FORA.tv Studios and Whole Earth Films present Reza Aslan, scholar and acclaimed author of No God But God, speaking to Phil Bronstein, editor-at-large for the San Francisco Chronicle, about his new book How to Win a Cosmic War.
How to Win a Cosmic War provides both an in-depth study of the ideology behind al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, and like-minded militants throughout the Muslim world, and an exploration of the tradition of religious violence found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Surveying the global scene from Israel to Iraq and from New York to the Netherlands, Aslan argues that religion is a stronger force today than it has been in a century. At a time when religion and politics are increasingly sharing the same vocabulary and functioning in the same sphere, Aslan writes that we must strip this ideological conflict of its religious connotations and address the actual grievances that fuel the Jihadist movement.
How do you win a cosmic war? By refusing to fight in one.
Born in Iran, Aslan is currently a research associate at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy. He was a visiting assistant professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Iowa and the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
A frequent commentator on television, radio, and in print, Aslan is a graduate of Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa. He is the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam and How to Win a Cosmic War: Why We're Losing the War on Terror.
Phil Bronstein was named executive chair of the board of The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in April 2012, when the organization merged with The Bay Citizen. Bronstein joined the CIR board in 2006 and became board chair in 2011. He is now in charge of overall operations. Previously, Bronstein was editor-at-large and director of content development for Hearst Newspapers. Before that, he was executive vice president and editor-at-large of the San Francisco Chronicle, after serving as the newspaper’s editor from 2000 to 2008. Bronstein was editor of the San Francisco Examiner, which merged with the Chronicle in 2000, from 1991 to 2000. He started at the Examiner as a reporter in 1980, where he specialized in investigative projects and was a foreign correspondent for eight years. He was a 1986 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his work in the Philippines. Before joining the Examiner, he was a reporter with public television station KQED in San Francisco. He is the former chairman of the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ International Committee and is currently on the advisory board of Litquake, the annual San Francisco literary festival.
Reza Aslan, religious scholar and author of How to Win a Cosmic War, and Phil Bronstein, editor-at-large for the San Francisco Chronicle, discuss the American cultural obsession with the conflict between good versus evil.
The notion that "our wars are god’s wars" is a "deep aspect of our national character," says Aslan. "As a nation of immigrants, we are not a country that can define our nationality according to ethnicity."
Reza Aslan, religious scholar and author of How to Win a Cosmic War, and Phil Bronstein, editor-at-large for the San Francisco Chronicle, discuss the problematic nature of religious nationalism. "It's a force that cannot be control by the state, no matter how hard the state tries," says Aslan. Instead of suppressing religious nationalist groups, he advocates allowing them the opportunity to fail.
Major world religion founded by Muhammad in Arabia in the early 7th century AD. The Arabic word islam means surrenderspecifically, surrender to the will of the one God, called Allah in Arabic. Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion, and its adherents, called Muslims, regard the Prophet Muhammad as the last and most perfect of God's messengers, who include Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others. The sacred scripture of Islam is the Qur'an, which contains God's revelations to Muhammad. The sayings and deeds of the Prophet recounted in the sunna are also an important source of belief and practice in Islam. The religious obligations of all Muslims are summed up in the Five Pillars of Islam, which include belief in God and his Prophet and obligations of prayer, charity, pilgrimage, and fasting. The fundamental concept in Islam is the Shari'ah, or Law, which embraces the total way of life commanded by God. Observant Muslims pray five times a day and join in community worship on Fridays at the mosque, where worship is led by an imam. Every believer is required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city, at least once in a lifetime, barring poverty or physical incapacity. The month of Ramadan is set aside for fasting. Alcohol and pork are always forbidden, as are gambling, usury, fraud, slander, and the making of images. In addition to celebrating the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Muhammad's birthday (seemawlid) and his ascension into heaven (seemi'raj). The 'Id al-Adha festival inaugurates the season of pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims are enjoined to defend Islam against unbelievers through jihad. Divisions occurred early in Islam, brought about by disputes over the succession to the caliphate (seecaliph). About 90% of Muslims belong to the Sunnite branch. The Shi'ites broke away in the 7th century and later gave rise to other sects, including the Isma'ilis. Another significant element in Islam is the mysticism known as Sufism. Since the 19th century the concept of the Islamic community has inspired Muslim peoples to cast off Western colonial rule, and in the late 20th century fundamentalist movements (see Islamic fundamentalism) threatened or toppled a number of secular Middle Eastern governments. In the early 21st century, there were more than 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.
This war is about imposing shariah onto the whole world. This is the goal of Al Qaida. Unless we defend our liberties, they are going to be taken from us. So not engaging is a sure path to defeat.
However, this does not answer the question how to react to the mujahidin. The war is being fought on several fronts.
1. We must engage in a propaganda response to Islam. We must demonstrate to the Islamic world the falsehoods of Islam. TV and radio must demonstrate the falsehood and moral depravity of Islam and its prophet. We must shut down the mosques and schools in our countries that brainwash people into becoming mujahidin.
2. We must engage militarily with groups that attack us violently. But, full fledged occupation of muslim countries is not effective. It is enough if continuous military strikes using intelligence from the ground disrupts mujahidin regimes to the point of collapse, thereby rendering these regimes essentially powerless. This would save us lives and money.
Reza Aslan is trying to reassure, obfuscate, and put us to sleep.
Apparently, according to Aslan Islamism "is a movement not an organization". There is no hierarchy. But couldn't the same be said of Islam in general, yet Islam has grown to over a billion. (Don't all movements necessarily have some organization?)
"unlike nazi germany and communism ...
there is no entity here to defeat any longer. It's just and idea ... and an idea that feeds off this cosmic war mentality ... we defeat the enemy by not playing"
This entity or (islamic) entities that don't exist are killing real people, throwing acid in the faces of real children, beheading those who give up Islam, and stoning real women. The Taliban, the Iranians, and the Saudis were doing this kind of thing long before 9/11.
Oh excuse me, America has been involved even longer. Here's Jefferson:
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, then the ambassador to France, and John Adams, ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, a visiting ambassador from Tripoli. The Americans asked Adja why his government was hostile to American ships, even though there had been no provocation. They reported to the Continental Congress that the ambassador had told them "it was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave," but he also told them that for what they considered outrageous sums of money they could make peace.
Aslan wants us to back off and not play this war because he is a muslim and he wants Islam to win.
Instead of buying this silly book try a new book by Bruce Bawer:
Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom
The fails to address the fact that with Islam, there is no concept of seperation between religion and politics; Muslims are instructed to emulate Muhammad and the 2 generations that follow him - which cover the four rightly guided caliphs. You can't then turn around and there fore dismiss the issue of religion and politics when the corner stone Islam is that there can't be seperation between the two.
There is a reason why Muslim donomiated countries have the worst human rights record - and it has everything to do with religion fusing with politics. I might actually believe him about Islam being about 'peace' and 'find ones position in the world' when I see every Muslim majority country sign up to the treaty outlawing the persecution of GLBT people. The day I see that will be a day when I can see the Muslim world move from the dark ages into 2009.
Wow, Reza Aslan doesn't have a clue in this interview. He is totally false in asserting that "there can't be a successful religious state," and that "religion does not successfully bind people in a geographic space." Although I wish that were true (as I'm an atheist), religion has probably been the most important part of a society's collective identity since the beginning of history. The civic gods of ancient Greece and Rome, Zoroastrianism in pre-Islamic Persia, Christianity in the later Roman Empire (Constantine's conversion, of course, is seen as one of the most profound events in all of Western history), Islam in the Caliphate and Sultanates of the Middle East, Hinduism in the subcontinent, etc. In fact, one of the most vexing questions of the modern era is how to maintain social and cultural cohesion WITHOUT religious uniformity.
I like Reza Aslan, but he doesn't know what he's talking about here.
Your points are well taken. There is a NEED for the people of the world to see themselves as ONE race, the human race and the earth as one country with all it's peoples as it's citizens. The Baha'i Faith, with it's world centre in Haifa, Isreal , has this as one of it's basic beleifs.