There is a reason why Sarah Sanders is mocked and vilified. Everyone, especially the press, knows that she is willing to say anything to defend her boss, Donald Trump. She is willing to withhold information, distort the truth or outright lie to protect the President. If she isn’t able to satisfactorily defend the President, he will fire her. Her job depends on performance. The apologists are in the same position. Even if they aren’t formally employed by a religious institution, there is something even more fundamental than their income that’s at stake for them: their identity. To Fundamentalists and devout followers, few things are more central to their sense of self than their faith. It gives them a sense of purpose and provides them with a framework and a schema to experience the world through. They’re not just defending their religion, they’re defending the core of their being.
There are two types of Muslim apologists. I don’t count radicalized jihadists or extremist Muslim clerics that issue fatwas on novelists or entrance their followers with fantasies of holy war. These are hyperbolic and easy to spot; they’re not interested in debate. The apologists that I’m referring to can fly below the radar through tactics of misdirection and half-truths. They plant the seeds for Muslim acceptance by Western citizens.
The first type of apologist is the standard devout Muslim that defends his faith when it is attacked. They are profoundly offended when cartoonists depict the prophet Mohammed or when anyone expresses concerns over possible implications of Islamic practice. In Europe, many Muslim immigrants have expressed frustrations with their new homes, due to the pressure to assimilate into Western culture. They don’t understand that Western countries believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Western freedoms mean that every idea, including religion, is open to criticism and debate.
Because the apologists know that they will get into hot water if they admit that they oppose freedom of speech, they try to shift the conversation away from a rational intellectual discussion to an emotional racial discussion. They claim that criticism or political satire directed at Islam is an expression of bigotry, racism and Islamophobia. Tactics like this are designed to shut down argument and tarnish the reputation of critics. The magic ‘Islamophobia’ utterance means that apologists don’t have to actually counter the rational arguments of critics; they victimize themselves and declare the critics to be the monsters. This is advantageous for the Muslim apologist, since she is not able to counter the arguments without lying. When it is pointed out that Islam is a set of ideas and not a race, the apologists say that critics use freedom of speech for racist intentions and disproportionally criticize Islam.
Below is a 2015 clip from BBC’s The Big Questions that aired right after a Muslim extremist murdered a French cartoonist for depicting the prophet Muhammad in a satirical cartoon (pictured above). Predictably, the Muslim apologists immediately victimized themselves and other Muslims by claiming that critics are motivated by racial animus and that murderous acts perpetrated by Muslims were caused by external political factors and not by the intrinsic violence of Islamic scripture.
The next type of apologist defends the faith under the guise of intellectualism. Some are journalists. Some are academics. They claim to be reformers of the faith, supporters of Western values and forces for inter-religious unity. These defenders go to great lengths to paint Islamic violence as byproducts of geopolitical unrest, mental illness and the unique cultural influences of the particular countries where religious violence occurred. They always deny that Islamic doctrine contributed to fanaticism that destroyed innocent lives. Carefully straddling the line between intellectualism and activism, these apologists pressure liberals to defend Islam against all attacks. These strategies were the driving force behind the Democratic Party’s refusal to refer to terrorists as Islamic. The intellectual Muslim apologist advocates for the totalitarian enforcement of political correctness because it creates a perception that Muslims face unjust prejudice. Unfortunately, the left is so desperate to be compassionate that they’re easily manipulated by such claims.
The most famous example of the intellectual ‘non-biased’ Muslim apologist is Reza Aslan. He is a media favorite and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, HBO, The Huffington Post and many other media outlets. He’s written several books about Islam, Jesus and the nature of God. He is charismatic, funny and doesn’t possess the stuffiness and rigidity that plagues most academics, which has enabled him to amass somewhat of a following among progressives. If you watch some of his TV appearances, he is always referred to as either a religious scholar, an expert on religions, a religious historian, a professor of religion or some other title that accentuates his credentials.
Aslan is never shy about stating how qualified he is to talk about religion. An example of this is Aslan’s infamous interview with Fox News anchor Lauren Green a few years ago. Green asked Aslan why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus (referring to Aslan’s book Zealot) multiple times in a cringe-worthy exchange. Aslan handled the encounter as gracefully as possible. It was obvious that Green’s only intention was to paint Aslan as an anti-Christian opportunist (which he’s not). When Green repeatedly pressed him on why he wrote the book, Aslan stated it was his job as a scholar of religions. He said that he had a Ph.D in the history of religions and was a professor of religious studies. Unfortunately, while his defense was composed, not one of his claims regarding his credentials was true.
Aslan is a professor of creative writing at University of California, Riverside. He is not a professor of any religious discipline. Aslan has never published a scholarly, peer-reviewed article about religion, New Testament Studies, Islamic studies or the history of religion. The only degree he has in religious studies is a bachelors degree. His doctorate is in sociology and his dissertation advisor has publicly remarked that his degree had nothing to do with the sociology of religions (which his website claims). A quick review of his media appearances shows that Aslan regularly misrepresents his credentials and claims expertise in areas where he has none. This behavior is bizarre for someone who claims to be an academic scholar. Most academics are extremely careful to not step outside of their narrow field of expertise because they’re afraid of being embarrassed. Scholars go out of their way to state the boundaries of their expertise. Aslan does the opposite: he regularly goes out of his way to show how boundless his expertise is. Why does he do this? Because, by declaring himself the most qualified expert in a debate, he is able to discredit his opponent without confronting the content of the opponent’s argument. Aslan rarely debates critics of Islam, but when he does he always utilizes this tactic.
Aslan loves to paint secular critics as unsophisticated in their criticisms against Islam. One of Aslan’s battleground topics is female genital mutilation (FGM), a barbaric practice that mainly affects Muslim countries. FGM isn’t prescribed or forbidden in the Koran. Some Islamic scholars agree that FGM isn’t prescribed or forbidden but others claim it is unIslamic and barbaric. Nevertheless, the practice certainly predates Islam and wasn’t created by the faith. It was introduced to Islam when the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence was formulated in the ninth century. That legal philosophy spread eastward to southeast Asia. This brand of Islamic law does mandate FGM. While other Sunni schools don’t mandate it, they do consider it ‘noble.’
Here are the countries where Shafi’i law is practiced:
- Swahili coast
- Kurdish regions of the Middle East
- Chechen and Ingush regions of the Caucasus
- Sri Lanka
- Kerala and some coastal parts of India
When Bill Maher claimed that FGM is an Islamic problem, Aslan countered his assertion and claimed that it was a Central African problem. He then tweeted a UNICEF chart shown below. He noted that Christian majority countries like Ethiopia and Eritrea had high rates of FGM. This is very misleading, though it’s not clear if Aslan was intentionally misleading or not. What Aslan failed to point out was that the FGM in the Christian-majority countries was concentrated among Muslim communities, not Christian communities. As you can see from the list above, both Eritrea and Ethiopia have Muslim populations that follow the Shari’i version of Islamic law. So, Aslan was making the opposite point that he intended to.
When it comes to multi-factorial problems, such as how Islam regards and treats women, Aslan loves to highlight every contributing factor, except for Islamic doctrine. In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Aslan stated that the poor treatment of Islamic women was isolated to the Middle East. He was adamant that Muslim women in southeast Asian countries like Indonesia (k-shaped island north of Australia) weren’t oppressed like their Arab counterparts. A quick look at a 2016 UNICEF chart (below) clearly debunks Aslan’s assertion. Indonesia and its surrounding Muslim-majority countries have FGM rates greater than 90%. I’m sure that more variables contribute to the prevalence of this horrific practice in these countries, but one cannot deny that the Islamic religion plays some part in the practice’s popularity.
Aslan has been called out by conservative intellectuals and a handful of progressive commentators, such as David Packman. Unfortunately, all of the major mainstream media outlets and liberal political commentators never question or criticize Aslan. The fetishized abhorrence of intolerance on the left has provided Aslan with an impenetrable buffer of compassion towards Muslims. The arguments against Aslan rarely make it to progressives’ ears. They tout him as an expert without equal on all things religion. The left is devoted to equality for everyone. Sadly, if they continue down the path that Aslan and apologists like him are leading them down, they will definitely jeopardize equality for all. Any criticism against Islam will be labeled as either racist or simplistic by Aslan, and the mainstream media has adopted that philosophy of unconditional Islamic tolerance.
Aslan and his peers have successfully instituted a totalitarian fatwah of political correctness towards all things Islam and the left has fallen in line with the cause. Apologists want to draw a false equivalency between Islam and all other religions. If a Christian nutjob blows up an abortion clinic, the Muslim apologist will attempt to draw a false equivalency with the Christian’s crime and acts of violence committed by Muslims. The key difference is the complete lack of explicit scriptural justification for that act. There is no verse or story in the Bible that would support bombing an abortion clinic. However, there are explicit verses and codified doctrines of Islam that, when taken at face value, DO support religious violence. But, when this point is brought up, Muslim apologists claim that the critics are motivated by racial animus.
All ideas are open to criticism in a free society. No one has a right to not be offended. The minute that laws are put in place to protect a particular group from suffering offense, we have moved into the realm of totalitarianism. Freedom of the press, freedom of religion, equal rights for women, equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community and all other rights that Western society affords its citizens are sacred and cannot be taken for granted. If, due to religious conviction, certain groups feel disdain for one or more of these sacred rights, then they need to find a society that is better suited for their cultural and moral sensitivities. We must not allow any group to play by a different set of rules. Citizens must assimilate, respect and appreciate Western values.
Religious apologists like Reza Aslan are working diligently to undermine the pillars of Western society in the name of tolerance and inclusivity. Make no mistake, all Muslims that want to join Western society, assimilate and adopt Western values should be welcomed and celebrated. They should have the same rights as everyone else. They should be able to practice their religion without restriction. They should not be harassed, discriminated against or be threatened with violence. But, they don’t get to impose restrictions on free speech when they’re offended by satire, comedy or criticism. Everyone needs to play by the same rules. It’s the apologists’ job to convince the rest of us that Islam gets to play by a different set of rules. They don’t.