Reza Aslan kicks off lecture series

Yolanda Becerra

Speaking on the future of Islam last night at the Plaza del Sol performance hall, Reza Aslan, author of “No God but God” and CBS Middle East political analyst, offered a new perspective on the Iraq war, cleared up misconceptions about Islam, and spoke out against the controversial cartoons that appeared in a Danish newspaper in Sept. of 2005.

Aslan began the first of the “Speak Your Mind” lecture series by making the clarification that terror is a tactic and not an enemy. He made the point that whether one agrees with it or not, it is still is a successful tactic.

He stressed that the notion about the “war on terror” needs to be re-analyzed, considering that the war is being waged on an abstract concept. He drove the point home by asking, “How’s the war on poverty doing, and we won the war on drugs, right?”

Aslan argued that misconceptions of Islamofascism have helped Osama Bin Laden’s agenda to connect the war on terror to the war on Islam.

The idea that Hezbollah, al Qaida, Sunni’s, and Shiite’s are all the same makes it easy for propagandists to sell the idea that the war on terror is really a war on Islam.

Aslan urged the audience to stop grouping them together because they have little in common with each other, “other than using terror as a tactic.”

As an aside, Aslan told the audience that we also need to stop comparing people to Hitler: “Unless you have killed 100 million people, you are not Hitler.”

Aslan said that President George W. Bush should sit down with Iran and the rest of Iraq’s neighbors and stop treating them like part of the problem and begin treating them as part of the solution.

“After all, we have one thing in common, we all want us to leave,” Aslan said, adding that if President Bush “tells them we need a, b and c to get out of Iraq they will help us, if for nothing else to get us out.”

Aslan said that the war in Iraq needs to be treated differently because ” insurgents are not the problem anymore. Sectarian violence is the problem. Iraqis are killing each other.” He said that the military agenda needs to be reformed to accurately reflect what is happening on the ground.

According to Aslan Islam is going through a reformation. He said, “Jihadism is a byproduct, an inevitable byproduct of Islamic reformation.”

He credited three major movements for the Islamic reformation: The translation of the Koran, Muslim immigration to the west and the Internet.

Aslan said that 100 to 200 years from now he envisions a far more fractured Islam, a far greater sectarian Islam globally. He said that it is all about who will get to redefine Islam.

Joe Otsuka, senior history major, said that Aslan’s lecture was basically what his book “No God but God” is about.

Otsuka said that Aslan offers a unique opinion, and was impressed at Aslan’s ability (as a Muslim) to be inside the box and be able to offer an unbiased, out of the box opinion.

“He disperse the myth of Islamofacism,” said Otsuka

Safa Sajadi, a political science and religious studies graduate, said that she loved it and that it was a good idea to bring a speaker like Aslan to CSUN because he cleared up a lot of misconceptions about Islam.

Aslan’s speech was well received by the CSUN audience, which was able to ask questions after the lecture, buy his book and attend a book signing.

When asked about the Danish newspaper cartoons, Aslan said that the cartoons were ethnically offensive and that they fed into the stereotype of Islam.

He explained that in order to discuss the offensiveness of the cartoons, Danish Muslims spent five months attempting to get an audience with Flemming Rose, the editor of the newspaper who made the decision to run the cartoons, but they were unsuccessful.

Later, more offensive fabricated cartoons were published and distributed by propagandists and violence erupted.

For Aslan the cartoons “had far more to do with stereotypes than religious sensibility versus freedom of the press.”

The cartoons contributed to Islamophobia and Aslan said that today a Muslim in Northridge is required to respond to the nut cases who chop people’s heads off, and “it’s not fair.”

Aslan kicked off the “Speak Your Mind” lecture series on Oct. 23 in the Plaza del Sol performance hall; the next scheduled speaker is Cindy Sheehan on Dec. 6 at 2:30 p.m.