American religious scholar Reza Aslan gave a bravura interview to CNN this week, lambasting the “bigotry” of the media for perpetuating the generalisation that “Islamic countries” are more susceptible to misogyny and violence.
The academic appeared on the broadcaster to react to comments made by comedian Bill Maher, who last Friday characterised female genital mutilation as an “Islamic problem”. Maher said: “If we’re giving no quarter to intolerance… shouldn’t we be starting with the mutilators and the honour killers?"
In response, Aslan said the comedian’s comments were “facile” and “not very sophisticated” before lambasting the media for suggesting all Muslim nations were identical. “To say Muslim countries, as though Pakistan and Turkey are the same… it’s frankly, and I use this word seriously, stupid!” he said.
“The problem is that you’re talking about a religion of one and a half billion people… and certainly it becomes very easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush by saying, ‘Well in Saudi Arabia women can’t drive,’ and saying that’s representative of Islam. That’s representative of Saudi Arabia.”
Aslan also pointed out the hypocrisy of Western intervention in Iraq, spurred by the beheadings posted online by the extremist group. “Saudi Arabia is one of the most, if not the most, extremist countries in the world,” he said. “In the month that we’ve been talking about ISIS and their terrible actions in Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia, our closest ally, has beheaded 19 people.”