November 20, 2014
Reza Aslan —
Islam's Reformation

In a probing and personal conversation, Reza Aslan opens a refreshing window on religion in the world and Islam in particular. It’s a longer view of history and humanity than news cycles invite — certainly when it comes to the Arab Spring, or to ISIS. His life is a kind of prism on the fluid story of religion in this century. But in a globalized world, we all have a personal stake in how this story unfolds.

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is the founder of Aslan Media, a social media network for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world. A scholar of religions, he is currently professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. His books include Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization, No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

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A man prays during a protest against war in New York City in April, 2011.

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I have to say, this episode was b.s. in many ways. We learned zero - zero - about Islam's Reformation. I've listened to about ten of the podcasts so far, and while I realize that it seems like Krista Tippett often wants her guests to share in a Xanax and half a bottle of pinot grigio to get things started, most of them refrain, and they try to stick with the theme.

This is an episode that cried for some understanding about how indeed modern events are a reflection of an Islamic reformation. Instead, we get self-congratulatory nonsense about how the media, and most of us, are out of touch, and how terms like the "Muslim world" aren't helpful. Whenever Aslan starts to say something interesting, like about 9/11, Tippett stops him dead in his tracks to ask irrelevancies about how old he was at the time.

This podcast was, in fact, exhibit one about how the media adds no value to the discussion. I spent the first thirty minutes wondering why this surprisingly giggly interview didn't remotely address the supposed them of an Islamic reformation. Instead we get silly platitudes about how we only see one side of Muslims. No kidding. I thought this podcast was going to give us some insight. If Aslan had insights, Tippett did nothing to discover them, and Aslan wasn't brave enough to tell us something we didn't already know.

I agree with this reflection. This should not be made into a feel-good topic at this point in human history. People who identify themselves as Muslim are very close to possessing nuclear weapons which they want to use. The future of life on this planet is under threat from them. All the whitewash Mr. Aslan can pour does not change that and it does not help.

Michael Olvera thank you for your honest and interestingly phrased reaction.

Read about Muhammad Abduh and Nasr abu Zaid. Read Passion for Islam about the birth of political Islam in the colonial era. It's an incredibly complex subject that couldn't be done justice in a hour long interview. He touches on the topics well enough but he's not going to spoon feed you the connections between the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the power of the Karbala narrative in the Shia sphere.

Thank you Wiyyam Ameriki. I didn't expect to be spoon fed, but I did expect a few starting-off points to learn a bit of context of what this Islamic Reformation means in response to political Islam. I'm not particularly interested in blaming Islam for the sins of Muslims. But I do feel I have a duty as a citizen and as human to try to understand the core of the belief system, as well as any current reformative trends that might be at odds with biased headlines. I've struggled with the contradictions of my own Christianity for decades and will until my dying breath. I see no reason to think that Islam is an easier nut to crack. Passion for Islam is in the library queue.

Same here.

The USA created Islamic jihad, the CIA witty boys did, with help from the academics at the University of Nebraska, that paragon of truth, to use against the communists in Afghanistan during Soviet presence. They in effect created Al Qaeda, and ISIS through the Cheney Bandar conspiracy known as 'The Redirection.' The Mideast which was in a kind of monarchial [strong man] and nation stage, as was Europe during the 17th century, is now thrown back into a religious revolution stage as was Europe in the 16th century. So perhaps this pattern of history will have to repeat itself. Americans are so poorly educated, they just cannot connect the dots anymore.

My heart has been restructured many times listening to Krista's soul searching, awakening interviews. I knew it as joy, that ode of joy, and a spark of bliss surrounds me. Like another shade of light opening up every week.

Great episode. Just ran into @rezaaslan and @andygbannister at the AAR/SBL conference in San Diego: two of my favourite speakers. Well done getting one of them on the show!

"Bigotry is not the result of ignorance.
Bigotry is the result of fear.
And fear is impervious to data."
Great show. Thank you.

Seems to me that bigotry is the result of observing large deviations from the norm; those deviations being without sufficient reason or rationale. We want everyone to think and act more or less as ourselves and curious (might I say bigoted) when they do not.

The show was great. I listened to it twice, and will forward it to my "bigoted" friends.

This clarity of thought, especially now with respect to Islam, is deeply and broadly needed in this world.

On the day that this program aired, a bus was hijacked in Kenya by the Islamic group al-Shebab. The passengers were made to recite verses from the Koran. Those that could not - 19 people - were shot dead. For anyone to try to say that this, and the massacres and beheadings being committed by ISIS, are not related to Islam is intellectual blasphemy. And I won't even talk about Islamic punishments for blasphemy.

Really, there is a deadly crisis happening right now, and not just in Nigeria and Syria and Iraq and Gaza and Libya and Bahrain. Nuclear weapons are very close to people who call themselves Muslim and who are lusting to use them. Anyone who wants to influence the thinking and actions of the people of this mortally threatened world had better deal with this reality.

Paul, thank you, but please note that Pakistan does indeed possess nuclear weapons.

I am again irritated by the references to atheism in this piece. Despite Krista Tippett's attempts to be intellectually inclusive, she frequently reveals antipathy toward and distress about atheism. The representation of New Atheism in the comments today were misleading. The authors identified with New Atheism do not generally stoop to calling their opponents 'stupid' and they are only aggressive in an intellectual way.

There is not any suggestion by 'New Atheists' (I don't think there is a movement with that name) of which I am aware that violence or force is an appropriate way to combat religion. The main point which is 'new' is that the exceedingly weak and often nonexistent evidence for the claims of many religions and the deplorable effects religion has on social well being should be pointed out and publicly discussed. And also, not incidentally, that the people who do so should not be socially ostracized and persecuted. At least one prominent atheist has been assassinated within the last decade.

I agree. I was annoyed by his belief that atheists have a "community". He denounces the "muslim world" concept, but rails against atheists and anti-theists as a group and says we want violent change.
I'm an anti-theist, but I think religion is absurd, but I don't believe anyone thinks violently over-throwing religion is even possible, let alone advisable.
We are also not a community. Atheists don't go to a temple every Friday to discuss how god doesn't exist. Few of us even discuss ideas on the Internet. There's no atheistic dogma, and we aren't preaching or converting, so stop comparing "us" to a religion.

First, I want to say how many times I've been moved and educated listening to "On Being".

I identify myself as an atheist, and as an anti-theist, but I was very troubled this morning by both Reza and Krista stating that anti-theists (1) think all religion should be abolished by force if necessary, and (2) believe that all theists are "stupid". I believe neither of those things.

Yes, I think the world would be much better off without religion, but I accept that it seems to be a fundamental need of many people, it's here to stay, and I don't believe anyone should be caused by force to change their thoughts or beliefs for any reason. I also know many religious people who are definitely not stupid, but I will admit, they often puzzle me.

I also strongly disagree that we anti-theists have no constructive agenda to set forth; that we just want to "tear down". I've heard this charge often, and nothing could be further from the truth. Speaking for myself, I believe in what can be observed, not just by me, but observed by me, reported to others, and confirmed by their observations. I also believe there is a lot we don't know, and may never know. In short, I also believe in mystery. In fact I find far more comfort in mystery than in an illusive certainty based on unverifiable claims in old books that assert their own exclusive infallibility.

If all religion were suddenly to disappear from the minds of humans through some magic, think of the suffering that would end almost instantly.

The sad thing is that Reza knows very well everything you just said, he was being purposely deceitful in the way he generalized anti-theists. If I wasn't open to hearing different beliefs than my own I wouldn't listen to On Being, but I don't expect nonsense like this.

Krista did not serve us well with her soft ball interview with Reza Aslan, whose intellectual dishonesty is well and broadly documented. Why not ask him to address the poverty and illiteracy in Muslim nations, the deficit of colleges or other institutions of higher learning relative to other countries, and on and on. A fully disappointing interview, an On Being rarity...

Charles Gohmann thank you

Excellent program today! This really did provide points of clarity and left out the emotions. When explained by Islam someone's point of view, I cannot see clearly of what's, what with bias.

This episode really clarified why events are ongoing because the resolve is still in motion. Why the Koran is not a bible per se. Why and how many different people are involved. Why people practicing Islam are considering mean spirited people due to media bias. And hearing bad content means the entire group is bad. Also how the"bad" news is a bias, and that bias is the result of fear,.yikes! Never thought of that! The differences in various movements. That ISIL is a movement from a different group bent on doing,...disruption. This was great and I am sharing this with everyone!

Thanks Krista for this clarity I could not get anywhere except your show! Keep up the good, no, great work!

I was looking forward to this discussion, hoping it would, for once, get past the banalities of the obvious and not-quite-on-point observations of "All muslims are not the same". Or “Not all Muslims are terrorists.” Or “Islam is not inherently a terrorist faith.” Or "Because 1.3 billion Muslims are not all terrorists" as a premise statement from which to make, what seems to me, many conclusions of logical error or avoiding obvious and more difficult points.

Like M. Olvera below .. I agree .. we learned zero. I found myself getting irritated at the superficiality of the conversation, or rather the answers... I did get the sense that K.Tippet was trying hard to to the deeper levels.  Sometimes.   Overall I thought the show was an agreement to avoid "going there."
I wont relisten to the show to find the long list of examples.  One that comes to mind is toward the end when Aslan says something about "Actions do not always spring from one's beliefs.." and then goes on to list a series of beliefs out of which people act: political, religious among them. The point neutered itself, as so much of this conversation seemed to do.

What seems to be necessary in Aslan's conversations is to somehow rehabilitate the image of Islam to enlarge it to be something more than the "media" in its need for extremes and sensationalism allows for. Fair enough. But in that quest it seems to me that essential points are missed and muddled.

So, to question the premise of the argument "Because not all 1.3B Muslims are the same and there is no Islamic "Pope" to decide what Islam is" you cannot paint Islam with any brush of common center.

This seems to be bogus on the face of it.  Of course there are cultural, geographic and even core belief differences in how any belief system is worked out  in different areas. Buddhism has its dialects as do all other large scale religious belief systems, yet there are core values and teachings that are not contingent upon local inflections.  The useful question, it seems to me, is to look into what is foundational and similar/common across the sects, and what delineates them from one another. Particularly the elements of the “faith”, as opposed to simple cultural and geographical distinctions. And then adduce how these elements influence the behaviors and actions of the adherents. And this can be viewed at any number of levels, from the individual to the more relevant, for this conversation, level of the state and sect.

That does not mean we excuse the behaviors of one sect - Say any of the Middle East extremes - because of the relative quietude of other regions/sects. (And I suspect even that assertion would be a worthy subject of inquiry ).

Instead of looking at what the underlying principles that animate the ISIS, or Syria, or Hamas, or Iranian Mullahs, and etc… , but also the more “respectable” versions of Islamic states, like Egypt, or Saudi Arabia the point gets muddled in an logical error of averages.  “1.3Billion Muslims and most of them are not chopping peoples heads off, or torturing their women, or killing Coptic Christians, or … so it can’t be Islam as a core religious belief”… Huge error in thinking and a distraction of an essential point - to wit : that these things are going on by a huge segment of the Middle Eastern versions.

It would have been instructive to have some detail on the difference between "the good Islamic states" - the ones that were said to have incorporated democracy - or whatever point was being adduced to make the assertion what a ‘ “good Islamic state looked like - (it was not clear…another muddle of assertions without any foundational supporting ideas) - and the powers animating some of the versions in the Middle East, presumably the "bad, or extreme" versions.    

One of the points made as if in some trump card victory over those who question the congruence of Islam and Democracy was “there are many places where Islam is part of a democracy”. There were no specifics given, so I suppose Aslan must be referring to India, Pakistan?, and maybe parts of Indonesia? Who knows… either way, I cannot think of an example where a primarily Islamic country is also a thriving democracy, and examples like India are fraught with much difficulty in practice. A discussion on what these underlying principles are and why Islamic cultures work out the way they do would have been useful. Something more than broad, unspecified assertions. Something that looked into the paradigmatic requirements for democracy to exist and the harmony, or dissonance, of the Islamic “paradigm” vis a vis democracy. (And then one could further example and compare this to the various “sects” of democracy citing the American version vs European and etc.)

Another fallacy normally asserted in defense of Islam is that “Christianity did it, and does it too”.   This was muted on this show, but still present. I think it a strange argument that has little weight with me. It seems to me when I have seen Aslan on other shows making this point more explicitly, as if to say, “you guys do it too you know…”, that he means to divert the point. In my view Christians do not get to deny the terrors and errors of the Catholic, as well as early Protestant sects just because "they don't believe the same as we do".  In fact I think there must be some understanding of the development of the religious mind as it goes through various phases from being a ‘startup’ cult, to attempt to be part of the mainstream, to becoming the dominant religious system… to where it shifts and becomes the persecutor of “heretics”, and etc. Christianity and Islam seems to follow the pattern.

But if one wishes to make that argument it seems to me that it is required, at the least, to identify just what the foundational differences are. Meaning, what are the deeper principles out of which things are being done and/or justified that contradict the fundamental, values and beliefs of those who would claim "They are not real Muslims.." (or Christians etc.)  It seems to me that statement cannot be legitimately proffered without some sense of what the distinctions are - not just in actions, but in the underlying beliefs and values that enable, even requires, the actions done.

It was this point of inquiry I was specifically hoping might be able to emerge out of this discussion.  I was disappointed to be regaled only with simplicities, distractions, straw men arguments, and avoidance. 

One example of this was the strange segment about the new atheists.  Whatever else may be true about that group I doubt they would agree to any of the facile characterizations offered.  Jeff from Ashville below makes the point so I wont duplicate it.  Except to add, it isnt just Jeff who doesn’t believe these things but even those specifically named would reject out of hand these charges. It would be an interesting counterpoint to have someone like Sam Harris on. He would be a forceful counter voice I suspect. But he is not one to make sweeping statements as was attributed to him. Certainly not without context.

There is a toxic component to religion regardless of the particular tenants of the religion.  So saying, it seems to me that religions borne out of the desert experience seem to have a particular tendency toward what we like to call “extremist” sects. Why that is so is something that could have been discussed. The list of things that could have been addressed are many…For example the point was made that ISIS is killing mostly other Muslims and is being fought by other Muslims, as if that somehow certified them as being a sect outside the pall of “respectable Muslims”. There was no detailing of these gross classifications to point out that those who are killed are considered reprobates or heretics from the faith, not unlike was done under Mohammed in the beginning when the religion was getting established, nor the motivations of those who are fighting them. I don’t have a full history or background on these questions (which is why it would have been so useful to have such things addressed by a scholar!) - but I am reasonably certain that those fighting ISIS et al, are not doing it for the purity of the faith..rather more tribal level fights over power, territory and overall influence. Maybe part of the fight is tribal versions of the “faith” as seems to dominate the Middle East as is exampled by the irreducible violence between the Sunni and Shia sects.

I think the real discussion is to be found somewhere in this area, and not in the glib assertions of Aslan on this show, nor the logical errors made in justifying one sect by pointing out the same thing done in others. I know it was not the intent of the show to do this level of explanation..but the questions were sitting there begging to be addressed. An opportunity missed. I know the show that I wanted to hear was unlikely. I was disappointed that it ended up driving through what seems to me to be well worn talking points and various assertions. “Next year in Jerusalem”.

Listening to the "Islam's Reformation" episode of "On Being" is a painful experience for anyone who respects journalistic integrity and anyone who loves Muslims and wants them to be both free and safe. We will not get from our current status of war and fear to the desired status of peace and love by dodging the truth with false relativism. No, Krista Tippett, Islam is *not* just like Christianity, no matter how many times you repeat that silly mantra. Islam needs to be examined honestly. Only honest and *fearless* speech will make the world safer for Muslims and non Muslims alike.

Krista, you are too nice, too gullible. You let your Islamic guests off without any tough questions. I'm glad he wants to see a "Reformation" of Islam. But he does not show the guts that Luther showed. Because Luther specified 95 theses that he nailed to the church door, practices he wanted the Church to address or change. Your guest, though talking about a "reformation," never gets Luther-like specific. He's all talk & wishful thinking.

Nor do you nail him down. Because you have not done your homework. You let him escape, without facing the blatant prescriptive murderous & domination facts of the Koran.

I grant that the Old Testament has wars and genocide in it. Moses was a warlord, and Jehovah ordered Joshua to take the "land of milk & honey" by the sword." But that is ancient, descriptive history. Not currently prescriptive directions.

And you apparently have not read the Koran. Islam is a religion of domination, and orders its followers to kill those who refuse to acknowledge Allah as god, even today, ISIS-like. Or, to pay a tax, a jizya, and be belittled in doing it. It is a religion of hate & domination. You need to read the Koran. But, because it is very confusing to read, get yourself the "Two Hour Koran." Use a red pen to circle the hate directives in it. Then count them up.

Look at what JihadWatch online reports daily. The ISIS butchers are following the Koran to the letter. Nice Christians like you, because you come from a religion of love, let wily Muslims off with soft-ball questions.

I think you are a wonderful person, & I catch your program quite often. But you are letting too many of your guests treat you like a plaything. Your guest was not a bad person. Just a hopeful one, also somewhat scholarly, who avoided facing unpleasant truths in the Koran. He lacked the courage and specificity of a Luther.

And, perhaps for good reason. Because criticism of the Koran can get you killed by your fellow Muslims. To become an apostate is to invite your fellow Muslims, even your own family, to kill you. Read the Koran.

Mike Murphy I respectfully disagree with you. I think Krista was driving the agenda here. If I remember correctly, it was Krista who insisted on relativism. It was Krista who insisted that Islam is just like Christianity. Again, if I remember correctly, Krista said something like, "Six hundred years ago, Christianity was violent just like Islam is today." I listened to the program only once so I may be remembering this wrong, so I can't swear to this, but I think it was Krista who established the agenda of a non critical, fact obfuscating exculpation of Islam.

What a crock. Resa Aslan needs to read more history. He is badly read.

Take a few minutes and read a few pages from Robert Briffault's 1919 "The Making of History." If you are time-challenged, start on page 188 and read for 20 pages.

Aslan also needs to read Joseph McCabe.

While the kings and queens of Europe were living in one-room barns with their animals and a single hole out of the roof to let smoke escape, the Moors of Islamic Cordova in Spain were building extraordinary palaces, libraries, public gardens and fountains which they irrigated with engineering feats only discovered by our world in the 20th C. They had paved roads and raised sidewalks, the trees were lit at night with lamps for “tens of miles.” They had 15,000 markets filled with goods from Russia, China, and India, and nearly 1,000 pubic baths. That was in 900 A.D.

Cordova, according to preserved 900-1000 A.D. writings from Christian monks and Jewish scribes, was the center of culture, mathematics, literature, science, and learning. Islam brought this knowledge to the Dark Ages of Europe. It was the monks and scribes who carried this knowledge to their dark corners back home. It was the Christians and Jews who were illiterate. While Europe was struggling to figure out the fourth principle of Euclid, Cordova had mastered trigonometry. Copernicus learned that the earth revolved around the sun from translated Islamic science. Ditto Kepler and Galileo. Leonardo da Vinci learned of flight from translated Cordova documents. The scientific method we use today was invented by an Islamic scientist (Ibn Al-Haytham). There was nothing like the arc of knowledge that extended from Cordova and Toledo in Spain to Baghdad and Tehran in present-day Iraq and Iran for hundreds of years until Queen Isabella kicked the Muslims out of Spain in the 1480s (and the Jews in 1492). The ~1,000 years of Islamic knowledge has never been seen before, or after, in human history.

Medical tools used in an operating room *today* are unchanged from the days of Islamic medical science 1,100 years ago. Cedar-Sinai Hospital uses Islamic medical tools. Today. Right now. Watch the short video, “1001 Inventions and The Library of Secrets”.

The notion that Islamic scholars were the only ones who could read the Koran is laughable. A Muslim told me that the first word in the Koran is “Read!” Their prophet places knowledge above all else except God. Briffault describes how Muslims traveled with “camel-trains” of books, their traveling library. One of the two great universities in Timbuktu (Mali) had 22,000 students.

I am not a Muslim. What I am is someone who is fed up with being lied to with self-serving bilge. We deserve to know what came before us without varnish or filters.

This episode was breath of fresh air for me. My grandparents have sadly turned to xenophobia sourcing everything from within the xenophobic Christian community. They are sold on the fact that Islam is the tool that will seal the beginning of end times. Both are very open to civilized discussion however I can never bring the facts to the table in an authentic manner that seems second nature to Aslan. Hopefully this episode will give them cause to question the hateful community they have been looking to.

I found the attempt to tie Anti-Theism to radical Islam disgusting. Mr. Aslan makes a claim of Anti-Theism harboring violent players just as radical Islam does. He does not point to multiple instances of actual violence done at the direction of Anti-Theist leaders when a multitude can be said of the Islamists. And he claims that Fundamentalism is a sign of progress. These ideas have been inseparable from their religions since their inceptions. It is ridiculous to claim that it is a reaction, when it is the FUNDAMENTAL idea of the entire religion we are talking about.

It boggles my mind that Western progressives are so enamoured with Islam, when its core scripture equates women with dogs and requires the death penalty for homosexuality. Such whitewashed apologetics seem to be driven in part by a Western Stockholm Syndrome after 9/11 and a desire to bring Christianity down a peg. Just look at commenters like "Oryx," who now feel justified in his stereotyping of his Christian family members as "xenophobic" for their very genuine concern about violent, militant Islam.

The half-truths and outright falsehoods presented here deny the obvious: Islam, created by a violent, psychopathic mass murderer, is violent and oppressive in core doctrine and thus in action. For Aslan to think that any such a religion is capable of fully reforming is naive at best. But does the truth really matter when we can make ourselves appear to be so much more "reasonable" than the "Islamophobic !%!#s" as Aslan has tweeted? Yes, we get it. It's hip to be multi-cultural and oh-so-understanding - while we speak in our "reasonable" NPR voices. We shall all bow down to your superior tolerance.

The statement by Aslan was so true that data will not address bigotry. The only thing that will address bigotry is relationships. I got to thinking, how many Muslims do I know? I have met many, many in my world-wide travels. I cannot say that I know a single Muslim in my own community. I know that they exist, but I have not met any.

Krista you present only one point of view on Islam. Please share your microphone with others who present another point of view. Please invite Robert Spencer, Joe Carey, David Wood, Raymond Ibrahim, Bat Yeor, Andrew Bostom, Eric Allen Bell, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders ... someone who might say something with which you might disagree but which your listeners deserve to hear.

I was heartened by this show. My appologies to those who didn't listen to the whole program, but this was about folks of a different stripe being not so different from us after all. Yes, I learned reformation began at the "twilight of colonialism," that as a system decentralizes and individualism is recognized, it promotes a period of wildly divergent ideologies; I learned of Islamic scholars, leaders and plain old people (like me) are standing and fighting against the atrocities of ISIS and it's ilk. I was intrigued by the parallels to the Reformation and and how bloody this was in places like Martin Luther's Germany (and I might add Cromwell's England) It was about the PROCESS of reformation WITHIN a religion that exists WITHIN many cultures. I think think the message of the program could be summed up by the statements at the end of the show regarding discouragement and hope, and that hope lives in the movements of individuals.

An excellent program! And how revealing to read peoples reflections and discover what they took away from the interview. I appreciated Reza's explanation of religion in the context of history. His insight of reformation as each individuals right to interpret ideology for themselves is significant. The fact that criminals are using religion around the world to cloak themselves in some kind of legitamacy is as old as it is wrong. That the Muslim religion has contributed as much if not more than Greeks, Israelites and Europeans is evident. It is when diverse cultures are willing to respect and share their values and knowledge that life can thrive. I think Krista did a great job in allowing Mr. Aslan to give us his condensed sense of where we are and how we got here. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

His pause to speak out against ISIS violence spoke volumes. While the question may have been offensive to the host,perhaps, it's the same indifference and lack of empathy for the victims that that fosters the anti-islam sentiment today. Call it for what it is - pure evil bastardizing a beautiful religion.

I liked the episode, but I was very disappointed in the analogy that Mr.Aslan made ofIslamic public image to the problem that anti-theist Atheists cause for Atheism. How can he even go there without mentioning the vastly larger anti-secular subgrousp of Religions that are vastly more vocal, hateful and more violent than any part of Atheism!

While I have no idea how much of my taxpayer dollars go to pay for this program, judging by the number of people on staff for what should be a modest production, I can guess producing this program is not done on the cheap. It is therefore highly insulting that the moderators here will only let the mildest criticisms of Islam through. Had Mohammed been born in America, and founded a religion like Mormonism or Scientology, these same self-effacing apologists for Islam would not only be leading the charge to criticize, but first in line for the mocking Broadway show. But criticize a religion that isn't from the Western world? Well, you must be an "Islamophobe." Compare the life of Mohammed to Jesus or Buddha and then tell me with a straight face Islam is equivalent or truly capable of reform.

Saying Islam, in and of itself, is incapable of reform seems a bit off to me. There are millions of Muslims that live their life in democracies and in modernized environments. There are millions of Muslims that have contemporized their values to adapt to their environments. As a case in point, look at the millions of Muslims that live in the United States and Canada; just living their lives within the American and Canadian structures of government. This, of course, is with the exception of a few "lone wolf" attacks. A Muslim in America is no less Muslim than a Muslim in Iraq or Syria. What we are seeing now, mainly, is an issue with a particular region, and that is the Middle East. While the Middle East is certainly the heart of Islam, the majority of Muslims don't even live in the Middle East. I would argue it has much more to do with the political and economic structures in these states, because we have seen that Muslims can live in modernized societies just like anyone else.

This religious reformation, particularly in the Middle East, needs to be aided by political and economic reformation. In states run by autocrats that procure wealth from their resources such as oil,mainly from business with external entities and states, these developments have essentially been nonexistent. As political and economic reform takes place,religious reform would inevitably follow in a way to adapt to the environment. This is assuming these reforms would consist of modernization; more open markets and pluralism...At least, in my opinion, it would really help the process.

I thought the atheist and anti-theist statistics and commentary by Alsan were quite a stretch and out of place. He strikes me as someone who has been hurt by debating people like Sam Harris, who can easily tear apart most of his arguments and supposed beliefs. So he takes a jab at anti-theists when they aren't there to give a retort.

I was surprised to hear Dr. Aslan's claim (and have Ms. Tippett concur) the false assertion that "New Atheists" believe religion must be excised from society... by force, if necessary. This sort of fallacy only serves to poison the well. I am also an "anti-theist" - I think religion is characteristically "untrue," and on the whole, harmful - but I welcome religion to the marketplace of ideas. I would be greatly troubled calling myself a "new atheist" if this included any subjecting of religious observance to "force," and I have heard none of the "new-atheists" advocate anything such thing.

But to the contrary of Dr. Aslan's claims, it might be counter-argued that the 20% of "nones" in the U.S. are unrepresented by an similar but opposite "force." Consider, for example, that these 20% nones are represented by just 0.2% of Congress (that's 100 times under-represented).

Such derogatory (and false) claims undermine the enlightened tradition of this radio program.

What you say towards the end of the episode about how we can't just say about extreme and even abhorent groups "they are not us" is so true, and so painful. I live in Israel. The way pride and shame can alternate in one in just a few moments (especially reading social media comments by people I know or know of) can be so exhausting, I sometimes wonder where we will all (but me in particular) find the energy to jointly lean towards hope and healthy relationships.

I enjoyed listening to this interview. I found Reza Alan to be intelligent, witty and very reasonable. As always, Krista Tippet is well informed and asks the right questions to keep the interview interesting. I also agree with Reza when he says that minds are not changed by data, they are changed by experiences and relationships. As a society, we judge others too quickly and too often.

As a student enrolled in a philosophy of western religions class, this episode was particularly interesting. The ideas of Islam are very new to me and Reza did a nice job explaining the different cultures within Islam. Reza mentioned that Islam does not have governing leadership body and therefore Koran interpretations are left to the individual which creates extremist both good and bad.

Another interesting idea was the extreme growth rate prediction Reza talked about. Islam currently has 1.6 billion followers and Reza said it is predicted to exceed Christianity which has about 2.4 billion followers. I would be interested to know what is to be attributed to this growth.

People keep saying that Islam needs to be reformed but people don’t realize that Reformation has been going on in Islam for about a century already. Reformation is a fundamental conflict in politics and the interpretation of a religion. Literacy and Education and Individualism hurt the previous authoritative hold over the people in Islam. There is nothing different between Islam and the other major religions. They are all trying to keep up with the world and stay up to date. They all have people who wish to place their ideas into law and help define the religions. This is part of why there is so much violence and conflict involved. We don’t realize that the violence we see is a direct result of the reformation. All we see is violence so we automatically assume they are a violent people. All great religions deal with the same conflicts of politics, violence and reality
With our media now days, it really places Islam on the radar when their conflict of reformation is really no different than Christian reformation. There is just more advertising and we are seeing more of the violence. Aslan thinks that there would be less hate towards Muslims if people actually got to know them. We only know what we see on TV. We don’t know from experience who they are. We need to get to know them. The same thing happened to Jews back in the day and the Catholics. Most of the fear is coming from what happened on 9/11. People seem to think that the whole population of Muslims is violent like that and it’s not true. Muslims have a lot of the same beliefs as we do. Our religions are not as different as people like to think.
People are way too quick to judge a whole group because of a few insane extremists. This is not fair to the rest of the people of a particular religion. Extremists and Radicals are not what a religion should be judged by. Not everyone believes the same thing. Some Christians are way over the top much like some of the Muslims that we hear about right now. This is where the fear stems from. People group the whole population with the few crazies.
Honestly learning about Islam has greatly changed mind about the religion and its people. I used to view them like the media portrays them. Let’s face it; the media is horrible at portraying people. I was one of those who were quick to judge and education has greatly changed that.

Krista Tippett criticizes the New Atheism movement by pointing out what she sees as the movement’s failure to recognize that “the culture has moved on.” She says, “there’s been a lot of really interesting kind of synthesis and integration and conversation across divides of religious and non-religious, secular and religious…” This statement, coming from someone who describes herself as “an observer of religion,” could not possibly be more off the mark. Obviously Krista has spent too much time among ivory-tower theologians and is completely out of touch with mainstream culture. In a world where belief in supernatural agency is an unofficial prerequisite for holding public office, the culture has not moved on. In a world where atheists must remain closeted or else face social ostracism and loss of employment, the culture has not moved on. In a world where the average Christian thinks that mythical stories such as Adam & Eve and the Noahic Flood are “true history” (to speak in the vernacular), the culture has not moved on. In a world where the children of Christian parents are being withdrawn from public school systems in order to prevent them from learning certain facts of science and history, the culture has not moved on. In a world where distrust and dislike are the default looks that a known atheist will meet in the eyes of her fellow human beings, the culture has not moved on.

Krista also criticizes the New Atheists for not being constructive. In her view, the New Atheists only tear down and destroy, they never build or create. Apparently, Krista either hasn’t actually read the New Atheists, or else she is deliberately (and dishonestly) trying to bias her audience against them. I do not count myself among the New Atheists, but I have read some of their books. They constantly advocate for humanist ethics. They constantly advocate for the appreciation and preservation of the natural world. They constantly advocate for the education and edification of humanity. How are these things not constructive?

Finally, Reza Aslan’s attempt to turn the New Atheists into some kind of authoritarian despots by associating them with people who would purge religion from society by force is so intellectually dishonest that I must conclude that Reza is deliberately trying to mislead the audience. Pray tell, Reza, who in the New Atheist movement ever advocated for the removal of religion from society by force?

Reza Aslan says nothing about the antisemitism that has permeated the Arab and Muslim worlds. Most of this antisemitism originated in Christian Europe and first entered the Arab world along with colonialism way before Israel was established. This antisemitism affects most Muslims whether they are fundamentalists or not. Several journalist have talked about antisemitism among generally secular Arabs and Muslims.

Other atheists have commented on the inaccurate and misleading (deceitful?) information proffered by Aslan and Tippett in this interview, so I won't go far into it. Their digression into atheism, the weak and ignorant dalliance that it was, missed an opportune transition...indicative of Tippett's failure as an interviewer (here...she's usually very good!) and Aslan's cowardice as a proponent of religion. One thing "new" in atheism is the rise of both vocal and necessarily underground atheists in the so-called "Muslim world". And what is the response? In many cases, physical violence and death threats, and in others, punishment of some kind, including prison sentences. Why? Because within the doctrines of Islam apostates are dealt with harshly. To varying degrees, from vast majorities to disturbingly high minorities, Muslim populations in numerous Muslim countries believe in and support harsh treatment of apostates. When someone like Sam Harris criticizes Islam, he is criticizing doctrines such as this. Doctrines, not Muslim people, necessarily, except for those Muslims who might want to kill apostates! Reza Aslan only talks about how lots of Muslims don't want to kill apostates (depending on the country, true!), but he will never address the Islamic doctrine itself! The reform that needs to take place is for Muslims to be able to read the Quran and the Hadith, read passages about how to deal with apostates, and ignore these and other passages calling for violence, in the same way that Christians ignore passages in the Bible that call for the stoning to death of adulterers, for example. I'm waiting for Aslan to say the same. Still waiting...

Having read about the Reformation of Christianity(which included a signficant number of Inquisitions, and numerous Christians killing Christians,) I found Aslans discussion of the Islamic Reformation a door opener to more thorough research. I've read Karen Armstrong's book on Islam and see the parallels between the many Christianities and the many forms of Islam. Overall, I think that Aslan did a very good job painting an overview of the Islamic challenge to other Muslims and to us as non-Muslims.

I'm sharing this because it challenges the assumption that the Crusades were Christianity's violent past comparable to Islam's current violence. It seems to go completely unnoticed, but is so important and contrary to the general understanding of the Crusades, Christianity, and Islam.

Christianity does not have a violent past like Islam. More like, Islam has been at this forever. There is much information available. I've quoted random sources that I found quickest in a search.

"The Crusades were a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense."

Islam (Ishmael) has roots in The Bible's Genesis:
"The angel of the LORD also said to her: "You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." Genesis 16:11-12

The story of Ishmael (Islam) and then Isaac (Christianity) can be followed somewhere around there, maybe Genesis 16 through 17 or 18 and onward.

Elimination of religion in the world would eliminate good being done and hurt being done. Elimination of spirituality would only hurt this world.

Wow, lots of haters. I, for one, would be interested to know how many of them here have ever met a Muslim.

I didn't come into this episode expecting a full-on education in Islamic history from Reza. If you want that, get it yourself. Read a damn book. (Or a dozen damn books, because that's at least how many you'll have to read to arrive at any remotely nuanced understanding.)

I listened to this interview because I wanted Reza's personal insights, and that's what I got. "This is an episode that cried for some understanding about how indeed modern events are a reflection of an Islamic reformation." Really? So that part about how his family fled Iran after the return Khomenini meant nothing? His discussion of the Arab Spring, too?

It sounds to me like a lot of people came into this episode looking for validation of their monolithic views on Islam. They didn't get it because guess what? Islam is not monolithic.

Better luck next time, y'all.

Regarding the issue of Islamic Reform that you noted- I have a site devoted to exploring the religious ideas that are behind the violence that we see in religions like Islam ( ). There is no more influential religious idea than the idea of violence in God- humanity’s highest ideal and authority. This ideal of violent deity (i.e. God using violence to solve problems) has long validated violence in human life and society.

I trace the descent of this idea over history and its immensely damaging impact on human consciousness (i.e. from Sumerian myth down into Zoroastrianism and Western religions, and then into secularized versions such as “revenge of Gaia”).

All three Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, Islam- share the same core template of ideas, that of apocalyptic mythology. This apocalyptic mythology is rooted in the foundational idea of violent, punitive, and vengeful deity.

Contemporary Islam continues to feed on the mother theology of Christianity to drive its violent apocalyptic movement (for detail see David Cook’s “Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature”). We do not solve the problem of violence thoroughly and for the long term until we fully humanize the core of all three faiths. Most critical is the humanization of the core ideal of deity.

We have the potent alternative to violent deity mythology- the “no conditions” reality of authentically humane existence. Again, see

Regards, Wendell Krossa

The Three Abrahamic Faiths

The actual problem lies within the Three Abrahamic Faiths.
The Jews have got their Zionists
The Christians are overshadowed by the Neo-Conservatives
The Muslims are being savaged by the Wahhabists and its widespread tentacles - Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, and so on. Besides, The Muslim Brands - Sunnis and Shi'ites, and the sub-brands, in the 21st century are counter to the Qur'anic Epistemology.

It should be mentioned, en passant, that the repulsive divisions among those who call themselves Muslims are simply against the Quar'nic calls for the Homo-sapiens well-being on this splendid planet. Not UTOPIAN, but CHANGE for Man's socio-economic and political welfare, and respect for the Flora and the Fauna, continually.

Meanwhile, Peace, La Paix, Shalom and Salaam.

Umar Solim - England