In “Being Reza Aslan” in Al-Ahram Weekly, February 15, Ati Metwaly, amid torrents of praise for his subject, actually dares to criticize him — an extremely rare experience for this arrogant, foul-mouthed PC-media-created puffball, and one that probably has Aslan bombarding Metwaly with profane emails full of adolescent abuse today:
Aslan continuously entwines religion with politics to create a tool for analysing changes that take place in the world where religious principles regain importance or even make their way into political habitats. As such, Aslan’s expertise is very timely while his strong confidence in live appearances as well as in writing is enough to grant him media attention. At the same time, Aslan’s clarity of mind is his major success denominator, with Middle East politics providing a great arena for his talents. While How to Win Cosmic War is a brilliant scholarly presentation of very profound societal, cultural and political issues in which religion is a driving force, his academic theories sometimes fail to explain today’s reality, Egypt being one example. The perfect catalogue of religious extremism history does not necessarily lead to a perfect analysis of actual political and social scenes, on which Aslan nonetheless remains an outspoken commentator.
There is always something very tricky about renowned academics who capture and analyse reality through their magic ball of theoretical knowledge. Living in Egypt and experiencing firsthand the Middle East’s burdens, I can’t help picture Aslan on another continent, over 12 thousand km and one ocean away, enclosed in a huge library of which he must have read most volumes. He knows all that was written, no doubt; he follows the press and watches the news; his unique intelligence allows him to filter the data and provide a clear chain of ideas; and he translates his cumulative intellectual wealth into books which speak to millions….
His “unique intelligence” also leads him to write “than” for “then” and “clown’s” for “clowns”; to call Turkey the second most populous Muslim country and to refer to “the reincarnation, which Christianity talks about” — although he later claimed that one was a “typo.” His “unique intelligence,” in other words, is that of a marginally literate, unevenly educated charlatan with a talent for telling the mainstream media what it wants to hear.
…Egypt in particular returns in Aslan’s books and public appearances and becomes one of his hottest topics, especially after removal of Mohamed Morsi from power. In his 2009 How to Win Cosmic War, Aslan describes the Muslim Brotherhood as a force which can be successfully incorporated into the country’s political life. He writes: “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood quickly realised that the responsibilities that came with working within the government (rather than opposing it from without) left little room for radical ideologies. Far from trying to transform Egypt into a theocracy, as Arab rulers across the region had warned it would, the Brotherhood fully embraced the opportunity of political participation by creating alliances with liberal intellectuals and secular democrats in the parliament. … Gradually, the Muslim Brotherhood convinced even its staunchest critics that, given the opportunity, it could become a legitimate political force in Egyptian politics.”
Aslan’s statements formulated back in 2009 seem patently false today, as in 2013 we gained a new perspective pointing to how this legitimate political force chose to embrace the opportunity of political participation by systematically excluding all secular and later even all other Islamist forces including their bigger ally ultra-conservative Salafist Al-Nour Partywhich [sic] was kept completely out of power. Aslan replies however that time would have forced the Muslim Brotherhood to moderate their understanding of political participation. In our conversation, Aslan concentrated on the removal of Morsi from power and the consequences which according to him Egypt will face:
“When you give an Islamist organisation, whether it is Brotherhood or not, an opportunity to take part in the political process, one of two things always happens: Either they moderate their ideology and achieve political success like the Justice and Development party in Turkey for instance or they don’t and they fail like the Muslim Brotherhood did. I think that if they were removed in a political way, not in a violent military coup, then things would have been better,” he said, overlooking the fact that Egyptians have very little experience of the democratic process, or indeed of separating politics from (rhetorical) emotion….
The term “military coup” recurs whenever Aslan has commented on Egypt. In an interview with Huff Post Live, for instance, Aslan says, “Whatever you feel about the military or whatever you feel about Morsi, that’s fine. But get yourself a dictionary. Definition of ‘coup’ is a military that removed the civilian president from power. And people say ‘yeah, but there were 14 million people on the streets.’ Even if there were 80 million people on the streets, it still would be a coup. No matter how many people supported this.” Technical correctness aside, Aslan underscores Morsi’s and MB’s political incompetence.
“I’m not defending the Muslim Brotherhood. They were corrupt, they were inept. Morsi was an awful president and the MB did a terrible job in the year that they had. Many Egyptians would say that there was never an option [of political success] with the Muslim Brotherhood, that they were in the process of taking complete control over the society, but they [the MB] know that people power in Egypt has the ability to transform the government, to put pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood. The mistake was the whole notion. The military has been 50 years in absolute power in Egypt and one year out of it; [the military] cannot be trusted to be bearers of democracy,” Aslan was telling me in Jaipur, continuing to explain the consequences that will result from the removal of Morsi from power. “If you do not give an Islamist organisation like the MB, which is interested in nationalistic concerns, an opportunity to take part in a political process, if instead you oppress it violently, then what you do is you radicalise it. And worse, you create a situation where they begin to let go of their nationalist ambitions and instead begin to adopt global ambitions. In other words, they stop being Islamists and they start being Jihadists.”
There was no way to remove the Muslim Brotherhood from power through the political process. Morsi was busy closing off that option, having his foes arrested and menacing his opposition physically. So Aslan is effectively saying that Egypt should have accepted Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship, because otherwise the Brotherhood would become violent — in other words, give them what they want, or else they’ll kill you. Given his membership on the Board of a lobbying group for the Iranian mullahs, it is not surprising that Aslan would come out so nakedly for Sharia authoritarianism, but it should (but won’t) give pause to his uncritically adoring Leftist fanbase.
Yet it is world dominion through a Muslim Caliphate that drives most MB members; it was loudly advocated by Safwat Hegazi among other leading MB figures. In 2009 Hegazi was banned from entry to the UK for promoting hatred and was “considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by glorifying terrorist violence”. His famous statement “Whoever sprays Morsi with water will be sprayed with blood”, made during the June 2013 anti-Morsi protests, echoed on international scale. Sayyid Qutb, a seminal figure for MB members, openly points to his emotional closeness to the Malaysian Muslims while rejecting Egyptian Christians whom he considers “incomplete” or “non-believers”. How this kind of drive becomes “nationalistic aspirations” is not explained by Aslan. “Islamism,” he says, “is a force that can be dealt with, through political means (look at next door Tunisia), Jihadism cannot. Al Qaeda itself was created by a group of failed Islamists, people who had national ambitions in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia but those ambitions were violently crushed and they became Jihadists.”
It remains hard to accept the idea that, with all this in mind, integration is obligatory as otherwise we’ll face militarisation and terrorism, in this case: Jihad.
It’s hard to accept because what Aslan is saying is absurd and evil. He is saying, Accept Sharia peacefully, or Sharia will be violently imposed upon you.
By the way, Metwaly begins his piece with this howler:
…In this mind-stimulating assortment, several names drew my attention but in my notes a few lines underscored the name of Reza Aslan, the Iranian-born American writer and scholar who was to appear in a number of discussions. I chose Aslan for several reasons. He is a remarkable scholar of religions focusing on their history, origins and development. His lucid style and eloquence combines an in-depth academic approach with journalistic perceptiveness….
Here are some examples of Aslan’s lucid style and eloquence (click each to enlarge). Note that in every case he begins the abuse: