Jerry Coyne explains multiculturalism to Reza Aslan

Jerry Coyne explains multiculturalism to Reza Aslan January 12, 2015
Photo: Screenshot RCP/CNN
Photo: Screenshot RCP/CNN

In a recent video on Real Clear Politics, Reza Aslan, one of the loudest voices defending Islam and seemingly defending violence against Charlie Hebdo by blaming France and Europe and well, anything but Islam for the terrorist attacks has put his foot in his mouth once again.


Europe is facing nothing short of an identity crisis. Look, the fact of the matter is there have been these seismic changes on the continent, culturally, racially, religiously, politically. And that’s resulted in this intense anti-immigrant and more specifically anti-Muslim backlash. In France, one of the largest parties, the party of Marine Le Pen, The National Front is a virulently anti-Muslim party and very well may win the next elections.You have the UKIP party in the UK, the Pegida party in Germany. This is a party whose sole platform seems to be let’s get rid of all Muslims. They have had for the last few months every week thousands and thousands of supporters marching in Germany in this notion that Muslims are some internal enemy. In Sweden we’ve had three mosque attacks over the last week. So this has created this sort of, intense, tension among the Muslim population in Europe and non-Muslim population.

And about the violence in France against Charlie Hebdo,

Well, it’s not a justification by any means at all, but what Charlie Hebdorepresents for a lot of people in Europe is precisely this clash of civilizations. Look, the editors of Charlie Hebdo would unapologetically say they make fun of everybody, every religion, and they make fun of Muslims for a very specific reason to sort of show, or maybe demonstrate, that look if you maybe want to be in this country, if you want to be in France, then you have to deal with the French values, you have to rid yourself of your own values, ideals, norms, and you have to take on French values. And there have been a number of laws passed not only in France, with regard to prohibitions on Islamic dress, but throughout Europe about whether you can build mosques, about whether build minarets, et cetera. And this tension, this polarization I’m afraid has led to a lot of acts of violence. Not just the tragedy yesterday…

. . . And I think Charlie Hebdo was representative of this distinctly French value and an argument that unless you agree with that value well then you are not really French. That is an argument that a lot of young Muslims, and particularly young immigrants who come from different cultures, they just don’t buy into it and enough of them feel angry, perhaps, threatened, enough to actually take up violence.

. . . And particularly in France, an aggressively secularizing country that has never really tolerated multiculturalism or the kind of cultural religious diversity that is the hallmark of the United States, you can see how that would create the kinds of tensions that would bubble up occasionally into acts of violence on both sides.

Well, Jerry Coyne, biologist and professor at the University of Chicago tore apart Aslan’s statements, especially those on the subject of multiculturalism,

What is wrong with “multiculturalism”? That depends on how you define it. If you mean “tolerating or celebrating the customs of people from another land,” it’s fine—and desirable. The U.S. would be bland and uniform without its many immigrants, their celebrations and holidays, their food, their politics, their philosophies, and so on. But when multiculturalism involves importing antidemocratic ideas into a democratic culture, then it becomes problematic.  The kind of “multiculturalism” that Charlie Hebdo opposed, and wished to be dissolved by “French” values, was Islam’s veneration of sharia law, its institutionalization of the subjugation of women, its calls for the death of apostates, gays, and adulterers, its belief in corporal punishment for criminals, and the Muslim habit, in some places, of patrolling the streets, looking to find and admonish young Muslims partying, drinking, listening to music, dancing, and associating with members of the other sex. Fun is a no-no.

In other words, the more “enlightened” French are uncomfortable with those tenets of Islam that conflict with the values of the Enlightenment; and it’s just too bad if asking Muslims to conform to those values makes them uncomfortable. By all means keep your Ramadan, your delicious food, your clothing (except, perhaps, the veil), your prayers, your mosques, and so on. But don’t you dare try to quash freedom of speech, beat your wives, kill your daughters, or try to practice sharia law in France.

It surprises me that Aslan can’t fathom that multiculturalism can be seen in several different ways, some of which are commendable and others odious. Actually, I’m sure he can, but he’s so committed to Islamic apologetics that he won’t admit that anything about Muslim “culture” is inimical to democracy.

Coyne admits there is some truth to what Aslan says, violence and oppression against Muslim’s in France and Europe is abhorrent, but that does not mean the harmful beliefs carried by some Muslims must be tolerated in the name of multiculturalism.

Yes the attack was more than just revenge for images of Mohammad, it was a combination of things, something Coyne didn’t miss,

[…] It was a combination of the magazine’s publication of images of Muhammad (proscribed by many interpretations of the Qur’an), a perception that the journal was a beacon of Islamophobia (it wasn’t; it shone its light on Islamic perfidy), and, most important, a general hatred of the West and its democratic (and perceived “anti-Islamic”) values.

Yet this combination of things do in fact lead back to Islam. I do believe as others have pointed out that if it wasn’t Islam, that militants would still exist if the oppression by these countries still existed and they would be fighting under another ideology, but that provides no excuse for the ideology they are fighting for.

We would hold any political ideology responsible if it was the banner being used by terrorists so why don’t many hold Islam to the same standard? Why excuse this particular ideology when if these terrorists had been communists, everyone would blame communism without a second thought?

Aslan goes to great lengths to not implicate Islam in these attacks, in fact he goes to such great lengths he ends up sounding like he is excusing the terrorism because the terrorists had just been pushed too far.

I am a proud socialist and I am always challenged and forced to defend the acts of others socialists throughout history and explain why I don’t agree with their interpretations of the ideology.

Why am I not supposed to hold Islam to this same standard?


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