Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is a columnist at the Daily Beast. Reza Aslan has degrees in Religions from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors for both the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues, Abraham's Vision, an interfaith peace organization, and PEN USA.
Aslan's first book is the New York Times Bestseller, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into thirteen languages, short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award in the UK, and nominated for a PEN USA award for research Non-Fiction. His most recent book is How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror, followed by an edited anthology, Words Without Borders: Writings from the Middle East, which we will be published by Norton in 2010. Aslan is Cofounder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, a hub for creative content from and about the Middle East, as well as Editorial Executive of Mecca.com. Born in Iran, he now lives in Los Angeles where he is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.
Question: What is your question?
Reza Aslan: My question, I think, to not just the Muslim world but to the western world – in fact to everybody on every side of this so called clash of civilizations that we are supposed to be embroiled in right now – would be, “What is the civilization that you are talking about? What do you think of when you say western civilization or Islamic civilization? And how is it that your view of civilization is so drastically different from the other’s view of civilization, that there is this inevitable clash that we are supposed to be seeing?” This sort of inherent division between these two societies that for, you know, that have no choice but to be on this collision course with each other? “What is it that you think your civilization is that makes it so different from the civilization of the other?” And I think that in answering that question both people in the Muslim world and the west will come to realize how absurd the idea of this division is. Yes we have different ideas, different ethnicities, different traditions and social customs; but are we in a war between social customs? Are we in a war of identities? I hope not. I think the idea that civilization is something that is how we define ourselves as a people – which is I think quite common amongst most people – I think that idea has to be debummed. There is something that connects us to each other that is far more visceral and far more deep-seeded than civilization is, and that is just the human condition.
Recorded On: 7/5/07