David Wood several years ago pointed out a feature of Reza Aslan’s work that, as time goes by, increasingly appears to be the central feature of all his work: he downplays or denies the violent aspects of Islamic teaching, while exaggerating or inventing violent elements in other religions. In No god but God, Aslan portrayed Muhammad as peaceful, explaining away or ignoring the violent actions that Islamic tradition attributes to him. In Zealot, Aslan portrayed Jesus as violent, resuscitating a long-discredited theory that Jesus was a member of the Zealot sect that rebelled against Roman oppression.
And now in this critique of Aslan’s controversial Believer episode in which he eats human brain tissue, Vamsee Juluri (the same person I took to task here, but who writes with great perceptiveness and acuity in this new piece) notes how Aslan is doing the same thing with Hinduism: trying to demonize it and depict it as violent. He focuses in his cannibalistic Believer episode on a small, odd, violent sect — one member even threatens to behead Aslan. Juluri charges that the episode was “contrived to actually de-humanize Hindus.” The overall effect is the same as the one Wood noticed regarding Aslan and Christianity: Aslan seems intent upon portraying non-Muslim religions as violent and filled with irrationality, but then when discussing Islam, is intent upon showing it to be benign and rational. His overall purpose seems to be Islamic apologetics, subtle dawah for the post-religious secular Leftists who would watch a show such as Believer, designed to foster complacency about the jihad threat and opposition to any effective steps to counter that threat.
This agenda makes clear why Aslan, despite his increasingly obvious Islamic heterodoxy, remains so popular with Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups in the U.S.: he has also spoken at events sponsored by the Muslim Students Association, a Brotherhood group, as well as at an at an event co-sponsored by the Los Angeles chapter of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Perhaps they recognize that he shares their overall agenda.
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