Tag Archives: islamic state

On the Stupidity of Reza Aslan

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by Guy Walker

When Reza Aslan wakes in the morning, he laughs one cold slithering laugh. The dull profanity of the morning sun spills through the soiled linen curtains and across his eyes, and he opens them to a shaven clawless cat licking his earlobe. He pets the thing with only his fingertips, in short painful strokes that cause the old imbecilic feline to erect his backside and wheeze a muted cry. “Good boy, Mohammed, my bald little prophet,” he sneers prudishly. Aslan heaves himself up from his cot, white padding spilling from a tear in the corner, and pours a bowl of curdled milk, and kneels to all fours, lapping up the bits of fermented solids as the cat stares patiently on. “Did you know I’m a professor? A scholar!” he stammers in between selfish gulps. “I’ve been on CNN!!” He slams his fist on the corner of the bowl, sending the watery cottage cheese through the air, and begins sobbing, little ponds of tears and drool pooling on the checkered floor. The cat turns away indifferently, Aslan’s incoherent exclamations fading into the distance, into soft brittle anthems of self-pity as the cat curls into a ball in a dim sun spot on the red hirsute rug.

There are only three books on his only book shelf: The No Cussing Club, by McKay Hatch, A Shore Thing, by Snooki, and the Quran, the latter of which is embroidered in gold leaf and plastic gems, with a small fan blowing on it at all times. He holds the book up close to his face, and flips through its entirety with the edge of his thumb like it were a flip book. “Ahhh, the prose and subtle paean of God’s last revelation. This book gets me every time,” he says gazing wonderingly at the peeling linoleum wall, as a gang of ants drag a dead cockroach across the floor.

As Aslan saunters off to the rusting ivy-ridden gates of UC Riverside, where he teaches creative writing to a decaying group of toothless meth addicts, a tattered white king pigeon defecates on a passing wagon pulled by hyenas below. Reza’s lips tighten into a churlish aristocratic pose of disgust, and he repositions his spectacles as he notes in his notepad about the eminent whiteness of the pigeon. Clearly, it’s not just the dark colored pigeons who shit on things. Down the crumbling avenues of swollen rubble, the braided petrified trees all lay fallen across their horrible patches of ashen grey earth, all usable soil blown off in the storms a decade ago. A gaunt hairless dog with violet skin limps across the road, and Aslan swings around light poles, skipping in a haphazard menacing sort of way. He obsesses never to step on a crack on the sidewalk, because as a child, he heard from someone who heard from someone that if he did it would break his mother’s back, and he never grew out of the belief. Hopping from cement parcel to cement parcel, his professor-edition leather satchel embroidered with “Yes, I actually AM a professor,” swings aimlessly around his neck, as he sings, “Cracks on the sidewalk! Cracks on the asphalt! Crack in the ghettos, crack in my butt! Violence is here, and violence is there! But if a Muslim kills you, it’s not Islam’s fault!” He wipes the frothing saliva off his chin with a baby blue bib, and stops next to a tumbleweed to take a shit.

At this point, a Smerdyakov-looking mujahideen runs by wielding an AK-47, his beige and heavily soiled shalwar kameez fluttering in the coruscating morning air, but his chronic steatopygia slows his fanatic religious momentum to a gross and lonely stagger. There’s not many people left to kill in the world, but still, the man is chased by a gang of bailiffs, their scintillating armor blinding the few people around. Aslan moves quickly and intersects the gun-gilded officers, and like Moses parting the Red Sea, he throws both hands into the air, erect as a giraffe dick, and declares “BEHOLD!! FEAR NOT! THIS MAN IS NOT DOING IT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM! Also, Christians do the same.” But the mujahideen stops, turns around, and replies, “No, I’m definitely doing this in the name of Islam. It says right here, ‘And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory—We will bestow upon him a great reward.’ Or here: ‘And fight them until there is no fitnah and the religious, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease—then indeed, Allah is seeing of what they do.’ Or here: ‘If they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.’” Aslan responds sharply, “I don’t think you know this yet, but I’m a professor of religions. I know things other people don’t. You’re not doing this in the name of Islam.”

The truth is, Reza Aslan is a passive-aggressive apologist who manipulates the truth through his own denial. In a 2007 debate with neuroscientist Sam Harris, Harris postured that it is the role of Aslan and other moderate Muslims in the public eye to steer Islam more towards being a religion of peace, rather than the predominant opinion at the time to prosecute those who draw cartoons of Mohammed, or hacking off the genitalia of their girls en masse. Aslan responded by turning away from this offer, and repeating his qualifications as a public figure. “[T]here’s a reason I don’t write books on neuroscience. I write books about what’s going on in the Muslim world because I have an expertise about what’s going on in the Muslim world.” It’s a pubescent puerile argument to try to win a debate by declaring how smart and qualified you are. It doesn’t argue anything substantial or meaningful; it’s a crude fuliginous declaration of “Trust me, I’m an expert,” which, fittingly, is actually the name of a book that Aslan has essays published in. “Trust me, I’m an expert.” It’s such a pandering offensive idiom, something akin to Trump’s pasted together lexicon of entropic elitism. It admits that the person didn’t get a degree for the supposed purpose of a degree—to think critically and argue constructively—but rather for the sole and shallow purpose of saying they have a degree.

In a viral Youtube video titled “The Stupidest Interview Ever,” when a Fox News anchor tried to argue that Aslan didn’t have the right to write a book about Jesus because Aslan himself is a Muslim, Aslan kept repeating over and over, “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” “I am a historian.” “I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament.” The truth is, not a single one of these claims is true. He only has one PhD, which is in sociology. He is not a professor of religion, but rather of creative writing, at the University of California, Riverside, that barren wasteland of meth addicts, tract houses, bros, and dust storms. Yet he continues to posture himself as a scholar and historian of religions.

While on CNN, he argued that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not a Muslim problem but a central African problem. But David Pakman from The David Pakman Show refuted this vague claim with specific global numbers: seven of the top eight countries listed by UNICEF with the highest rates of FGM in Africa were predominately Muslim countries. Egypt has a 91% FGM rate, Sudan 88%, Somalia 96%, Guinea 96%, Sierra Leone 88%, Mali 89%. And beyond Africa, Pakman shows, Kurdish Iraq has a 72% FGM rate, Indian Shia Bohras have a 90% rate.

Aslan went on to say in the CNN interview that countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Turkey are free and open societies. But in Malaysia, 93% of Muslim women had their clitorises hacked off. In Indonesia, 98% of women. These astounding rates of barbarism are not some fringe ineffectual minority as Aslan tries to argue by using Saudi Arabia as the most extreme example because they don’t let their women drive cars. Numbers as high as these require serious reevaluation of our tolerance for certain aspects of certain ideologies. In a Vice article publish in 2015 about female genital mutilation being on the rise in Malaysia, a 19-year-old Muslim girl openly shares that she is “circumcised because it is required by Islam.” In the Quran, circumcision is described as a tradition for men, but a duty for women. The delights of uncontrollable pleasure, of our only refuge from this desert twirling hell, has been hacked away in the name of an invisible deity. This mass violent insanity should be reason enough to disprove the existence of any benevolent higher power.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, 68% of the world’s Muslims believe governments should abide by Sharia law (chopping off the hands of thieves, death to apostates, beating of wives, death to homosexuals, the stoning of adulterers, and an assortment of other savory tenants of obedience).

Aslan has many times proclaimed that “a Muslim is whoever says he’s a Muslim,” which leaves us to doubt those who say Islamic terrorists are not Muslim. If a Muslim is whomever he or she declares themselves to be, then, by Aslan’s own definition, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and other such terrorist groups are very much Muslim. Extremely fringe populations admittedly, yet nonetheless Muslim. And to Aslan’s credit, in a speech he gave at the University of Toledo in 2015, he admits that if ISIS says they are Muslim then they are Muslim. But then he continues: “If you want to blame religion for all of the bad things that religion does, fine. As long as you are willing to credit religion for all the good things religion does.” He credits the thousands of Muslims fighting ISIS as one of the notable virtues of Islam, as coruscating evidence that Islam is also a force for peace. The flaw he makes here is ISIS is killing in the name of Islam, while the thousands of people who also happen to be Muslim are simply resisting against these insane goat-fucking men who are ransacking their homeland and raping mothers and daughters. These resisters are doing so not in the name of Islam, but by necessity, by a survivalist’s instinct to protect where one lives.

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April 2016, Aslan made the baseless claim that “right-wing terrorists have killed far, far more Americans since the attacks of 9/11 than Islamic terrorists have. You are more likely in this country to be shot by a toddler than you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist […] So yes, we are under threat of terrorism in this country, it’s just not Islamic terrorism.” But according to the International Security Program, in the United States 94 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists since 9/11, and 48 people have been killed by far right wing attacks. The toddler fact is seemingly true, which, if a gun advocate gets killed by his own toothless newborn whilst shitting in his diaper, then Darwinism has worked again and nature has necessarily thinned its herd.

In all his prudish passive aggression, Aslan declares he writes books about the Muslim world because he has “an expertise in the Muslim world.” But he doesn’t. He hurls himself into his classroom at UC Riverside, constructed with glued chunks of plaster and horse hair, and opens his three-ringed binder, pushing his glasses up to the top of his nose with one finger. He clears his throat of all its phlegm, and begins a lecture on punctuation. Because after all, he has an expertise in creative writing.


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To Respond to Massacre

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by Guy Walker

Following the most recent Paris attacks, with at least 129 dead, how do we respond to something so tragic? We weren’t there, and most of us won’t be so directly affected. But the streets are aged by massacre, a senescence of speechless sorrow, everything hardened ever so gradually. How to we respond privately, or in collective masses, or in international political theaters? To wholly offer our hearts without coming across as trite and insincere. As gobs of columnists and bloggers clamor to offer their analysis, to sit hunched behind their glowing screens, describing the events with calm succinct reason, to offer answers of blame or justice or patriotism, we feel something missing. As writers, we give an air of egotism, as if yelling in the storm, “Listen to me! I have an alternative point of view!” In the very least, a response mustn’t ever make it about ourselves.

But within hours after the attacks, politicians and pundits used the dead to leverage it to their own squalid advantage of a boorishly flaccid authority. Ann Coulter—more of an aging lurching ghoul than anything else, as she strokes her blonde hair continuously through every interview she’s ever given—called for an end of Muslim immigration into the U.S. entirely. She immediately tweeted about gun control: “too bad there were no concealed carry permits.” Newt Gingrich tweeted similarly. This type of political cynicism is the worst of the lot, turning the deaths of the innocent into puppets of various gross agendas. Even so, in the United States alone, there’s an average 36 gun-related deaths every day, a Paris attack every four days. There’s been 142 school shootings since the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. One of the true breakdowns in journalism—if you can call it journalism—was when Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera began crying on television because his daughter happened to be at the soccer game when the suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium. Not that the bomb wasn’t significant. But Rivera made the attack about him. The Fox headline was “Rivera’s Daughter Among Paris Attack’s Survivors.” In a stadium of 80,000 people, when not a single person inside the stadium was hurt, when President Hollande himself was in the stadium, this headline is all spectacle, casting a net of egotism among the wounds of massacre.

A day before Paris, there was Beirut: two suicide bombers killed 43 innocent civilians in the suburb of Bourj el-Barajneh. There is no option for a Lebanon flag for your Facebook profile. There is no #PrayforLebanon circling the newsfeed. Before that there was a suicide bombing at a funeral inside the Al-Ashara al-Mubashareen mosque in Baghdad, killing 19. When the U.S. bombed the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, killing 19, there were no mass prayer vigils, no patriotic empathies. At least none that were televised. Is 19 not enough to pray for? What’s the threshold for justified heartbreak? 25? 100? Of course not. The terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices last January, killing 12, sent shockwaves around the world, uniting Western leaders in a demonstration of linking arms together. This is not to diminish the horror that the Parisians faced and continue to face, that the heartbreak that the families will likely never overcome, but there is a discrepancy in the attention paid to violence, and especially for the responsibility for that violence. We are a tribal bunch, mourning only for our neighbors with skin or gods similar to ours, in this Sophoclean age of war and political-speak. And people have always excelled at leveraging their pious superiority in a desperate attempt to justify their cruel animality.

When my boss texted me, simply with “You see the news in Paris?” I knew immediately, and with all certainty that it was a terrorist attack. This is the modern age. Before 9/11, ‘news in Paris’ could mean anything from student demonstrations to a sporting event to nudity on the streets. Today, the predictability of terror is itself monstrous. Terrorist attacks, school shootings, cops killing black kids—the new-age ecchymosis of hysteria is clearly far too normal, blending into the fabric of dehumanized misery, like Adorno’s ‘identity thinking,’ no single person is real anymore. It just becomes ’19 dead’, ’43 dead’, ‘125 dead’, like scales of death, weighing out how much we as distant witnesses should feel.

As friends discuss their own analysis of the situation, simply as ‘sick bastards’ and ‘obviously Muslim’ and other barely literal grunts of shock and tribalism, we feel unable to truly feel the madness of it all. For now, there is too much noise. As storms of tweets and retweets fill every last corner of clean air, as only the most thoughtful and humane of your Facebook friends give their profile picture a blue, white, and red filter, (if duck face selfies through French symbolism is human enough) offering empty prayers, counting virtual likes as if they were nods of approval, as we graffiti #PrayforParis across the Internet in a sort of robotic clicktivism, we know deep down this doesn’t actually help. Maybe a little needed communion, but what more of a response can we give on this brittle stage of grief?

Immediately following 9/11, American flags flew from every edifice, every child’s little hands, in an understandable effort to collectively stand strong. But the actual response to 9/11—the military and political response—is what is most worrying. It’s because of our military response that ‘news in Paris’ is expected to be terrorism. It is old news that ISIS would not exist today were it not for the U.S. response, illegally invading Iraq, catastrophically outweighing the death toll and misery seen on September 11th. While initially invading Iraq, Paul Bremer—head diplomat in Iraq—issued Order Number 2, effectively putting 400,000 former Iraqi soldiers out of work, dissolving Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. The U.S. finances Saudi Arabia, oppressing its own and neighboring populations. Saudi Arabia has beheaded more people this year than ISIS has. President Hollande called the attacks an ‘Act of War’, but he also admitted arming the Syrian Sunni rebels. This is no longer news. The scaling up of violence by the State is predictable, monstrous, and grotesque in its ease. Pointing only to religion as the culprit—and religion certainly is a culprit—is merely an excuse for us to not look at our own actions, our government’s own oblique responsibility. As actors of beauty and freedom and war, we have only our own leaders to press upon, to not breed into dogmatisms and systematic violence. As one Charlie Hebdo cartoonist wrote, “Our faith goes to music! Kissing! Life! Champagne and joy!”