In yet another effort to exonerate Islam for the crimes done in accord with its commands and teachings, Islamic supremacist Reza Aslan (or whoever writes material for this none-too-bright adolescent) immediately contradicts himself: Bill Maher, according to the headline, “misunderstands religion,” but then Reza tells us in the article that religions are infinitely malleable, capable of being “molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires.” But if that were true, then it would be impossible to misunderstand them, because anything at all that one said about them would be as equally valid as any other view. Thus it would be impossible for Bill Maher, or anyone else, to misunderstand religion or Islam in particular.
What Aslan or his ghostwriter is claiming here is absolutely nihilistic. He’s saying essentially 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 don’t exist anyway, since religions are wholly and solely what people decide they will be. Can a religion’s teachings transform a believer into a “violent misogynist” or a “peaceful, democratic feminist”? 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. Religions don’t just depend on what the believer brings to them; believers are also shaped by what they teach. Religious teachings do have real content and neither can be nor are shaped by believers into whatever they like.
Note also the sleight of hand in his paragraph that attempts to establish that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all equally capable of inciting believers to violence. Aslan (or his ghost) doesn’t mention that I Samuel 15:3 is not an open-ended command to all believers, as is Qur’an 9:5; rather, it is a specific directive given to Saul regarding the Amalekites. If you are neither Saul nor an Amalekite, it doesn’t concern you. And as for Luke 22:36, Aslan doesn’t mention that shortly thereafter, when one of the disciples uses his sword and cuts off the ear of a slave of the high priest, Jesus rebukes the sword-bearer and heals the man’s ear (Luke 22:51).
And while examples are ready to hand of Muslims quoting Qur’an 9:5 to justify violence (including Osama bin Laden), Aslan can adduce not a single example of a Jew committing an act of violence and justifying it by referring to I Samuel 15:3, or a Christian committing an act of violence and justifying it by referring to Luke 22:36.
Also, while admonishing his readers that “no religion exists in a vacuum,” Aslan completely ignores the interpretative traditions of all three religions, and treats their scriptures as if they do indeed exist in a vacuum. They don’t. And neither Judaism nor Christianity, in any of their forms, have now or have ever had any doctrines equivalent to the Islamic doctrine that the Muslim community “makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians …until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax” (‘Umdat al-Salik O9.8). The quotation comes from a manual of Islamic law certified by the most prestigious and influential institution in Sunni Islam, al-Azhar, as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community.”
I challenge Reza Aslan to provide a quotation from any Jewish or Christian authority comparable to al-Azhar, calling upon believers to make war against and subjugate non-believers. He will, of course, ignore this challenge, or, if he does take note of it, he will respond as he has in the past, by calling me fat or gay or stupid, or all of the above, and ignoring the challenge. Aslan’s frenzied rudeness and obnoxiousness to those who dare to disagree with him is well documented. It also manifests, as it does in the case of Mia Bloom, a deep insecurity almost certainly born of the strain of having to spend one’s days putting forward and propping up fantasies and falsehoods.
“Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion,” by Reza Aslan, New York Times, October 8, 2014:
…No religion exists in a vacuum. On the contrary, every faith is rooted in the soil in which it is planted. It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their Scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives.
After all, scripture is meaningless without interpretation. Scripture requires a person to confront and interpret it in order for it to have any meaning. And the very act of interpreting a scripture necessarily involves bringing to it one’s own perspectives and prejudices.
The abiding nature of scripture rests not so much in its truth claims as it does in its malleability, its ability to be molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires. The same Bible that commands Jews to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) also exhorts them to “kill every man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey,” who worship any other God (1 Sam. 15:3). The same Jesus Christ who told his disciples to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) also told them that he had “not come to bring peace but the sword” (Matthew 10:34), and that “he who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). The same Quran that warns believers “if you kill one person it is as though you have killed all of humanity” (5:32) also commands them to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (9:5).
How a worshiper treats these conflicting commandments depends on the believer. If you are a violent misogynist, you will find plenty in your scriptures to justify your beliefs. If you are a peaceful, democratic feminist, you will also find justification in the scriptures for your point of view….