The Life of Jesus: Reza Aslan Talks About ‘Zealot’

In a recent interview heard round the world (or at least, round influential Twitter feeds), the Fox News host Lauren Green spoke to Reza Aslan about his new book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” Ms. Green’s focus on why Mr. Aslan, a Muslim, would write about Jesus, created a stir on social media (and traditional media), bringing more attention to the book, which was already on The New York Times best-seller list.

 

“Zealot” argues that the historical Jesus was a Jewish revolutionary interested in overthrowing Roman rule in Palestine, not in establishing a celestial kingdom, and that he would not have understood the idea of being God incarnate. In a recent phone interview, Mr. Aslan discussed the strong reactions to his book, his desire to reach a Christian audience, the difficulty of writing about ancient history and more. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation:

 

The Top 5 Most Islamophobic Reactions to Huma Abedin

Anthony Weiner’s wife has stood by him in a baffling show of support – and the media, both mainstream and right-wing does not know what to make of it.


With all the talk surrounding Anthony Weiner’s ( second!) sexting scandal, and what it means for his chances for an electoral comeback (not looking good), his wife Huma Abedin, the Michigan-born, Saudi Arabia-raised, former aide to Hillary Clinton is coming in for her share of totally speculative, and unflattering coverage.  There is the puzzle of why a woman of her stature is sticking with a man of Weiner’s ever-diminishing one, as well as depressiingly ignorant speculation about what her ethnic background has to do with all this.

And much of it, as should be expected, has been tinged with that unique sort of racism called Islamophobia, often concluding that her baffling resolve to stand by her man is the result of her ethnic background as a Saudi woman—as opposed to, you know, her personal choices as a human being capable of asserting free will.

 

Below are some of the best (by which I mean absolute worst,) most egregious offenders of this subtle, patronizing form of racism, a.k.a. Islamophobia, that is so pronounced on the right, but which you will find among some so-called liberals too. Some familiar faces will appear (shout out to Rush Limbaugh for never missing an opportunity) while others may take you by surprise (really Maureen Dowd?) Here are the contenders:

 

1. Andrew McCarthy, National Review

2. Mark Jacobson, New York Magazine

3. Elizabeth Wurtzel, Personal Twitter Account

4. Maureen Dowd, New York Times

5.  Rush Limbaugh, Of course.

130 Men Are Starving Themselves to Death Because Political Cowardice Keeps Them Locked Up in Guantanamo

86 Guantanamo prisoners have been cleared for release, yet they rot in prison far from their families. Their only hope is for the world to pay attention again. The U.S. military has acknowledged for the first time the number of prisoners on hunger strike at the military prison has topped 100. About a fifth of the hunger strikers are now being force-fed. Lawyers for the prisoners say more than 130 men are taking part in the hunger strike, which began in February. One of the hunger strikers is a Yemeni man named Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel. In a letter published in The New York Times, he wrote: “Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made. I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.” We speak to attorney Carlos Warner, who represents 11 prisoners at Guantánamo. He spoke to one of them on Friday. “Unfortunately, they’re held because the president has no political will to end Guantánamo,” Warner says. “The president has the authority to transfer individuals if he believes that it’s in the interests of the United States. But he doesn’t have the political will to do so because 166 men in Guantánamo don’t have much pull in the United States. But the average American on the street does not understand that half of these men, 86 of the men, are cleared for release.”

Number of converts to Islam rises in France

03.01.2013

The New York Times

The New York Times reports of a rise in conversions to Islam in France. According to the paper, a virtual doubling of conversions took place within the last 25 years in the country. Of the estimated six million Muslims in France about 100,000 – 200,000 are thought to be converts. It is said to pose a challenge to both state and society’s relation to Muslim faith and community, specifically in respect to national and international anti-terrorism policies

Converts are named critical elements for the rise of terrorism in Europe by being prone to be more invisible, mobile and in need to overcompensate their novelty to faith. The article names prisons to be fertile grounds for conversions where according to reports 1/3 of the inmate population in France are Muslim. Gordard, who is responsible for religious affairs in the Office of the Secretary of State and a former intelligence office, identifies the forms of conversions to have come under change.  As such, conversions today often take place as means of “reverse integration” that aid to socially integrate  non-Muslims into predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods in the metropolitan suburbs. The population most susceptible to conversions are men beyond the age of 40 who were born in former French colonies or overseas territories.

According to scholars and converts themselves, “Islam has come to represent not only a sort of social norm but also a refuge, an alternative to the ambient misery”.

The Legacy of CBC’s ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’

Toronto.com – March 24, 2012

 

Before Little Mosque on the Prairie premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2007, there were strategic meetings to discuss marketing and promotion. Confusion about how to promote the show was soon eclipsed by unhinged fears about what might happen after it aired. It is now in more than 80 foreign markets, including Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, South Africa and Spain.

The show premiered on January 9, 2007. Soon after, jitters over any mass protest — every media outlet from CNN to the New York Times dispatched reporters to do advance stories — vanished inside the fictional town of Mercy, Sask. Little Mosque was a lighthearted comedy. The first episode, like every one that would follow, was neither inflammatory nor uproarious. Unlike some American dramas that arrived after 9/11 — The Unit, Threat Matrix, E-Ring, Sleeper Cell, and most conspicuously, Fox’s 24 — the characters in Mercy were mercifully benign. They were just struggling to get through the day. They were, in a word, “normal.”

Minoo Derayeh, a professor in the department of humanities at York University, uses Little Mosque in class to draw attention to social issues inside modern-day Islam.  Ozlem Sensoy, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University, says The Cosby Show arrived during the Reagan era, during a time when heated rhetoric about brutish young black men and a dangerous ghetto culture was widespread.  “I think Little Mosque on the Prairie has a similar place. It also grew out of a particular social moment, 9/11, and had these pedagogical goals — teaching white folks about a different kind of Muslim person in the context in which Muslim men had become the new brute, the new group to be feared.”

Minelle Mahtani, a professor in the department of geography and program in journalism at the University of Toronto, has mixed feelings about Little Mosque. “The show has gone a long way in helping Western audiences see beyond the tired stereotype of Muslims as barbaric, exotic, dangerous and primitive,” she says. “But I think we have to be really careful about the ways we commodify Muslim identity through popular representations. Whose Muslim voice is showcased here?”

“I think it was a terrible comedy,” says broadcaster and author Tarek Fatah. “And I think it survived purely because of what I call ‘white man’s guilt.’ If this were any other group of people, it would have been shut down in a month. Most people watched it with the fear that if they didn’t laugh, they’d be considered racist. It was a massive fraud.”

In 2007, Little Mosque received an award from the Search for Common Ground, a human rights organization that had previously bestowed honours on Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter. That same year, the show was snubbed for a best comedy Gemini.

New York Times Says Running Pam Geller’s Anti-Islam Ad Could Put Lives In Danger

The New York Times found itself at the center of a controversy on Thursday over its refusal to immediately run an anti-Islam ad.

Fox News and the Daily Caller ran stories questioning whether the Times’ decision to indefinitely delay publishing ad was a sign the paper had a religious double-standard.

The articles note that the Times previously ran an anti-Catholic ad that, among other things, said faith in the religion was misplaced, “after two decades of sex scandals involving preying priests, church complicity, collusion and cover-up going all the way to the top.”

But when Stop Islamization of America director Pamela Geller asked to run a paid advertisement with a similar style and anti-Islam message, the Times refused, at least for now, telling Geller that “the fallout from running this ad now could put U.S. troops and/or civilians in the [Afghan] region in danger.”

But the Times didn’t shut the door to running the ad altogether.

Geller told the Daily Caller she doubts the Times will ever run the ad because, in her words, “when is it ever a good time to blaspheme under the Sharia?”

Mediaite isn’t buying the Times’ argument either.

“The bottom line is that both ads are terrible, and justifying that it’s safer to bash one religion over another is a tactless approach on the Times’s part,” Mediaite wrote.

NYC mosque developer taking slower approach to project near ground zero

NEW YORK — The developer of an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero says it may take years to determine what kind of project Muslims and non-Muslims want.

Sharif El-Gamal tells The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/qXbGwi) that decisions will be made after consultation with lower Manhattan residents and New York City-area Muslims.

El-Gamal says that in the past year he’s built relationships with neighborhood groups. He’s recruited a 9/11 victim’s relative to his advisory board and sought donors from around the country. He concedes he should have done those things before going public with the project.

He also says he’ll only accept money from sources that reflect “American values.”
El-Gamal’s vision for the project remains unchanged: a mosque, health club, theater and religious and interfaith programming open to all.

Canadian Irshad Manji releases new book

News Agencies – June 10, 2011

 

Canadian author Irshad Manji writes in her new work, Allah, Liberty & Love, that she has moved from “anger to aspiration.” A rallying cry to readers to question orthodoxy without fear, the book concludes with the suggestion they get together to trade ideas. Manji even includes a recipe for chai tea to fuel such discussions. Anger was at the centre of The Trouble with Islam, her 2003 worldwide bestseller decrying her own religion’s entrenched prejudice against Jews and injustice toward women. The book earned her many fans but also hate mail, pinched-face cranks calling her the daughter of Satan, and even a smiling man who leaned in to shake her hand but instead spat in her face.

 

Manji now lives in a book-filled apartment — she calls it her Manji cave — in New York’s Greenwich Village, where she moved in 2008 to launch the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. In the course, she encourages students to “challenge intellectual conformity and self-censorship.” A regular on Bill Maher’s late-night HBO show — the audience cheers when she comes on the set — and on the networks MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Al Arabyia and, occasionally, FOX, she’s seen all over America and around the world. Manji writes twice monthly for The Globe and Mail, and contributes to The New York Times op-ed page and The Wall Street Journal.

Despite Manji’s wide audience in the U.S., her work has not resonated in parts of Canada’s mainstream Muslim community. “I don’t know why, but there seems to be little mention of Irshad in Muslim circles in Canada,” says Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

 

A Digital Critique of a Famous Autobiography

In the biography, which reached No. 3 on The New York Times nonfiction best-seller list, Professor Marable argues that the famous autobiography overstated Malcolm X’s past life of crime before joining the Nation of Islam and failed to discuss his political evolution toward political organizing after leaving the Nation.

And so the multimedia project — containing F.B.I. and New York Police Department files on Malcolm X, photographs, interviews with scholars and hundreds of detailed descriptions of important people, places, ideas and themes in his life is built around the autobiography.