF home page.

          There have been several reports done by Pew that mention the subject. This is a good one:

          See here for others:

          I hope this helps. 🙂

        • Neil Godfrey says:

          I get the impression from the original post that only one side of the question has been explored and promulgated. The problem I have with that one side of the argument is that it appears to be strongly contradicted by Islamic leaders, international Islamic organisations, scholars, influential spokespersons, today.

          Are all of these people lying, deceiving dangers to society or is there are legitimate alternative interpretation of the data under discussion?

          The fatwa 60314 appears to be put out by a Saudi Arabian website and significant aspects of its provenance are untraceable. It is contradicted by statements and fatwas by many more prominent and influential Muslims.

          I am not interested in “defending Islam”, by the way. Such an exercise would be futile — Islam is an abstract idea that is applied to a disparate set of peoples. It is people who need to be rescued, protected and defended from hideous practices and also from false associations.

          Surely we agree that the most effective way to support efforts to end FGM is to focus on accurate research and target the responsible and related causes. It is not helpful, we surely agree, to fire a shotgun in the general direction of a barn wall because the real target happens to be standing in front of it.

          A study of the questions raised by anyone must involve a serious study of all sides of the question, serious research and independent investigation, and not just references drawn from the one side that is hostile to that person’s views. Forget Aslan — address the issues and do this by a more broader research into all sides and perspectives that are out there.

          • Neil Godfrey says:

            I posted this before I saw your most recent response above. I don’t think anything would change. (I don’t understand how a University can issue a fatwa, however.)

          • Hi Neil. I agree with your point about the way to end FGM.

            The point of the FGM post though was the way Aslan was misrepresenting the issue, and trying to correct some of the facts. He’s part of the problem because he’s insisting this is, among other things, an “African problem”.

            We need to be debating the truth, not Aslan’s version of the truth, and that was the point of this post.

            So yes, I haven’t done a proper post addressing the issue itself, I’ve done posts about the way Aslan is spoiling the discussion.

          • rickflick says:

            BTW Heather, thanks for your post, and your whole research and education effort on many subjects. I really appreciate all the effort you are putting in to keep people like Aslan honest. I think you’re doing a very fine service to humanity. Keep up the good work.

          • Thanks so much rickflick. I appreciate your support. 🙂

  5. paxton marshall says:

    Hi Heather, here is an example of the atmosphere of “political correctness”. Anyone who says anything favourable about Islam is viciously attacked and vilified. I don’t know if you consider Fareed Zakaria a member of the “regressive left” or not, but to me he’s pretty moderate. If Islam bashers are receiving this kind of treatment then they may have a case in condemning the “political correctness” of their opponents.

    Zakaria: “In recent weeks I was the target of a trolling campaign and saw exactly how it works. It started when an obscure website published a post titled “CNN host Fareed Zakaria calls for jihad rape of white women.” The story claimed that in my “private blog” I had urged the use of American women as “sex slaves” to depopulate the white race. The post further claimed that on my Twitter account, I had written the following line: “Every death of a white person brings tears of joy to my eyes.”
    “Disgusting. So much so that the item would collapse from its own weightlessness, right? Wrong. Here is what happened next: Hundreds of people began linking to it, tweeting and retweeting it, and adding their comments, which are too vulgar or racist to repeat. A few ultra-right-wing websites reprinted the story as fact. With each new cycle, the levels of hysteria rose, and people started demanding that I be fired, deported or killed. For a few days, the digital intimidation veered out into the real world. Some people called my house late one night and woke up and threatened my daughters, who are 7 and 12.”

    • I’m actually a big fan of Fareed Zakaria, and watch his show on CNN each week without fail. I consider him moderate. He’s good at having intelligent voices from all sides on his show. Niall Ferguson and Henry Kissinger are regular guests. He was born into a Muslim family in India, but is secular (though not atheist as far as I know) himself and rarely mentions religion. Recently his book of the week was Richard Dawkins’ Magic Of Reality, which someone had given to one of his kids. I think it’s a wonderful book too, and have frequently recommended it. If I could afford it, I’d give a copy to all my nieces and nephews.

      It is disgusting what he went through there. I hate trolling. It’s just wrong. Even if he had said those things, which I would never have believed for a minute if I’d seen them, I wouldn’t have trolled him for it. I hadn’t seen this latest story yet, but he usually talks about his Washington Post column on his weekly show, which hasn’t broadcast yet.

  6. paxton marshall says:

    Saul, When was the last time you heard anyone in the main stream media, left or right, call the Iraq invasion or the Gaza invasion “terrorism”? Oh, they’ll say it was a mistake, and Bush was a liar, but when do they address the harm we have done, or that Islamic terroristic attacks may just be payback for our attacks on them? They can harp about the US soldiers Bush got killed, but not about the terrible suffering the US has inflicted on Muslims, or for that matter on American Indians or Africans. Read some school textbooks to see how these things are dealt with. When did you hear anyone in American MSM say that Bush, Cheney, Rummy, etc are guilty of war crimes? Maybe they aren’t but isn’t a legitimate issue to discuss? But our “politically correct” media won’t mention it.

    • DocAtheist says:

      Paxton, do you even realize how you are hijacking this site? Please feel free to write your own blog, if you feel it’s that necessary to get your points across. If it’s worthwhile, we’ll come read it. This thread is not about Gaza. It’s about Reza.

      • The Paxton marshall says:

        Thanks Doc for the advice and permission. Did you watch the Aslan video? Did you see the part about Gaza? Keeping a narrow focus is how terrible oversights are made. Focusing on Islamic terror and calling any discussion of western terrorism off limits or high jacking the thread is a form of the political correctness I’ve been talking about. I guess it’s important to keep condemning Islam, because if you don’t do it no one else will? And we should castigate any defense of Muslims as the politically correct talk of regressive liberals because they are trying to censor the good people who are telling us Islam and Muslims are going to destroy us?

        • DocAtheist says:

          I disagree with your generalizations, but I also have to apologize, as I didn’t mean for my own two comments to sound so harsh.

          Regarding wide vs. narrow focus, a broad brush misses detail, and trying to add too many details to it can overwhelm. Just take one topic at a time, order them so you can link the concepts from one to the next (because none of them exists in a vaccuum), and allow fair arguments.

          There is a name for the sort of argumentation that unfairly lists a plethora of topics so that responses to any one is insufficient and responses to all is impossible within limited parameters of time and space. Maybe someone else recalls its name.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            No apology necessary, Doc. I sometimes get pretty harsh as well. There is a difference between painting an issue with an overly broad brush, and telling only one side of an issue. That is what the video did with the Gaza issue. If you say anything about the Israel-Palestinian issue and don’t mention 50 years of captivity, you are distorting the issue.

          • DocAtheist says:

            And if you mention “50 years of captivity” [sic] without looking at the history of the region starting before the end of the 1800s, you’re missing where those fake captives came from. Enough. This thread is about Reza Aslan, not the Arab-Israeli conflict. I will not be responding any further.

          • “Maybe someone else recalls its name.”

            Gish galloper.

          • DocAtheist says:

            Ah, yes. Thank you, Heather.

  7. What I’d like to see is a discussion of the points raised by Aslan without the focus on Aslan himself.

    For example, everyone knows that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but that’s exactly the level of argument that seems to me to be used to supposedly “rebut” Aslan and from which to accuse him of all sorts of nefarious things like “lying” and “deceiving”.

    I can understand why some people take different interpretations of certain questions raised, but I don’t see a reasoned address of those various interpretations. I see instead personal attacks and arguments of causation from correlation.

    Aslan is not the only one making his particular arguments. Is everyone who argues the way he does — including other Muslims and scholars — lying and deceiving and a danger to society?

    • DocAtheist says:

      Here is some Muslim argument for you: To find Muslims on Muslim TV saying things about particular Muslim topics, go to that video’s channel. I especially recommend the bits from Sesame Street take-offs in which children of kindergarten age and younger talk. Let the Muslims themselves show you what they think, believe, and lead each other to believe.

      • The Paxton marshall says:

        This is a lame argument, but I have heard Catholic women argue that they too are equal to men, even though they are ineligible to be priest, bishop, or pope. This woman may be wrong, but there is no reason to believe she is evil, much less a danger to the west.

  8. j.a.m. says:

    According to Jordan’s King Abdullah, it’s about a civil war within Islam: “There is an understanding inside of Islam that these are what we call the khawarij – the outlaws of Islam. We are having a better understanding in this dialogue inside of Islam that this is a threat to the very core of our religion….It is a war inside of Islam, it is our civil war, but we cannot do it by ourselves.”

    He ought to know. This analysis makes a hell of a lot more sense than the malarkey put forward by those desperate to fit this phenomenon into a leftist anti-Western narrative frame. And needless to say, the King happens to have a hell of a lot more at stake.

    • Ken says:

      Of course it is a civil war within Islam. Who would say otherwise? That doesn’t mean that’s all it is. How can you quote something like that and pretend is is the last word, ignoring all historical context? Where did ISIS come from? You know, because you read this blog, that it wouldn’t exist if the Saudis weren’t pouring zillions into propagating militant Wahhabism and the Bush administration hadn’t destabilised Iraq while allowing the Saudis to do whatever they want. There are very few even on the right who argue otherwise now, yet you try to rewrite history in purely partisan left/right terms to protect your broken ideology. I’ll give this to you. You never give up despite being transparently full of shit. That’s some chutzpah.

      • DocAtheist says:

        Puh-leez! After your screeds on Gaza? How about some historical context, there?! Gaza was part of Egypt, before Israel won it in a fair, defensive war! Egypt doesn’t want it back. Egypt doesn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood’s haven in it’s borders, even after that organization’s bastard renamed itself Hamas! Are you even aware of what Hamas did to take over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority? How about the turn-key homes, businesses, infrastructure, and other investments — created by Jewish blood, sweat, and tears — left behind perfectly intact and then utterly destroyed as the Palestinians’ first act of moving in? And you want to blame all that on Israel, too? Gaza was given over to stop the rockets firing into Israel. It was a purely one-sided, diplomatic move. And the rockets increased, instead, along with tunnels and more weaponry. Gaza’s Palestinians could be using their cement, wooden beams, pipes, electrical cable, and other materials, not to mention billions of donated dollars, to build themselves up and focus on better lives for their children. They don’t. They start singing songs of Jihad to them in utero, followed by pre-kindergarten TV shows teaching the children to live only in order to murder the Jews, because that’s what Muhammad wants. You’ve shunned the evidence, wearing blinders to hide from history, and then you tell someone else that they are doing this? How ironic!

        • Ken says:

          I think you are mixing up commentors, as I’ve not recently posted even one screed on Gaza. I’ll let Paxton respond to your comments on those ungrateful Palestinians.

          • DocAtheist says:

            Yes, that was for Paxton.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Hello doc. Glad you’ve stuck around even though the conversation has veered from Aslan. It was very unkind of you to say I’m blaming everything on the Jews. I actually blame most of the current chaos on my own country, the US. I also blame Israel, which I’m sure you understand is not blaming all Jews. I should maybe be more specific and say I blame Israeli right wing governments such as that led by Netanyahu. I regard him as a thug and a very dangerous man.

            If I said something untrue in my “screed” about Gaza, please point it out. Yes, Israel conquered Gaza and the WB in the 1967 war. Whether it was defensive or not, I won’t get into. Israel has two moral choices. It can absorb the territory and grant the denizens citizenship. (The one state solution). Or it can spin off the territories and grant the citizens independence (the two state solution). It is unacceptable to hold millions of people captive for almost 50 years, practically cutting off intervourse with the outside world.

            You claim that religion is at the core of Islamic violence. What is the role of religion in the ongoing settler movement, confiscating and appropriating Palestinian land in the WB? Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization. Wouldn’t it be surprising if no terrorist organization grew up to confront 50 years of captivity and degradation? But When israel uses the most advanced, jets, missiles and bombs, much of it a gift from my country to slaughter 2000 people (over half of them civilians) with no viable defenses and only primitive weapons of their own, how can you call it anything other than terrorism? Ditto the Us/UK invasion of Iraq.

          • DocAtheist says:

            Here, Pax, try blaming this on Israel rather than Islam:

          • DocAtheist says:

            Might as well add this: You can’t blame this on the US/UK, either.

            The Jews chose not to regress after the Holocaust, so other peoples have no excuse. In fact, many Jews chose atheism after the Holocaust. That, at least, is progress.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            I watched the second one, doc, and I recommend it to everyone (12 min). It’s the story of an ex Muslim girl, in her 20s I would say, born in the USA of Muslim immigrant parents, who took their family back to a very strict Muslim community, expressly to raise their children. As a teenager, she rebels against the community’s restriction on women, including having to veil herself in public. She tried to run away, was brought back, bided her time, and finally got to a university in the US.

            Please note how the interviewer constantly tries to put words in her mouth, trying to make her to says things condemning of Islam and.Muslim countries. She made it clear from the beginning that it was her family and her particular community, dominated by Hezbollah, that placed the restrictions and that many Muslim women don’t live in such severe communities. She stresses that there are similar extremist groups in evangelical Christianity and Mormonism. But he is having none of it. He keeps trying to get her to generalize her treatment to all of Islam and to make her comment on how bad it is for women in other Islamic countries. Was that your take also, doc?

            Unfortunately, the USA is crawling with guys like this interviewer who want to spread hatred of Muslims. pax

          • DocAtheist says:

            If you appreciated that, go back and watch the one-hour video, as that is the same woman, not interrupted by anyone, speaking in enough detail to clear up quite a lot more. It is eye-opening. It was eye-opening to me, far worse than I’d realized, and perhaps worse than the impression you got, given the moderator’s interruptions in the short video. Be brave. Watch her speak at length. She’s probably closer to 30 years old, now, too.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Doc, I’m not defending what this girls parents did, or the community they put her in. But as the girls says, you can find the same thing in extremist Christian communities and ultra-orthodox Jewish communities. Isolation from the world, brainwashing, distinctive dress, fear of mainstream society. Unless you tell me the longer video shows her being trained to be a suicide bomber I’m still going to decline an hour of watching her. Too many people, like that interviewer are trying to use particular anecdotes like this to indict 1.6 billion Muslims. Look at the big picture and what westerners have done as well as what Muslims have done. You can’t understand a situation unless you can view it from different perspectives. Good to hear from you again. pax

          • DocAtheist says:

            You wrongly predict what is in the other video. Go watch it, if you have the courage.

          • And this is the problem I have. The left needs to be part of the discussion to educate the wider public, so they know that not all Muslims are like this, but that some Jews and Christians are. We can’t shut down all criticism of Muslims out of fear it will feed the bigots. We need a culture of honesty and basing decisions on evidence. That is the culture that will lead more people to recognize the faults of the West and how we’re a part of the problem. The right will find evidence for their bigotry no matter what. The rest of us need to focus on the truth, wherever we find it.

          • Very scary, as always with religious fundamentalists. Thankfully, he’s not in a decision-making position with the government. It seems they’ve made moves to shut him up in the past when his rhetoric has gone too far – let’s hope they do the same again this time.

      • Ken – I agree with your arguments but please do not be abusive. “Full of sh*t” is not appropriate.

  9. The Paxton marshall says:

    Sorry doc, I’m not watching an hour long speech. Perhaps you can summarize? Incidentally, Islam is not comparable to Israel, one being a state, the other a religion. To criticize Saudi Arabia or even Iran is not to criticize Islam, any more than criticizing Israel is criticizing Judaism, even though Israel calls itself the Jewish state. Many American Jews made it clear, when Netanyahu interfered in Amercan politics last year, that Netanyahu does not represent them.

    • DocAtheist says:

      Sorry, I’m not wasting anymore time over semantics, straw man tactics, or etc. You choose not to listen and learn. You choose ignorance. That’s fine.

      • The Paxton marshall says:

        Now doc, saying I “choose ignorance” is very unkind. I’d rather be called “full of sh$t”. I’ve listened to you carefully and engaged in honest conversation with you. Do you always feel you have to insult people who disagree with you?

  10. Khaled Ehsan says:

    Dear Ms Hastie,

    This is a belated response to the discussion. Regardless of what Reza Aslan writes, which by the way has been extensively reviewed by relevant scholars in the US and globally, kindly please note that FGM is not an ‘Islamic’ practice; you and those who support your view are completely wrong. Your point about FGM being practiced in some Arab muslim countries overlooks the fact that a large number of Christians from Central Africa also avidly promote this odious practice, which is basically customary, and has nothing to do with Islamic or Christian religious tenents. Yes, they are presented as ‘religious’ by the powers that be in these societies, but that should not lead you to label the practice as ‘Islamic’; you have to admit this is rather one-sided — I.e call it ‘Islamic’ even when large populations of Christians endorse the practice. Please see Kevin Drum’s article in Mother Jones – ‘FGM is not a uniquely muslim problem’, 6 February 2016.

    • I have always said that FGM was around long before Islam came along. It was a cultural practice, and should still be known as such. I freely acknowledge there are still those that perform it that are not Muslim. I have no problem in saying categorically that it was not originally a Muslim practice. Read what I said again. I make that clear.

      The problem is that many within Islam now insist on it as part of the religion. It has become part of Islam in many parts of the world, and in some places it has become all but compulsory for Muslim women. In parts of Indonesia, for example, babies are cut to celebrate Mohammed’s birthday. Getting this abhorrent practice wiped out has been much easier in areas that are not Muslim because there’s no one insisting it’s part of the religion. Health workers explain why the practice is detrimental to all to community leaders, and thus get their help to stop it. That’s much harder when there’s an imam who insists Allah either prefers or requires it.

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