What is your question?
Reza Aslan is an internationally renowned writer, commentator, professor, producer, and scholar of religions. His books, including his #1 New York Times Bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. He is also a recipient of the prestigious James Joyce Award. His newest book God: A Human History (2017) is out now.
Aslan’s first book, International Bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into seventeen languages, and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers. He is also the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (originally titled How to Win a Cosmic War), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.
In 2006, Aslan co-founded BoomGen Studios—the premiere entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Middle East—which has provided an array of targeted services ranging from strategic messaging to grassroots marketing to publicity and social media outreach, to producers, studios, and filmmakers—including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Weinstein Company’s Miral, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim, and National Geographic’s Amreeka.
Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction.
Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad.
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
Reza Aslan asks, "what is it that you think your civilization is that makes it so different from the civilization of the other?"
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