Could there be an ISIS without an Islam?

Speaking of catching up on things I've missed while I've been gone, I was asked my thoughts about a cover story from March's issue of The Atlantic. It reminded me of another article from The Atlantic earlier in July, which argued that "is ISIS Islamic?" is the wrong question to ask (for the record: I wouldn't disagree that ISIS is Islamic).The important question, as posed by The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding's Dalia Mogahed, is instead "would a group like ISIS, with all the ot … [Read more...]

From the archives: are we “getting” Islam?

More forgotten content from the archive, based on a comment by Sean Faircloth: It's worth noting that I largely agree with Faircloth here, but the small bit where we disagree matters a lot and largely colors our respective attitudes towards Islam. There's a subtle shift in Faircloth's language throughout the piece, and I think this is rather emblematic of this difference. Faircloth says: If liberals can – with great vitriol – condemn the Christian Right (as they do constantly), then liberals ca … [Read more...]

Robert Wright: Is ISIS Islamic, and does it matter?

The New Yorker published a fantastic essay this morning by Robert Wright, a journalist and author of "The Evolution of God," on a recent trend to emphasize ISIS's Islamic roots. He begins: Last week, the New York Times columnist Roger Cohen published a piece under the headline “Islam and the West at War.” Something seemed amiss here. Surely a more-or-less liberal columnist at the Times wasn’t going to say what even George W. Bush was unwilling to say: that we are at war with Islam itself. Maybe … [Read more...]

3 Muslim students killed by an anti-theist in Chapel Hill, NC

Three young Muslim students were killed in their homes yesterday. They were shot in the head.CNN reports: A 46-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting death of three Muslim students in an apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.Police haven't said what may have compelled the accused, Craig Stephen Hicks, to allegedly carry out the attack Tuesday evening. He turned himself in to police later in the night.But given the victims' religion … [Read more...]

Jacobin: Don’t blame Islam

Jacobin, the leading outlet for socialism and the American left, has been publishing some of my favorite pieces on Islam and atheism in recent months. Last week, David Mizner published a fantastic article on how misplaced our blame on Islam often is, particular in reference to the recent Charlie Hebdo killings. The truth is not merely that Team USA’s violence is far greater than that of its enemies, or that the former triggers the latter, but that Western governments and their client states hav … [Read more...]

Interfaith literacy: Omar Sarwar on religious violence

On Monday, we posted the second of three parts of an interview with Omar Sarwar. Sarwar is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University who wrote a piece for Huffington Post that thoroughly debunked some of Bill Maher and Sam Harris’ go-to talking points about Islam. I’ve learned a lot from Sarwar about Islam, atheism, and everything in between, and I hope you will as well. If you missed the first part, you can find that here. And here's a link to the second one. This post elaborates on Sarwar's … [Read more...]

Interfaith literacy: Omar Sarwar on utilitarianism and atheism’s “old white guy” image

On Friday, we posted the first of three parts of an interview with Omar Sarwar. Sarwar is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University who wrote a piece for Huffington Post that thoroughly debunked some of Bill Maher and Sam Harris’ go-to talking points about Islam.I've learned a lot from Sarwar about Islam, atheism, and everything in between, and I hope you will as well.If you missed the first part, you can find that here. This post picks up in the middle of a conversation about Sam Har … [Read more...]

“Serial” illustrates why prosecutors should not be allowed to invoke jurors’ prejudices

Like many others, I’ve religiously listened to Serial every Thursday for the past few  months. While I’m fascinated both by the story and the format, I do have some concerns about the journalistic ethics of the undertaking. For instance: do the advantages of highlighting problems within the criminal justice system warrant turning an actual murder case into audio entertainment?One underlying aspect of this case that has mostly been danced around, but has finally been made explicit, is the ques … [Read more...]

Disturbed Christian, devout Muslim?

Murder often functions as a cultural Rorschach test: the narratives we tell about why people kill often reveal more about ourselves than the killers. Thus begins the best article I have read about religious prejudice all year. The Religion Dispatches piece, titled "In OK, a 'Christian' and a 'Muslim' decapitation challenge 'religious' violence narrative," compares the reactions to two decapitation cases that occurred within a few weeks of each other in Oklahoma.First there is the September c … [Read more...]

Why is it so hard for critics to read Reza Aslan charitably?

When Reza Aslan appeared on CNN in response to a factually-loose segment of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher,[1. Maher accused the Yale Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics of defending Muslims who commit genital mutilation (in the name of multiculturalism, no less) because the student group signed a letter critical of an invitation to have Ayaan Hirsi Ali give a lecture, even though the letter they signed outright condemned the horrific treatment Hirsi Ali experienced, never used the term "mul … [Read more...]