Reza Aslan responds to Bill Maher: Genital mutilation is not an Islamic problem

Reza Aslan responds to Bill Maher: Genital mutilation is not an Islamic problem October 1, 2014

On the September 29th edition of CNN Tonight, Reza Aslan provides a measured and patient reply to a recent segment that aired on Bill Maher’s show this past Friday. A Muslim scholar of religions with four degrees—a B.A in religion from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School, a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, and a PhD in Sociology from University of California Santa Barbara—Aslan is an Associate Professor at UC Riverside, probably most famous for this segment on Fox News:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt1cOnNrY5s

In this clip, Maher broadly condemned the Muslim world, criticized Obama for insisting ISIS is not Islamic, and suggested that the Yale Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics sided “with people who hold women down and violate them” which they defended  “in the name of multiculturalism,” even though the letter they signed was cosigned by more than 30 organizations which included the Yale Women’s Center, specifically expressed a wish that Hirsi Ali discuss her personal experiences, condemned the genital mutilation she underwent, and didn’t use the phrase “multiculturalism” once. We were understandably unhappy with Maher’s portrayal.

Aslan had this to say in response, and if I could quote this entire segment, I would:

Well, I like Bill Maher. I have been on his show a bunch of times. He’s a comedian.

But, you know, frankly, when it comes to the topic of religion, he’s not very sophisticated in the way that he thinks. I mean, the argument about the female genital mutilation being an Islamic problem is a perfect example of that. It’s not an Islamic problem.

[…]

It’s a Central African problem. Eritrea has almost 90 percent female genital mutilation. It’s a Christian country. Ethiopia has 75 percent female genital mutilation. It’s a Christian country. Nowhere else in the Muslim, Muslim-majority states is female genital mutilation an issue.

Aslan goes on to point out that “Muslim countries” like Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Turkey are as free and open a society for women as the United States is. He goes on:

But to say Muslim countries, as though Pakistan and Turkey are the same, as though Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are the same, as though somehow what is happening in the most extreme forms of these repressive countries, these autocratic countries, is representative of what’s happening in every other Muslim country, is, frankly — and I use this word seriously — stupid. So let’s stop doing that.

Mirroring an argument made on our blog yesterday, Aslan calls this what it is, bigotry:

We’re not talking about women in the Muslim world. We’re using two or three examples to justify a generalization. That’s actually the definition of bigotry. . .

Islam doesn’t promote violence or peace. Islam is just a religion, and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent. There are Buddhist — marauding Buddhist monks in Myanmar slaughtering women and children. Does Buddhism promote violence? Of course not. People are violent or peaceful. And that depends on their politics, their social world, the way that they see their communities, the way they see themselves.

The more I hear people like Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and Dave Silverman criticize Islam, and the more I hear people’s responses to it, the more I realize which company I would rather keep.

You can watch the full video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzusSqcotDw

 

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