Religious scholar says anti-Muslim fervour is rising in America

Published: May 15, 2015
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PHOTO: PAT DOLLARD

PHOTO: PAT DOLLARD

Reza Aslan, who is an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, appeared on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Wednesday night, to discuss the idea of ‘reformation’ in Islam and the threat of ISIS.

Aslan conceded that ISIS is Islamic, however said  if you are okay with calling them Muslim you should also acknowledge their victims are also Muslim.

“I’m okay with you saying that ISIS is Islamic as long as you also realise that the tens of thousands of people that they have kill are also Muslims and that the tens of thousands of people who are are fighting against ISIS are also Muslim,” Aslan said.

“What drives me absolutely bananas is this constant refrain, that you know what Islam really needs? It needs a reformation,” Aslan said on The Daily Show. “My answer is to that is: open your eyes, man. What do you think is going on? People think that reformation is about holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Reformation is about a cataclysmic debate about who has the authority to define a faith. Is it the individuals or is it the institution? ”

Aslan blamed anti-Muslim fervor in the US on “fear manufactured by a news channel that has spun it into ratings gold.” Aslan was referring to FOX News, a network Stewart targeted earlier in his show.

“It’s both sides, by the way. If you look at one of the greatest drivers of anti-American sentiment overseas are the fear-based rhetoric of their leaders, of punditry, of everything else.” said Stewart.

“Both sides have decided that to perpetuate their own power it makes best sense to play to the basic sense of fear of your constituency.” added Stewart

READ:Watch: Hilarious reactions to Islamophobic comments

Aslan said about anti-Muslim fervor that it is a very real thing. “Two thirds of Americans think that Muslim and American values clash conflict with each other, Half of Americans think Muslims can’t be loyal to America and one-third of Americans -which he insisted is a very large number- want Muslims to be forced to carry special I.D. that identify them as Muslims,” he said citing a poll.

“There’s a historical analogy there somewhere. I can’t put my finger on it,” Aslan sarcastically said, hinting at Nazi sentiment towards the Jews.

“The good news is that everything that is said about Muslims today,” Aslan said, “that they are not American, that they are fearful, that they don’t belong here. Everything that was said about Muslims today were said about the Jews in the ’40s and ’50s, was said about Catholics at the end of the 19th century.”

‘”The bad news is then we will find somebody else to hate,” Aslan added.

Correction: An earlier version of the article wrongly attributed a quote to Reza Aslan. The error is regretted. 

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Reader Comments (5)

  • James
    May 16, 2015 - 1:37AM

    Why not Aslan going back to Islamic Republic of Iran, the country from where his parents flee…..Recommend

  • a_writer
    May 16, 2015 - 2:34AM

    I have watched Dr.Aslan in some of his TV interviews. He comes across as an extremely intelligent person and a scholar in his chosen field.
    However, he is trying to defend the indefensible. His observation regarding ISIS that “the tens of thousands of people that they have kill are also Muslims” comes across as an implication that ISIS targets just Muslims (he was astute enough not to make this a categorical statement). This is patently wrong. In the name of religion, ISIS has brutally massacred Christians, Jews and yes Muslims too – Muslims who are not part of the sect that ISIS belongs.
    But turning to the larger picture, it is indeed sad and worrying that nations are becoming more and more prejudiced against and more afraid of the followers of Islam. If there is some introspection, followers of Islam cannot escape the fact that they tend to resort to violence as the first option to settle any discussion, especially related to Islam, rather than use it as a last resort.Recommend

  • Salman - SK
    May 16, 2015 - 5:38AM

    @James: And, why should he go back to Iran, James???? Aslan is a loyal American citizen and lawfully living in the U.S. Just because he is explaining the Iranian affairs from his own perspective does not make him any less American than any other citizen. At different times in history, Catholics, Jews, Irish, Japanese, Italians, Blacks, Mexicans, and Germans were discriminated against, ostracized, and persecuted in America. Judging by comments such as yours, it looks like racism is alive and flourishing quite well in this day and age. Recommend

  • Prada
    May 16, 2015 - 10:00AM

    Don’t know what his point is. But he doesn’t say a word against those extremists who caused this in the first place. That is the real problem.Recommend

  • lkhan
    May 16, 2015 - 11:16AM

    @a_writer: Sorry to disagree with your last sentence – resort to violence as a last resort? Why should violence be even considered is my question? Can civilised people not hold discussions, agree to disagree amicably if points of view vary, why violence?????Recommend

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