Reza Aslan: Trump Is Popular Because of 'Islamophobia'

Not because of, you know, jihad terror or anything like that.

In an adulatory Los Angeles Times interview last Friday, Leftist media darling Reza Aslan asserts that Donald Trump’s popularity reveals that “a large swath of us [is] xenophobic, racist and Islamophobic. And we pretend that we’re not. And now it’s out in the open and can’t be ignored any longer.” He has, of course, nothing to say about the possibility that Trump’s supporters could be favoring their candidate because of his apparently strong stance against jihad terror attacks and the endless threats of mass murder and destruction from the Islamic State.

Nor does the Times interviewer, Gina Piccalo, challenge Aslan on this or other highly questionable statements; on the contrary, she fawns over him, writing: “Muslim religious scholar Reza Aslan is Internet famous for keeping his cool. The Iranian American author of the 2013 bestseller ‘Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth’ once confronted a relentless Fox News anchor with such unflappable poise, it made him a viral sensation.”

In reality, Aslan confronted the relentless Fox News anchor by lying repeatedly about his credentials. And in other corners of the Internet, he is not famous for keeping his cool, but for losing it, slinging frenzied abuse at those he hates and, when confronted and exposed about it, claiming risibly that his adolescent insults were automated.

The adulation that Gina Piccalo and the mainstream media in general heap upon Reza Aslan is a singular demonstration of how superficial and biased the mainstream really is. For Aslan is no scholar, and if he were not a Muslim and a Leftist, his frequent howling errors of fact would have consigned him to media oblivion long ago. No non-Muslim conservative would ever have become a media star making the errors Aslan has made and behaving the way he has. He has made the ridiculous claim that the idea of resurrection “simply doesn’t exist in Judaism,” despite numerous passages to the contrary in the Hebrew Scriptures. He has also referred to “the reincarnation, which Christianity talks about” — although he later claimed that one was a “typo.” In yet another howler he later insisted was a “typo,” he claimed that the Biblical story of Noah was barely four verses long — which he then corrected to forty, but that was wrong again, as it is 89 verses long. 

Aslan claimed that the “founding philosophy of the Jesuits” was “the preferential option for the poor,” when in reality, that phrase wasn’t even coined until 1968. He called Turkey the second most populous Muslim country, when it is actually the eighth most populous Muslim country. He thinks Pope Pius XI, who issued the anti-fascist encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, was a fascist. He thinks Marx and Freud “gave birth to the Enlightenment,” when it ended in the late 18th century, before either of them were born. He claims that “the very first thing that Muhammad did was outlaw slavery,” when in fact Muhammad bought slaves, took female captives as sex slaves, and owned slaves until his death. He thinks Ethiopia and Eritrea are in Central Africa.

A “renowned religious scholar” such as Reza Aslan should not make such elementary mistakes. But this is, of course, the man who writes “than” for “then”; apparently thinks the Latin word “et” is an abbreviation; and writes “clown’s” for “clowns.”

In the Times interview, Aslan retails still more nonsense: “People who are religious are probably unwilling to recognize how much of what they believe is rooted in who they actually are and not the teachings of their religion. We think people derive their values from their scriptures. But it’s more often the case that people insert their values into their scriptures.”

In this, Aslan is essentially saying that words have no meaning, that the various scriptures of various religions have no essential content or character, that the religions themselves are meaningless and interchangeable, and that people are never inspired to change their behavior by the teachings of a religion, which anyway don’t exist since religions are wholly and solely what people decide they will be. Can a religion’s teachings transform a believer into a violent, war-mongering person, or a peaceful, pluralistic person? For Aslan, the answer is no: religions are just putty, to be formed by those who believe in them into any shape they like. So tomorrow Muslims could begin to declare that there are five gods, despite the Qur’an’s fierce monotheism, and Christians could begin murdering people while screaming, “Jesus is Lord!”

This is, of course, completely absurd. If it were true, there would be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim terrorists in equal proportion, instead of a preponderance of Muslim terrorists. Religions don’t just depend on what the believer brings to them; believers are also shaped by what they teach. But as far as Aslan is concerned, they don’t teach anything: “people insert their values into their scriptures.”

Aslan goes on to complain that what jihad terrorists really have in common isn’t really a devout commitment to Islam at all: “The thing they have most in common is that they already possess an either anti-establishment [view] or are prone to violent tendencies. A report that just came out said something like 80% of Europeans who join [Islamic State] in Syria have a criminal record. But when someone says they are acting violently in the name of Islam, that … negates any other contributing factor that could be involved. We don’t really care about his drug addiction or his history of violent tendencies or his arrest record.”

Yes, and we don’t because drug addicts or people with a history of violent tendencies from Christian or other non-Muslim backgrounds don’t become terrorists in anything like the numbers that Muslim drug addicts and Muslims with a history of violent tendencies do.

And why, in Aslan’s world, do so many people have such a negative view of Islam? Because of Islamophobes, of course: “Sixty-one percent of Americans have negative feelings toward Muslims today. That’s 20% higher than the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. It’s not that 15 years ago, we were attacked by 18 [sic!] Muslims and ever since then we have been Islamophobic. Instead, it’s the result of a very well-organized, extremely well-funded, concerted effort by a handful of organizations funded to the tune of now more than $50 million to convince Americans that the 1% of the population of this country that is Muslim is on the verge of a complete takeover. We are at a far greater threat from white supremacist terrorism. Since 911, right-wing terrorists have killed far more Americans than Islamic terrorists have.”

Aslan would really have us believe that my colleagues and I are so clever, so well-funded and so powerful that we have hoodwinked millions of Americans into thinking that the jihad is a threat. In reality, Osama bin Laden, Nidal Malik Hasan, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Syed Rizwan Farook and all their comrades and allies have done that, not Pamela Geller, Steve Emerson, Frank Gaffney and me. Aslan here ignores the Fort Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, and San Bernardino jihad massacres, plus innumerable thwarted jihad plots in the U.S., as well as jihad massacres around the world and numerous boasts of imminent conquest and destruction from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other jihad groups. 

And Aslan’s claim that white supremacists are a greater threat than jihadis is based on a study from last summer, which based its findings on the number of those killed by white supremacists and by jihadis since 911. Not only did this study skew the results by starting one day late and leaving out 911, but it also ignores the many, many foiled jihad plots, and lumped in many psychopaths with no ideology with genuine white supremacists. It also ignored the international jihad movement: if it had counted the casualties of the global jihad vs. white supremacist terrorism not just in the U.S. but worldwide, there would have been no comparison.

In today’s political climate, none of Aslan’s ridiculous mistakes and cynical lies will stop his media juggernaut. He told Piccalo about his future plans: “I truly believe the best way to shift perceptions in this country is through pop culture. It’s always the most efficient way of doing so. We’re trying to develop television shows, feature-length films, projects that work to create a different perception of the people, the cultures, the stories, of the Greater Middle East. Part of that involves simply having Muslims and Middle Easterners being normal on TV. [With] ‘Rough Draft,’ I wanted people to see a Middle Easterner being a host and talking about writing and not talking about politics or religion.”

Will all this stop jihad terror? Of course not. Will it render more Americans complacent about the jihad threat and unwilling to support any serious resistance to it? Probably. And that appears to be Reza Aslan’s overarching goal.