Reza Aslan defends Islam in one of the most bigoted segments on CNN
Over the last few weeks Bill Maher has been on an Islamaphobic campaign. This is regretful because Bill Maher, while profoundly caustically funny, generally gets real time politics right. His attack on Islam comes from the same shallow thinking he generally accuses the average American population of engaging in.
Last week he ended his New Rules with a rant that while filled with good points about Liberals dropping the ball on criticizing certain Muslim practices in certain countries, made bigoted generalizations. The problem is that Bill Maher generalized those who practice Islam.
CNN took on Bill Maher’s statement. They brought on Reza Aslan, an Iranian American writer & scholar on religions to discuss it. It was obvious from the beginning that CNN’s Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota bought into Bill Maher’s flawed narrative on Islam. What made this more painful is that Don Lemon as a gay black man should understand how generalizations lead to mischaracterization destructing empathy. They are outright bigoted.
CNN should have known that they needed to have their intellectual house in order if they were going to discuss this subject with Reza Aslan. This man authored the books “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth“, “Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization“, and “No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.” This man is not only read in Islam but in most world religions. It was evident that the two CNN lightweights were no match and instead of using Reza Aslan’s words as a learning experience, they attempted challenges that fell flat.
This week Bill Maher continued his attack on Islam along with his guest Sam Harris. They continued their generalization of Islam. Both Ben Affleck and journalist Nicholas Kristof failed to get both Bill Maher and Sam Harris to see how bigoted their mischaracterizations and generalizations were.
Reza Aslan pointed out that it is rather silly to generalize the treatment of women in Muslim countries. After all, many have been lead by women (Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, Bangladeshi Prime Ministers Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wajed). The most powerful western country, America, is yet to elect one.
Reza Aslan also pointed out that the generalization of genital mutilation is not a Muslim problem but an African ritual. After all, two Christian countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea have north of 70% genital mutilations on women.
When asked if Islam is a violent religion he rightfully pointed out that no religion is violent or peaceful. He pointed out a violent sect of Buddhism. It depends on what those practicing the religion bring to it. Reza Aslan continued to decimate Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota. When Alisyn Camerota asked one of the most silly questions as she generalized the criminal justice system in ‘Muslim Countries’ Reza Aslan could not help but be frank.
“Did you hear what you just said?” Reza Aslan asked. “You said in Muslim countries. I just told you that Indonesian women are absolutely one hundred percent equal to men. In Turkey they have had more female representatives, more heads of states than we have had in the United States. Stop saying things like Muslim countries. … To say Muslim countries as though Pakistan and Turkey are the same, as though Indonesia or Saudi Arabia are the same, as though somehow what is happening in the most extreme forms of these repressive countries, autocratic countries as representative of what’s happening in every other Muslim country, is frankly and I use this word seriously, stupid.”
Chris Cuomo appeared with Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota a few days later. After taking a lot of flak for the intellectual dishonesty of the segment, they attempted to put lipstick on a pig. Unfortunately Chris Cuomo made it worse with one statement. “His tone was angry. He wound up kind of demonstrating what people are fearful about when they think of the faith in the first place, which is the hostility of it,” Chris Cuomo said of Reza Aslan. Has Chris Cuomo ever characterized the Christian screaming zealots in America this way. It is the characteristic chant, the angry black man, the angry black woman, the angry woman, the angry feminist, or the angry Muslim when a strong emphatic defense is made against the norm.
With all the air time that could be filled with learning and dispelling myths and preconceived notions our media continues to fail. Our people are misled because we have a derelict media.