Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Reza Aslan nails Stephen Colbert

Noted Islamic scholar Reza Aslan, author of No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and recurring guest on shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Real Time with Bill Maher, made his first appearance on The Colbert Report on Monday. He has written a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the context of the struggles going on within the Muslim world, but he has now reached the true pinnacle of pop culture: he totally nailed Stephen Colbert.

Stephen: Mr. Aslan, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Reza: Thanks for having me. Happy Easter!

Stephen: Thank you very much, and Happy — are you a Christian?

Reza: I am a Muslim.

Stephen: Is there anything you're celebrating right now?

Reza: Umm, Easter.

Stephen: Oh, Easter? Yes?

Reza: Well, you know, we paint eggs and stuff ourselves full of chocolate.

Stephen: Do you really?

Reza: No, no.

Stephen: No, you don't. So you're not like Jewish people doing the Chanukah bush. (No.) You should think about it — Easter's great. (Well, I'll remember that.) It's fantastic. You celebrate the resurrection of the one true Lord.

Reza: Oh, right. Which Lord?

Stephen: Jesus. (Oh, Jesus, right.) God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. You've heard of him?

Reza: I've seen the movie.
That pretty well stumped Monsieur Colbert.

Reza Aslan went on to explain what he and others are calling "the Islamic Reformation," by deliberate parallel to the Christian Reformation. There is a conflict going on within Islam between people who are trying to reconcile their faith and their values with the modern world and get back to the true meaning of Islam, and the people who are manipulating the message of Islam to achieve their own political or military objectives. Who gets to define faith — the institutions or the individual? In that sense, in a strange way, Osama bin Laden parallels Martin Luther: he is promoting the authority of the individual to interpret and define his own faith. There are people coming up with "radically individualistic, sometimes very pluralist, very modernist interpretations of Islam; sometimes very bigoted, very puritanical."

Stephen offers a few suggestions for repackaging Islam for marketing purposes, at least until these great conflicts (within Islam, and between Islam and the West) simmer down: instead of saying Qur'an, just say Bible; instead of Muhammad, just say Jesus; instead of Ayatollah, just say Pope. Reza points out that an Ayatollah is really nothing more than a PhD in Islamic studies: his authority carries no farther than his immediate adherents, placing the structure of Islam in stark contrast to the centralized authority of the Catholic Church.

Context notes for non-U.S. readers: The Colbert Report is a comedy show, focused primarily on political and social satire. The persona of the host is a fiction created primarily to lampoon the unflinching devotion of some Americans to whatever their Bush / Cheney / Republican / Fox News overlords tell them to think. On the show, to "nail" someone means simply to ask that person a question he or she cannot answer, to leave the other person speechless.

سسياق The Colbert Report ملهاة برنامج ، أوّلا سياسيّة هجاء وهجاء اجتماعيّة. المضيفة تخيل يخلق أوّلا أن يسخر التفاني مطلقة من بعض أمريكيات إلى ماذا ه Bush / Cheney / Republican / Fox News يقولهم أسياد أن يفكّر. على البرنامج "to nail someone" أن يسأل سؤال أنّ يترك الأخرى شخص صامتة.

Lincoln is reading No god but God and will have more to say on it when he gets a bit farther along into the book.

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