Reza Aslan has taken over the West like a storm. Media brass quiver in their boots and advise TV hosts to “really know” their topic before debating with this unicorn. Having thoroughly studied religious text and having had education and/or residency in any religious nation [to have firsthand knowledge of the laws and culture] isn’t adequate for Western [pseudo] liberals. They want someone who can cleverly seduce the audience in a smoke of cognitive dissonance while simultaneously suggesting any criticism of the depth of irrational drivel being presented as “evidence” and “fact” is an act of oppression and racism [to completely blackout criticism which are deemed offensive in almost all context].
Many people use denialism [of actual facts] as a sensible defense mechanism against criticism and accountability. Aslan isn’t alone in this. They inevitably contribute to a hostile society.
Aslan decided that his status as a religious scholar gives him the platform to manipulate the audience—hoping the audience will take his word like divine truth and fail to screen for authenticity of facts supporting his statements.
He was on CNN this past summer [debating human rights abuses occurring in the Islamic world] where he had described Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as an “African problem”—insinuating FGM has nothing to do with the Islamic culture. He then went on to claim FGM isn’t even “an issue” in other Muslim-majority places.
He continued, stating that women and girls are treated equally and fairly in Islamic nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Turkey. His head proceeded to bobble from side to side and his eyes almost jumped in and out of their socket with every contemptuous word [he] spat out against the hosts.
Moving on, he states “…in Indonesia, women are absolutely, 100 percent equal to men!”—and that right there is where I could have sworn I felt my brain short-circuit.
He continued his rant about how wrong it is to make “stupid” comparisons of barbaric practices [like stoning and FGM] from one Muslim country to another and claim it’s all the same in every Muslim-majority nation [even though that was never the argument] yet rewind back a bit and he used the same logic by claiming all religions are the same and that all worshippers are the same and their extremism is instigated by extremist views and has nothing to do with religious dictates.
On November 18, 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported concerns over the state sanctioned “virginity testing” enforced on female police officers [in Indonesia] to “ensure” morality. According to Aslan’s logic—in Indonesia, this is “absolutely, 100 percent equal to men”—because men are dehumanized and violated in the same nature, right? HRW described the virginity testing as a form of gender-based violence—which I am compelled to greatly agree with—but to Reza Aslan, it’s all about equality.
He’s a scholar after all and in no way can a scholar be so daft to have been unaware of this abuse in a country he defended [on national television] as “100 percent equal”. This ultimately proves Aslan intentionally misled the audience or that he genuinely does not perceive this act of abuse against women and girls as “abuse” at all which would make Aslan an apologist of human rights abuses [the female population face in Indonesia].
Nothing speaks “equality” more than mandating a practice where someone inspects a woman’s body to “verify” her “morality”.
HRW made a second report regarding these dehumanizing acts against women in Indonesia. The report conveyed Indonesia’s effortless compromise on women’s rights to appease Islamists who in turn will provide political support. Shocker!
Within the same week of HRW’s reports concerning Indonesia’s systematic abuse on women—Turkey’s president Erdogan declared “women are not equal to men” and any criticism of inequality is an attack on “motherhood”. Wait—what?! But Aslan’s eyes won’t be bulging out at these disturbing details lacing a knot around women’s rights in Turkey—he’s a scholar after all and knows where and when women are subjected to abuse under the influence of religion.
Turkey’s own President [the guy who governs the country] and his grievously discriminatory view on women’s rights are irrelevant! And pseudo liberalism just has a charming affinity to tolerate such blatant bigotry that endangers human rights—especially if those rights were concerning the female population.
In Bangladesh—where rape victims are given the “two-finger test” to determine how sexually active they were prior to their bodies being violently violated by sadistic individuals—it’s absolutely, 100 percent equal! No abuse here either, folks!
How about Malaysia? Well, just like in any other nation with Sharia courts—women and girls are discriminated against on all cultural, religious and [most terrifying] legal fronts. And obviously that too is a representation ofabsolute equality—right?
Receiving praise through the ignorance of the mass [hoping nobody catches on, assuming the audiences are halfwits] was the first sign [to oneself] a “Ph.D.” is meaningless but that didn’t stop Aslan from prancing around with that trophy. He vehemently defended his narrative on Islamic societies as the absolute truth simply because of his educational status and cunningly indicated [on Salon] anyone lacking a Ph.D. on theology should not discuss or write about religion [in a raw attempt to undermine criticism].
At this point, at the mention of his name, “Reza Aslan”, all I hear is “I’m a scholar!” like a parody of “I’m a lawyer!” you hear at the end of TMZ’s credit. He’s a mainstream figure for those lacking critical thinking and represents mindless indulgence that seemingly validates biased views. His exceedingly hypocritical and contradictory narrative on religion is enough to make his scholarly attribute go from gold to copper—cheap and irrelevant. Ultimately—that is the result of anyone who cater to tribalism. What else do you expect when pride gets politicized?
Aki Muthali is a freelance writer, who's a feminist. Born and raised in Sri Lanka, she currently lives in Canada. She’s also an illustrator and a painter. Follow her on Twitter