Heather Hastie on Reza Aslan’s apologetics and Islamic terrorism

I call your attention to a new post on Heather’s site, one that deals partly with Reza Aslan’s pathetic apologetics for Islamic violence. In her post, “Reza Aslan is still excusing Islam,” Heather points out Aslan’s curious assertion of a disconnect between religious beliefs and behavior—something that Maarten Boudry and I have also written about (paper available on request).

I’ll avoid excerpting Heather’s post, as it deserves to be read on her site, but she deals with one comment that Aslan made when asked about regressive Islamic beliefs like killing gays and apostates. This is what he said:

I mean, we may be appalled by certain regressive beliefs, but they are just beliefs. The issue is people’s actions.

I needn’t say more; it’s a ludicrous and dangerous claim Aslan’s making here. Heather goes on to show an absorbing 40-minute video from CNN, “Why they hate us,” narrated by writer Fareed Zakaria. I watched it in its entirety, and recommend that you do, too.  It’s in that video that Aslan appears, and, mirabile dictu, Heather actually agrees with something that he says.


  1. Kevin
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    “No one kills someone for apostasy if they don’t first believe that apostasy is something deserving of death.” That’s a good quote, Heather.

    People should start to ask if a computer program were asked to decide what actions are motivated by people’s beliefs? This is a good ‘big data’ project.

    Assess billions of actions and assess whether they are correlated to beliefs. My guess is, we largely act or, more importantly, constrain our actions, based on our beliefs. A computer program could objectively piece that together. Apply the same method to motivations advertised by groups like ISIS or the majority muslims or the world and one can begin to see significant correlation between what is believed and what one might be willing to do or condone or applaud.

  2. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I like Sam Harris’ comment (in his letter to Glenn Greenwald – https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/dear-fellow-liberal2) that the principle victims of Islam’s toxic side are other Muslims, especially women and girls.

    I’m not so sure I agree with his followup comment that there is no such thing as Islamophobia, but as Hemant Mehta has pointed out the term is problematic because it means different things to different people. Perhaps the real thing should just be called a form of bigotry to avoid confusion.

    Mr. Aslan, the legal and ethical issue is people’s actions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t address their roots. What’s the “just” part about “just beliefs”?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      There are certainly instances of virulent bigotry against Muslims afoot in the world. The problem, I think, comes in conflating Muslims with Islam — in conflating the people with the ideology. This fudge is used by some to shield Islam itself from legitimate criticism. That’s what makes “Islamophobia” a troublesome misnomer.

  3. Joseph Stans
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    On his best day, Aslan is a fool. Any more time than 10 seconds spent on his ramblings and nonsense is a waste.

    • Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      + 1. He is totally unknown in my country, and from what I’ve read on this site, we lose nothing. People promoting him in other countries should stop doing this.

  4. Posted August 24, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Aslan’s unfounded confidence and stentorian bravado is remarkably disproportionate to the actual substance of his convictions. It’s as if stylistic assertion and smooth-talking hubris can sufficiently conceal the obvious. He’s reached critical mass, the apologist party is over, and the legerdemain is unravelling at high speeds.

  5. J.Baldwin
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Let me get this straight. Aslan believes that actions and beliefs are not connected, and that particular belief didn’t lead him to write that actions and beliefs are disconnected? Got it.

    • jeffery
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      Good point: just shows his seemingly total lack of understanding (perhaps deliberate) of human behavior. In my book, “beliefs” are basically the ONLY thing, aside from reflex or instinct, that motivates our behavior: I go to work in the morning because I believe that I will be paid; I accept the paycheck I receive because I believe the bank will accept it, too; I go to the grocery store because I believe they are willing to trade food for my money, etc., etc.
      Aslan is the “Deepak Chopra” of the “anti-Islamaphobia” apologists- perhaps he should begin invoking quantum physics to explain terroristic behavior.

  6. Mike
    Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    So its just a belief.? the same kind of belief in the sub-humanity of Jews that led to the Holocaust.? What planet does this guy live on.?

    • phil
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:43 am | Permalink

      Or to bring it closer to home, that the beliefs that all terrorists are muslims or all muslims are terrorists doesn’t result in persecution or vilification of muslims.

      Aslan sounds like a propagandist. I say (write) “sounds like” because I have little direct experience of him, simply because he has been preceded by his reputation which overwhelmingly tells me he should be avoided (I have high enough blood pressure as it is).

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