Brother Tayler on Reza Aslan

If there is a poster child for the Regressive Left, it’s Reza Aslan.  Appealing to soft-headed liberals like Oprah Winfrey, Aslan gives comfort to those who simply can’t believe that any faith, including Islam, could promote evil. For if one religion can, so can they all, and the conclusion would be that superstition has a dark side. Aslan also helps resolve the cognitive dissonance of liberals who are torn between two Enlightenment values: a humanistic concern for the oppressed on the one hand (Muslims, seen as an oppressed people of color), and a promotion of equality among groups like gays and women. What do you do with a religion held by people of color that, at the same time, largely demonizes gays and women, often calls for the death of nonbelievers and apostates, and wants to spread theocracy via sharia law? Well, you simply assert that that religion simply doesn’t do those things—that the true form of Islam is what Aslan says it is: a kindly and enlightened faith, corrupted by bad people who would have done bad things even if they were Quakers.

This saccharine clip is part of the theme of Jeff Tayler’s new piece at Quillette: “Straight talk about religion: Reza Aslan peddles false wares to influential dupes.” And, sadly, in this case the dupe is Oprah:

You can see Aslan’s unctuous manner, appealing to those who don’t think too hard about what he’s saying.  It is this amiable demeanor that makes what he’s saying seem palatable, while those like Maajid Nawaz, Maryam Namazie, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who point out that the persecution of minorities and nonbelievers is inherent in Islamic scripture, are dismissed as “native informants.” The sad part is that Tayler quotes Aslan as admitting that people do indeed commit barbarous acts in the name of Islam. But, as Tayler notes, “Yet this [admission] is not what Aslan has done, either on the air with Oprah or elsewhere.” Indeed. If you just listened to Aslan, and didn’t know anything about ISIS, the oppressive restrictions on women in many Muslim countries, the association of the faith with female genital mutilation, the widespread support for sharia law, the near-universal notion that the Qur’an is to be read literally, word for word—all of that would be incomprehensible. No, Aslan’s own myth is that nearly all Muslims are swept up in the all-loving symbolism and metaphor of that book.

But I digress; the point here is to call attention to Tayler’s piece, from which I’ve taken a few excerpts. It bears reading in its entirety:

The line Aslan is selling us — that Islam consists not of propositions (conveyed through the Quran) regarding the origins and future of the universe and our species, accompanied by instructions to all of us about how to behave, but of ethereal, infinitely malleable abstractions — “symbols” and “metaphors” and such — may pass as credible on a talk show.  Yet among those for whom the faith retains its genuine, primordial characteristics as a divinely inspired blueprint for control and exploitation, backed by a harsh apparatus of enforcement — it would sound blasphemous, and would surely earn its telegenic peddler a caning — or worse.  Aslan is free to espouse whatever sort of Islam he chooses, obviously, but we should not confuse his fanciful version of it with reality.

Tayler handily takes down Aslan’s claim that religion isn’t about reality or truth, but about nice stories:

. . . When Aslan then informs Oprah that “symbols and metaphors . . . define the relationship between human beings and God” he is begging the question, assuming that we already accept the existence of a supernatural being (as he can expect the famously pious Oprah to do), but which has been a matter at least thought worthy of argument, even among theologians of yore.  Lest we forget, the validity of the entire Abrahamic enterprise rests on God’s factual existence, if for no other reason than He had to exist to issue the “revelations” providing the sole basis for regarding the Tanakh, the Bible, and the Quran as anything more than oversize compendia of lurid, often cruel fairy tales, and not the inerrant, irrevocable Word of God.  Absent divine authorship, these tomes would merit no more respect than The Epic of Gilgamesh (from which the Flood legend surely derives) and certainly less esteem than, say, Homer’s magnificent, far more imaginative oeuvre.

. . . A shrewd operator, Aslan demonstrates that nonbelievers and skeptics have left their mark on him.  He next tells Oprah that:

[W]hat I always say to people is that there is no proof for the existence or the non-existence of God.  Faith is a choice.  But it’s not an irrational choice.  That it’s actually quite rational and reasonable when confronted with reality and the world and life itself.

The rapidly expanding sector of wised-up Americans would beg to differ, as would citizens of nine of the most peaceable, developed countries, where religion is destined to become extinct.  Easy access to information (via the Internet) combined with science’s growing ability to explain away once-unfathomable mysteries are, day by day, shoring up the case for a worldview based on evidence, not superstitious dogma.  Reverence for ancient texts, composed before people knew what germs were or that the Earth revolves around the sun — now that’s irrational.

If you haven’t read the Qur’an, I urge you to do so.  It’s available online in several versions, including an annotated Qur’an for skeptics, with various symbols indicating the pernicious bits (and the very few kindly bits).  At the American Humanist Association meetings, John De Lancie said he finally gave up on faith when he read the Bible—the well known cure for religiosity among seminarians. If you read the Qur’an, you’ll see that characterizing Islam as a “religion of peace” means that you not only have to ignore the scripture itself, but also the universal Muslim belief that its words are accurate and inerrant.


From the 2013 Pew Report on the world’s Muslims (Iran, Saudia Arabia, and Yemen not surveyed)


  1. Scott Draper
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Easy access to information (via the Internet) combined with science’s growing ability to explain away once-unfathomable mysteries are, day by day, shoring up the case for a worldview based on evidence, not superstitious dogma.

    Tayler seems to think that we have an increasing number of people who structure their worldviews around evidence. The fact that he thinks this with no good evidence seems to undermine this conclusion.🙂

    You can become a “none” for irrational reasons, and the same goes for atheist or agnostic.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Lol, the onus is on the faithful to prove their claim. Atheism doesn’t rest on evidence, it rests on the fact that no believer from any religion can provide evidence for the truth of their own. Atheism in a vacuum is just what everyday life would be without iron-age fairy tales.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Did you even understand my comment?

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Tayler seems to think that we have an increasing number of people who structure their worldviews around evidence

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      “Tayler seems to think that we have an increasing number of people who structure their worldviews around evidence.”

      He’s not saying that the number of such people is increasing. He’s saying that the quality/amount/availability of evidence is increasing.

      Clearly, these are true: 1)Access to information is easier via the Internet. 2) “science’s growing ability to explain away once-unfathomable”.

      Yes, citing studies of how evidence-based beliefs can crowd out superstition could be useful, but not including them doesn’t affect his point about evidence being better and more available.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        “quality/amount/availability of evidence is increasing”

        Well, perhaps. However, you’re as likely to find crap on the internet as you are to find quality information.

    • peepuk
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      The dominant world view today is liberalism together with its friends capitalism and democracy. The other important one is socialism/communism.

      One could argue whether they are more based on evidence or not. But I do think they are somewhat less crazy as their religious counterparts.

      And I do think that liberalism has increased the last couple of thousand of years.

      So, I think brother Taylor is right with his remark.

  2. Posted May 30, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Reza aslan is a dishonest apologist for jihad

    • Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      No, he’s just an ego-centric, self-promoting idol worshipper. The idol he worships, and wants everyone else to worship, is himself. For Aslan, religion is a means to an end, and in that end, he seens himself as a god. He’d be quite a running mate for Trump. Both are con men who believe the world does or, at least, should revolve around their individual selves.

      • Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Have you read his book Zealot?

        • Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          No. If ever I did, though, I’d make sure it wasn’t done in a way to earn him profit. Have I missed anything?

          • Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

            Library’s are free. Pretty much an equivocation of Jesus with modern Islamic jihadists.

            • Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              Even libraries have to pay for books, and the more a book is signed out, the longer it stays on the shelf. Library ebooks are probably rented in a per user way. Now, if I found it for 5 cents at a thrift shop, I’d consider that nickel to be a worthy donation to the charity sponsoring the thrift store.

              • Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                It is interesting to read other points of view. Sometimes it’s a check on our own misunderstanding, even our own arrogance at times

              • Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

                I agree, in general. In Aslan’s case, I watched videos of him in debate, in interviews, and even in NPR audios, and I keep getting the same impression. If he writes differently, then he’s either a two-faced liar or he’s lacking the insight to see that he’s a two-faced liar.

                Of course, he could have more than two faces to his lies. Trump for example, has too many to count, taken in combinations given.

              • Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

                Aslan is s pretty slimy to be sure. Why do you keep interjecting trump into this?

              • Posted May 30, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

                I guess the media has kept Trump on my mind, so I see that Trump and Aslan look like two sides of the same coin. Trump has the overt bullying side, while Aslan has the covertly manipulative side. I couldn’t think of anyone else so very similar. More examples would be good, though. Can you think of any?

              • Posted May 30, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

                Trump has nothing whatever t do with aslan. And my thoughts on him are mixed at the moment

              • Posted May 30, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                You’re right that the two have no connection. It’s not where they stand politically that leads to my comparison. It’s their individual goala (to be “yuuuuge” in their respective public arenas) and how they seek pure publicity to get there.

    • Ben
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      From listening to Aslan talking about religion and other humanities topics, I would go with “he’s lacking the insight to see that he’s a two-faced liar.”

      • Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure he knows how dishonest he’s being. Islam and the Quran allows him to be so in support of Islam

  3. Posted May 30, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Weirdly, Western liberals are perfectly willing to admit that when Christians behave badly it really IS due to weird theology (Dominionists in the present day, the Crusades in the Middle Ages, etc.) but sigh with relief that there are also alternative more positive versions of Christianity to choose from.

    But NO concession can be made that bizarre religious beliefs have ANY role to play in the formation of ISIS- it has to ALL be attributed to Western imperialism. And the modernist version of Islam to which Aslan describes is a very slim minority viewpoint indeed.

    Furthermore, Aslan whitewashes the history of Islam in a way that is not so often done these days with the history of Christianity. Progressive Christians have owned up to the bad treatment of Jews and gays etc. AND its religious rationale in the history of classical Christianity, but Aslan will NOT attribute the crimes of Muslims to anything problematic in the teachings of Islam.

  5. Mark
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Speaking from the UK, I have never, ever considered Oprah as anywhere near a serious interviewer or commentator. Maybe that’s beside the point, but with eg radio presenters in the UK who host phone-ins, you might have thought they would have taken a look into this religion, or at least the scriptures.
    But most haven’t. They mostly seem to have a wishful-thinking view of Islam, or a default view that because it contains god, it *must* be nice. And most, if not all imams are completely trusted on whatever they say.

    Some (radio hosts) are clued up a bit more though, and perhaps Winfrey ought to take note:

    Here are two examples from two years ago when ISIS were running riot. A frequent phrase used by callers to phone-in shows, was “ISIS have nothing to do with Islam.” Two radio presenters handled this, perhaps even on the same day as I remember, on different networks:

    A veteran English broadcaster on a national show, took that statement from a caller and said, “Well nobody would argue with you on that.”

    Over on BBC Asian radio, the same thing was said by a caller. The younger, Asian (I think Sri Lankan) host, said, “But surely they can justify what they do from scripture.”

    A big difference, where one host knows what he’s talking about, and the other one either doesn’t, or was just playing the nice guy.

    It’s been years of all of this now, but the prevailing attitude of much media is to take the default “all gods are nice” view.
    It really is quite pathetic, and ignores all sorts of history, scriptures, even the psychology of how religions *can* work.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I’ve known this about Oprah since I actually sucked it up and watched her show when she had Michael Drosnin and his Bible Code BS on. Not a single critical question, not even from the audience.

  6. Stephen
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I would rate the Epic of Gilgamesh higher than the Quran and most of the Bible which after all is not a single book but a collection of books, some drivel, some magnificent. The true high point of the Hebrew Bible is the David story in the two books of Samuel. David is one of the great characters in world literature. Allow me to recommend Hebrew scholar Robert Alter’s terrific translation available as a standalone, entitled imaginatively enough, “The David Story”‘.

    It’s not really true that the account of the flood in Genesis was directly derived from the account in the Gilgamesh. As good evolutionists let’s just say they have a common ancestor. (Last I checked we are aware of at least twelve accounts of a primordial flood in ancient Near Eastern sources.) Once again if anyone is actually interested see “The Ark before Noah” by Dr. Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian Scripts at the British Museum, no less.

    • Ben
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the links.

  7. Gaz
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Aslan is an atheist and this, ultimately, will be the petard he is hoisted by

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Aslan calls himself a Muslim and as he frequently says, “If someone calls himself a Muslim, he is a Muslim.”

      In particular he did this when speaking about his latest book about Jesus. In fact there’s an extremely embarrassing interview (for Greene) in which Fox News host Lauren Greene took him to task – she had this screwed up idea that as a Muslim he shouldn’t/couldn’t write about Jesus. You can find it on YouTube.

  8. rickflick
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m always amazed to watch Aslan being questioned. He has a standard glib patter used to set himself up as an expert and authority on the subject at hand. He starts many sentences with “Look,…”, as if talking to an elementary room. “If you’ve studied all the religions of the world, the truth you come to is…”. Oprah has only studied one religion. She’s now a student to his slightly impatient professor.
    His slick spial is a form of intimidation to ward off the cautious and polite host if some objection should come to mind. He doesn’t get away with much with Sam Harris, but Oprah might as well let him interview himself.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s a tactic I’ve noticed too. It’s very annoying but to many it seems to give him an air of authority.

  9. Mark R.
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    The people, especially the leaders of the Muslim world need to take a hard, honest look at themselves and ask: for centuries now, why haven’t we contributed much to the wider world in terms of discoveries, inventions, research or economic prosperity? Why haven’t we been an example for peace, tolerance, equality, justice or compassion? There have been countless Muslim individuals around the world who have contributed greatly to their respective communities and societies, but in most instances, they had to leave the Muslim world to succeed.

    No doubt Aslan would blame imperialism as the root cause, but how long can he keep blaming imperialism? It’s time to act, not incriminate. Just as a young person often blames their problems on their parents, doesn’t there come a time when all healthy individuals don’t blame their parents anymore? Blaming imperialism is just an immature means of deflecting the problems in Muslim countries away from the true culprit: religion, especially in the form of Sharia law.

    Unfortunately for all of us, people like Reza Aslan do nothing to ameliorate the staggering problems most Muslim countries and their people face.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Concisely put.
      As an attempt to answer your question, I think the reason Islam holds such a defensive grip is it’s absolutism. As Dawkins and Dennett point out, we can see religion as a meme which, like genes, develop means of self preservation. In this case the threat of, eternal damnation, ostracization, and an occasional decapitation in the town square. The Koran is absolute. What choice does an Islamic leader have but to espouse the dogma?

      • Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        So, there actually are those Muslims — in the Middle East, no less — who go on TV trying to tell everyone that things have to change, and they risk their very lives doing so. I’ve seen a few, lately, on MEMRI — a YouTube channel named for its parent organization. One was even a Saudi! Now, that’s taking some serious risk!

        • rickflick
          Posted May 30, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          Case in point: Raif Badawi.

  10. Draken
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I know the meme that Christians seldom read the whole Bible, and if they to, turn away from it; but that’s certainly not the case for (Arab/African) muslims. They seem to read the whole darn thing and learn to recite it by heart.

    Inbetween all the praying at impossible times and the recitation lessons, it’s no wonder virtually no science comes out of these countries.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      For a significant number of Muslims (individuals and septs), because the Koran was dictated by $ANGEL$ to Mo directly, in Arabic, then the Arabic words are, literally, sacred and that there is moral merit in memorising the sounds of the Arabic words and repeating them even if you do not understand one word of the Arabic.
      It always struck me as being similar to the (Tibetan) Buddhist doctrine of the prayer wheels, flags and such like. Here, if you set a prayer wheel spinning, on which the Om mane padme om prayer is inscribed, then every revolution of the wheel counts as if you had said the prayer, and that ounts as a good deed. Same with prayer flags – each time the flag (which has the prayer written on it) flutters, the prayer is said, and the karma of whoever hoisted the flag is improved.
      Stark staring insane. Bat-goose insane.
      I actually wonder if the two ideas are related. Though my slight regard for Buddhism as one of the faintly less egregiously harmful of religions does make me hesitate to pin this tail of insanity on their donkey-like representatives.

      • Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Literate religions do do funny things to words all of the time. Think about Judaism and the forbidden name of god, Christianity’s “word made flesh”, and so on as other examples.

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Imo this is one of the best articles I have seen by Tayler, and I’m a bit of a fan.

    What Oprah has unwittingly done is expose all the reasons Aslan should be dismissed as the popular authority and face of Islam.

    The biggest difference between modern Christianity and modern Islam is in the way they see their holy book. Most Christians (even the ones that believe it’s the direct word of God) recognize that the Bible is open to interpretation. Most accept that Christians of other denominations are genuine in their belief, albeit misguided. Especially in the West, they are also strongly influenced by the Enlightenment.

    This is not the case in Islam. The Qur’an is almost universally believed to be the direct word of God. Muhammad was just his messenger, delivering God’s words to those wise enough to accept them. This is true whether you’re living a largely Western lifestyle or you’re a member of DAESH.

    This means, amongst other things, that while Christians can question the meaning of the Bible and can (and do) attach themselves to the denomination that best suits their personal interpretation, Muslims can’t. The meaning of the Qur’an has been explained in various Hadiths, and those meanings stand more than a millennium later. God’s word is unerring and it’s not for true believers to question it. In fact, to question it can open you up to charges of heresy or apostasy which has a sentence of death in several Muslim-majority countries. Not questioning Islam is a survival strategy, a biological imperative.

    Aslan is simply talking a load of ordure.

    • Vaal
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      What Oprah has unwittingly done is expose all the reasons Aslan should be dismissed as the popular authority and face of Islam.


      When you are a purported “authority on Islam” describing Islam in a way that would be rejected by most practicing Muslims…you got a little problem there as an authority.

      But then, Aslan doesn’t appear to care whether anyone grants him authority; he grants it to himself.

  12. Posted May 30, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    As an antidote to Aslan, here’s Tom Holland talking about the origins and history of Islam on the Godless Spellchecker podcast. IMHO this is a “must hear”.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I second that. Extremely interesting podcast.

    • aftergeometry
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for the head’s up!

  13. Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    There was a time when the Koran could be evaluated and questioned, before Sharia law and all the hadiths (were cast in stone, not to be added to or altered.) This was called Ijtihad. Please, please look it up on the internet.

    “People of the Book” seem to be leary of reading their book, preferring to believe what they are told. Many who read cherry-pick. Even Jefferson focused on Jesus as a great philosopher and removed all the miracles from “The Jefferson Bible”.

    It is no wonder that people who actually read “The Book” may be compelled to modify their beliefs.

    • Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      “Ijtihad (Arabic: اجتهاد‎‎ ijtihād, “diligence”) is an Islamic legal term that means “independent reasoning” or “the utmost effort an individual can put forth in an activity. It is recognized as the decision-making process in Islamic law (sharia) through personal effort (jihad) which is completely independent of any school (madhhab) of jurisprudence (fiqh). As opposed to taqlid, it requires a “thorough knowledge of theology, REVEALED TEXTS and legal theory…”

      That’s from Wikipedia. It seems this is more about applying the texts (written in stone) than arguing them away. Ijtihad is all about applying sharia.

      Am I missing something?

      • somer
        Posted May 30, 2016 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

        According to my book on the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence by Mohammad Hashim Kamali and many other sources The “door of Itjihad” was closed back in the 9th century for all the schools of Sunni Islam. Possibly shias do some of it though i think they do more of qiyas which is reasoning from the scriptures by analogy. It had to be consistent with the sunna (Quran and hadiths or and a few other legal requirements) though. There is a principle of istihsan or Equity in Islamic law which allows leniency in specific circumstances – but they still have to be consistent with “revelation” and the principles of Islam traditionally derived by supposedly unanimous interpretations of 9th and 10th century scholars – such as one of the earliest “Righteous” Caliphs allowed people to forgo Ramadan in a terrible drought (during Ramadan Muslims can’t eat OR drink anything in the hours between the earliest sunlight to after sundown wherever they are in the world for a month). Kamali suggests istihsan should be restarted for the modern era to account for some very limited modern circs. But since the whole concept is entirely limited by Revelation (and for Sunnis) the quran and hadiths pertaining to the Prophet are indivisible because the Quran apparently states they must be taken as one package, this would deliver minimal change anyway

        • somer
          Posted May 30, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

          Itjihad isn’t what its made out to be on many sites on the web. It was actually very narrow. Likewise Ijma (consensus of all the scholars/clerics of Islam) was likewise ended as an acceptable religious option – a bit after Itjihad was ended in the 9th century. This is all orthodox interpretation of Sunni law for all the schools. Kamali argues that at any rate ijma wouldn’t be practical because the knowledge requirements of a mutjahid (scholar) authorised to do it are quite high and there are simply too many mutjahid with too many interpretations today to get consensus and who would rule it was consensus. Also the products of ijma were not liberal. Ijma ruled that adulterers should be stoned, not flogged even tho the Quran prescribes *only* flogging for fornication (but it doesnt mention what happens if the fornicators are married). I think the rules of abrogation (upholding the later more jihadi verses) were also supposed to be made by Ijma. Islamic law is passed down to actual student clerics orally, and the laws have to be memorised – although they are available in written form. Hence both the diversity of variation to major themes and the rigidity over time. But the key insistence is on revelation over empirical evidence. “Reason” is supposed to consist of what is logically derived from scriptures (i.e. revelation and established orthodox law derived from this).

  14. Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been puzzled by Aslan ever since his (insufferable) media tour for his book about Jesus, where he would always plainly state “Islam says Jesus wasn’t crucified; Jesus was certainly crucified.” So he’s implicitly stating that the Qu’ran is *wrong* about something. So if that’s his view, why not criticize literalist interpretations of it?

    The same thing applies here. Here he is essentially advocating a form of Islam that is a cognate to Reform Judaism; an Islam whose traditions are sort of a lexicon for contemplation. That’s completely fine for him on a personal level, and I would even (and do) enthusiastically support the creation/practice of such an Islam on a widespread scale.

    The problem is him acting like that’s an actual representation of Islam as it is actually understood and practiced by hundreds of millions of Muslims. He has to know that’s a lie, and his level of mendacity is quite stunning, but I don’t understand his motives. With some apologists like the vile Murtaza Hussain, their obfuscation and faux-ignorance make me certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are stealth Islamists. (Hussain in particular probably fantasizes about Robert Wright burning at the stake in a Caliphate after filming every bloggingheads session with him). But Aslan himself apparently practices a form of liberal Islam, so why doesn’t he *advocate* it on a large scale?

    I find many Islamist apologists to be truly sinister, but Aslan in particular strikes me as just a very, very confused narcissist. I would like to say that he’s comical, but unfortunately his lies are so consequential that there’s nothing funny about it.

    • Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think he’s confused. I think he’s scheming. Religion is his pole for vaulting high above everyone else. Sort of like Deepak Chopra uses sciency words. Both are con men.

  15. dd
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Sweden, decision after decision, is accepting re-segregation of the sexes in the name of diversity. And its feminists who support it…..

    “By contrast, supporters of gender-separated swimming hours maintain that without the separation Muslim women would never get a chance to swim. And Feministiskt Initiativ, Sweden’s feminist party, maintains that women-only swimming benefit women in general”

    • Posted May 30, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Wow. The camel’s nose under the tent…

      • somer
        Posted May 30, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        idiots. Cheered on by lefties outside scandinavia who once lauded the very characteristics of egalitarianism, social provision balanced with resourcefulness, prosperity, peace and liberalism of scandinavian countries that are now being destroyed. Where steps are taken to preserve them as in Denmark which is a tiny country, and treats the existing Muslim refugees and migrants it has well, the regressive left is screaming
        Liberal, Harsh Denmark

        • somer
          Posted May 30, 2016 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

          PS Im not anti muslim immigration or asylum intake: Im against the notion that we have some Duty to take them in any numbers regardless of current proportion (percentage) in the country, and likely cultural, economic etc impact and the weird regressive type leftist assumption that national borders are just some monstrous modern capitalist imposition designed to keep the evil (western) imperialists in control which should wither away.

    • somer
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      I dont object to some public pools having some hours for women only so Muslim women have somewhere to go. I would object to it gradually becoming something where all or most public pools have to do it. Given the record of the Swedish Greens (their leader wearing hijab for a day in solidarity, their former – resigned – Housing minister turning out to be an Islamic extremist, the candidate who wont shake hands with women etc.). I just wouldn’t trust them.

  16. aftergeometry
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Reza Aslan is no more a Muslim than he is a Free Mason or Rastafarian. He is quoted as saying he doesn’t bother praying 5 times a day in the direction of Mecca, one of the five basic precepts or pillars of Islam. I wonder how many of the others he shrugs off. His formulation of what Islam means to him is as nebulous and contrived as to almost be meaningless. Aslan is nothing more than an opportunist and shameless publicity seeker. How convenient he ‘converts’ and becomes an ‘expert’ in Islam just as demand for such analysts and scholars in the news media skyrocketed. He was able to read that situation well and place himself in a position of authority to be called on by CNN and Oprah and whomever else was duped by his shameless spotlight grabbing. Thank you Jeff Tayler for hopefully hammering the last nail into this charlatan’s credibility.

  17. Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Why do people like Reza Aslan engage in such wishful thinking? At least some people
    are afraid of declaring dubious tenets of Islam in fear of reinforcing them. I got this impression especially when studying the human rights reports on FGM. They seem afraid to say it’s downright connected to Islam, and beat around the bush because this cuts both ways: when they say so too clearly, the faithful under the spell of Islam will take this as confirmation, too.

    After all, the only difference between an Imam or a Muslim saying “what Islam is” and what critics say is authority — which may count for little when critics see Islam also as the “Other”, something different from The West (for those who feel alienated, its what they take). This odd feature of thinking is more visible in German, where “to determine” as in “finding out” (feststellen) also literally means to “lock in, lock into place, fixate” — something becomes that way (there is whole cultural history of naming names, and how this means control abd banishment, from Yahweh’s name that can’t be named to Rumplestilskin).

    Ideas, and ideologies are what people say they are, and I think that stating problems in some way scares people for that reason — determining “makes it so”. It’s irrational, but we can only solve such problems (of wishful thinking) if we understand what is going on, since this a large scale delusion. We have to find a way to break the spell, so that Islam can be discussed without othering muslims, but that might be impossible at this time. But the deep problem is the spell (strong belief).

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Dissing Oprah and threatening to shoot a kitty-cat? Da-amn, Jerry, you sure that wasn’t an anti-humanist meetin’ you attended?

    Re: Reza Aslan — Beware the false prophet who comes to you in fleecy lambswool clothing, but inwardly is beset by the ravening religious wolf.

  19. Richard Sanderson
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    The Regressive Left, the SJWs, the FTBullies, etc. – they all adore Reza Aslan, as he whitewashes Islam and presents it as a pure “social justice” force-for-good to lure in useful idiots.

    The likes of CJ Werleman, PZ Myers, Nathan Lean, and other regressive types, which includes anti-Semites and pro-Islamists, jump on his bandwagon, sliming ex-Muslims (just as Mona Eltahawy gas done), and enabling anti-liberals and pro-Islamists.

    However, we are winning the battle. FreeThoughtBlogs, which has gone into full pro-Islamist, regressive left SJW mode, is now tanking. The similarly regressive and anti-liberal, pro-Islamists at The Orbit have flopped, etc.

  20. Pabs
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Yes, I have a tough time reconciling Aslan’s take on Islam with the state of human rights in majority-Islamic countries and the poll data about actual, practicing Muslim beliefs.

    I’m curious: does he only ever deliver his tours, interviews, and speeches to audiences in the Western culture? I would be very interested in seeing him explain “true” Islam to a community of fundamentalist Muslims from an Islam-majority country, the kind of community that returns data like that found in the 2013 Pew report at the bottom of this post. It would help his case, in my eyes, if such an audience responded with applause and many agreeable nods and confirmations that Aslan was characterizing their understanding of Islam and the Quran correctly. Conversely, it would help Aslan’s critics if such an audience booed or left the lecture hall, or implored some imam to issue a fatwa against him.

    (Just don’t have him deliver such a lecture to Isis recruits. Better safe than sorry!)

  21. Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Aslan = American version of Tariq Ramadan. A duplicitous snake practicing taqiyya.

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