religion | October 21, 2012

Combating Misconceptions: Reza Aslan On Understanding Islam [VIDEO]

When religion speaker Reza Aslan talks about the Middle East, he doesn't pull any punches. In a video interview with Stand Alone Media, he combats current misconceptions about Muslims and Islam head on—offering a blunt, but valid and thoroughly researched, rebuttal on some of the most commonly held beliefs about Islam as a religion. As he has argued in his books, the global Islamic population is not a homogeneous group of fundamentalists. That belief, he argues, is as "ridiculous," as saying that all Christians, Hindus, or Buddhists share the same thoughts act the same way. These types of stereotypes and misinformation are often blamed on ignorance, and many argue that education is the best way to dispell these misconceptions. However, when it comes to outright bigotry, Aslan argues that the problem isn't ignorance. Bigotry stems from fear, he says—and fear cannot be quelled through education.

"The only way that you can battle fear is through relationships," he explains. "Polls show that if you just know one Muslim that it cuts in half your negativity rating of Islam...because if you know a person...then you can't see him as just a symbol." Further, he says that the simple act of "opening up [your] eyes and looking around," can change many of the outlandish beliefs about the Eastern world—simply by taking the time to understand how nonsensical most of them are.

The author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (an international bestseller and named by Blackwell Publishers as one of the 100 most important books of the last decade), Aslan holds three separate degrees in Religion. He has extensively studied the way that culture and religion intersect. He often speaks about the important role that social media and new technologies (something he is extensively involved with in his company Aslan Media) can play in altering perceptions, and eleminating bigotry. By understanding the complex cultural, social, and political forces in the Muslim world, we can move beyond irrational fear—and focus on peaceful understanding.


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diversity | October 18, 2012