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Mon Oct 6, 2014, 12:30 AM

Reza Aslan is Wrong About Islam and This is Why

This past week, a clip of Reza Aslan responding to comedian Bill Maher’s comments about Islamic violence and misogyny went viral.

Maher stated (among other things) that “if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe, and they do, that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.” Maher implied a connection between FGM and violence against women with the Islamic faith, to which the charming Aslan seems to be providing a nuanced counterbalance, calling Maher “unsophisticated” and his arguments “facile.” His comments were lauded by many media outlets, including Salon and the Huffington Post.

Although we have become accustomed to the agenda-driven narrative from Aslan, we were blown away by how his undeniably appealing but patently misleading arguments were cheered on by many, with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple going so far as to advise show producers not to put a show-host against Aslan “unless your people are schooled in religion, politics and geopolitics of the Muslim world.”

Only those who themselves aren’t very “schooled” in Islam and Muslim affairs would imply that Aslan does anything but misinform by cherry-picking and distorting facts.

Nearly everything Aslan stated during his segment was either wrong, or technically-correct-but-actually-wrong. We will explain by going through each of his statements in the hopes that Aslan was just misinformed (although it’s hard for us to imagine that a “scholar” such as Aslan wouldn’t be aware of all this).

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/10/05/reza-aslan-is-wrong-about-islam-and-this-is-why/

This is a guest post written by Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider (below). They are co-founders of Ex-Muslims of North America, a community-building organization for ex-Muslims across the non-theist spectrum, and can be reached at @MoTheAtheist and @SarahTheHaider.

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Be warned this is a multi religious publication and the journalists are ex muslims ... and the founder of the site is a former Jain

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 12:43 AM

1. Strange to accuse someone of cherry-picking and distortion, then to go into such tactics.

 

And no, Patheos isn't an "atheist publication." It's a multireligious blog hosting site. And Hemant Mehta is not a former Muslim, but a former Jain.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #1)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 12:51 AM

2. Thank you, scootalong ...nt

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #1)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 03:42 AM

11. For example? N.T.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Reply #11)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 05:30 AM

12. For example the argument he makes regarding women's status

 

Basically his position amounts to sying, "oh sure there are laws protecting women, but abuses still happen!"

Well, of course they do. Laws don't prevent crime, they simply provide the structure to punish it once committed. This amounts to a distortion of facts.

Further, as pointed out before, he aims at one Indonesian province, which has allowed hte option of islamic legal systems, which are still subservient to the greater Indonesian court system , and tried to characterize 2.5 billion people by his own assumptions of what this must mean.

he uses illegal child abuse in Turkey to characterize these 2.5 billion people further.

Essentially, it's another laundry list of local problems and situations that are then being used to characterize the whole of the world that has a common belief that Mohammed was the last prophet of god. Sort of like using the practices and policies of Israel, and hte scriptures of the Old testament, to characterize Jews around the world.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #12)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 12:59 PM

15. Those may be insufficient evidence, but they're not distortion.

The claim that in Indonesia have status equal to men is so ludicrous as to be laughable. The post you criticise only points out one way in which that is true, but that would only make it a distortion if there weren't representative of the truth.

Here are some things that are true of all, or virtually all, of those parts of the world where the majority of the population believe that believe that Mohammed was the last prophet of god:

*Appalling unofficial social discrimination against women absolutely everywhere.
*Usually at least some forms of legal and official discrimination against women; often a great deal.
*No gay marriage.
*Immense opposition to gay rights.
*Almost always legal restrictions on freedom of religion (I believe Bangladesh may be a counter-example, but I wouldn't swear to it).
*Almost always restrictions on freedom of speech, often severe.
*Abortion almost always illegal, except in limited circumstances (there are a couple of exceptions to this one).

There are parts of the non-Muslim-majority world with these problems. There are parts of the non-Muslim-majority world without these problems. There are parts of the non-Muslim-majority world with these problems. There are either virtually no or - for several of them - no parts of the Muslim-majority world without these problems, and in every part of the Muslim-majority world Islam is a major contributing factor to them.

The teachings of Mohammed as interpreted by a large majority (by no means all) of his followers contain a great many very right-wing, very unethical precepts (I neither know for sure nor much care which the correct interpretation is; what matters is Islam as it is practiced). It worries me that so many liberals refuse to admit that.

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 01:02 AM

3. this rebuttal to Aslan is weak

Aslan said only some muslim countries deny women many rights, citing Malaysia. The rebuttal is that in ONE part of Malaysia there are sharia courts as well as nonsharia courts, a minor discrepancy. Aslan said female genital mutilation is a central african problem, including in Christian countries in central africa. The rebuttal cited some other very limited areas of fgm in muslim communities outside central africa. One of the examples was kurds in Iraq, and I'm not sure kurds are actually muslims. Again this is a minor discrepancy. And claims about Turkey being secular were rebutted by recent changes there. But turkey is still substantially secular in its laws.
So this rebuttal of Aslan is trivial.

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Response to Cicada (Reply #3)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 05:40 AM

14. Yes, Kurds are Muslim, and the other examples all come with links

Especially when there is record of FGM common in Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia? It is also present in the Bohra Muslim community in India and Pakistan, as well as in the Kurdish community in Iraq — Are they to be discounted as “African problems” as well?


Those links are:

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) is bucking a United Nation’s campaign to ban female circumcision, demanding that the government keep the practice legal.
...
“Circumcision is a part of the Islamic teachings that were recommended for Muslims, both male and female,” Amrisyah said at MUI headquarters as quoted by Antara news agency. “The MUI and Islamic organizations in the country firmly stand against any efforts to ban female circumcision.”

Female circumcision performed by licensed doctors, nurses or midwives was legalized by a Health Ministry regulation issued in 2010 that defined the practice as “incising the skin that covers the front part of clitoris, without harming the clitoris”.

Debate is raging in Malaysia over Muslim female genital mutilation as the country's health ministry reportedly develops guidelines to reclassify it as a medical practice.

In 2009, the Fatwa Committee of Malaysia's National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs ruled that "female circumcision", as it has become known, was obligatory for Muslims but if harmful must be avoided.
...
But according to the results of a university survey the practice is widespread, with more than 90 per cent of Malay Muslim female respondents reporting they have been circumcised.

In A Pinch of Skin, the young filmmaker gets a string of women to openly share the horror of female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice so secretive, often brothers aren't aware their sisters have undergone it. The one-million strong community of Dawoodi Bohras, a sect of Ismaili Shias concentrated in trade-focused centres of Maharashtra and Gujarat, carry out the practice citing 'faith' as reason, although Islamic scholars say Islam doesn't sanction it.

In Pakistan, female circumcision is practiced by a few communities along the Iran-Balochistan border, and a few isolated tribes, as well as the Dawoodi Bohra community. Having said as much, here it is mostly not done very invasively, as opposed to some African countries where FGM/C may involve removal of the entire clitoris and labia.

In 2004, members of female-led mobile teams run by the relief organization WADI reported the existence of FGM in several villages of the Garmyan area, south of Suleymaniah. A subsequent study revealed that about 60% were affected.

In 2010, WADI published a comprehensive scientific study, which analyzes the rates of FGM and its indicators. The FGM rate of 72.7% was even higher than preliminary findings could predict. Urban areas are turned out to be as affected as the countryside. Information on the difference provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan is available through the interactive map. The province of Duhok was not included in the survey. There is some evidence that FGM is not common in this northern region (below 10%).
...
The findings for Garmyan governorate are particularly problematic in several respects: here we find the highest FGM rates, the lowest levels of awareness and education, the highest illiteracy rates, and the most severe form of mutilation: not only the clitoris but also the labia are being cut. The percentage of women in this region who defend the FGM practice is much higher than in other parts of Kurdistan. The study also shows a strong correlation between a lack of education and FGM. The findings also indicate that FGM is a Sunni Muslim practice, even though occasionally some individuals from other religious communities join the “ritual”.


That's not a 'weak rebuttal'. It shows that FGM is widely practised in Malaysia, has a law allowing it in Indonesia with a significant Muslim council pushing for it to be done, and is common in some other Muslim outside Africa. It shows it's a problem clearly not confined to Africa, but associated with Islam when it is outside.

And the rebuttal for Malaysia is not "that in ONE part of Malaysia there are sharia courts as well as nonsharia courts". It's a link to the State Dept report for Malaysia, which has many instances of sharia courts and their rulings (eg caning). Wikipedia says 13 Mayalsian states have Sharia law courts for Muslims, plus the Federal Territories - that's all of Malaysia ("can generally only pass sentences of not more than three years imprisonment, a fine of up to RM5,000, and/or up to six strokes of the cane".

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 01:03 AM

4. It's strange that your link says he was completely wrong on Female Mutilation and yet PolitiFact

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Response to Quixote1818 (Reply #4)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 01:15 AM

6. If the ex muslims facts are not factual please link to them ...

Politifact rates Aslan as

We rate Aslan’s claim Mostly True.

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Response to pbmus (Reply #6)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 01:53 AM

8. His intent is to put the focus of FGM primarily on Muslims & ignore the history of the practice

Last edited Mon Oct 6, 2014, 02:46 AM - Edit history (2)

Reading his article you would almost get the idea that it originated because of the Muslim religion which is not true. He very, very briefly mentions that it "may have originated in the Middle East or Africa" and fails to mention that, that is precisely WHY it's so common in central Africa. Not because of Islam but because it was already firmly in place and a common practice. Sure there are pockets of it outside of Africa but Aslan is 100% correct that it is primarily an African problem and stems from religions that pre-date Islam. Why not give the whole history of the practice unless your intent is to just smear Muslims across the board? While it's true that some Muslim sects have adopted it (only a fraction outside of Africa) though his article makes it sound widespread outside of Africa. Looking at the Wikipedia article I link to below, I don't get that idea in the slightest. For example he mentions it's in Iraq but the only place you see it is in a few Kurdish villages. There is also no mention of it in the Quran or the Bible and of course it's commonly seen in Africa because it was already widely done there before Muslims and Christians arrived.

Think of the SW United States. The Spanish lived with the Pueblo Indians and forced Christianity on them for hundreds of years but the Pueblo Indians still practice most of their ancient beliefs while many also consider themselves Christian. Fact is they are a blend of both Christian and Native American cultures. It's not easy for ancient cultures to change even when new religions take over.

He says Aslan cherry picked? Sorry but his reporting is extremely one sided and gives a false picture of its origins and how the practice spread.

Snip>

its origins are pre-Islamic, FGM became associated with Islam because of that religion's focus on female chastity and seclusion.[102] In 2007 the Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research in Cairo ruled, according to UNICEF, that FGM had "no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions."[103]

FGM is also practised by animist groups, particularly in Guinea and Mali,[104] and by Christians.[105] In Niger, for example, 55 percent of Christian women and girls have experienced FGM, compared with two percent of their Muslim counterparts.[106] There is no mention of FGM in the Bible, and Christian missionaries in Africa were among the first to object to it.[107] The only Jewish group known to have practised it are the Beta Israel of Ethiopia; Judaism requires male circumcision, but does not allow FGM.[108]


Snip>

Antiquity

The origins of the practice are unknown. Gerry Mackie has suggested that it began with the Meroite civilization in present-day Sudan. He writes that its east-west, north-south contiguous distribution in Africa intersects in Sudan, and speculates that infibulation originated there with imperial polygyny, before the rise of Islam, to control access to women and increase confidence in paternity



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation

Clearly a fucked up practice from very ancient religions and was originally meant to control women. Eventually picked up by a few Muslim and Christian sects mostly in Africa where it was already widely in practice.

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 01:08 AM

5. trash thread.

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 01:30 AM

7. Thats a great point about Turkey

 

Secularism had to be forced on it militarily by Ataturk in the 20s, but now its beginning to be eroded and Islamists are making gains.

Indonesia is a pretty bad example too. It has Sharia Law for one of its provinces with 5 million people and religious courts everywhere else. Its also not great for civil liberties, its rated only partly free by Freedom House.

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 03:07 AM

9. Aslan was mostly correct

And Maher was DEFINITELY engaging in essentialism, as in, this is the *real*, monolithic Islam. I'm an open atheist who has had Muslim friends and lovers most of my life. It's an entire world in itself, full of a vast range of opinions - including a large range of interpretations in it's scholarship. When your Muslim friend's father comes back from Haj and tells you it was a moving experience but complains bitterly about how the Saudis treat women, when your hippy Muslim girlfriend earnestly shows you paintings of fairies by her traveller friend from the UK that she spent a few months wandering around the countryside with, when you see the Muslim family that treats you like their son reconcile themselves with their estranged gay son in a tearful reunion at their other son's secular wedding to a Christian, you accumulate a very different impression of Islam. It is not a monolothic entity and smug twits like Maher who engage in that kind of othering only foster more fear, division and ignorance in the world.

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Response to FarrenH (Reply #9)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 05:39 AM

13. This.

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 03:25 AM

10. Amazing that the Saudis are ignored again.

 

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Response to pbmus (Original post)

Mon Oct 6, 2014, 01:05 PM

16. That fact that apostasy is a crime in 23 Muslim countries says a lot about their "tolerance"

Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined as the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or through deed.It includes the act of converting to another religion (such as Christianity) by a person who was born in a Muslim family or who had previously accepted Islam

Twenty-three Muslim-majority countries, as of 2013, cover apostasy in Islam through their criminal laws.
(up to and including the death penalty)

Is that a state crime in any other religion?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy_in_Islam

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