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Kinder Islam with a flair
Reza Aslan belongs to a restive flock of modern religious thinkers with a flair for controversy, publicity and education


September 25 , 2005

SAN JOSE, California -- Last Thursday September 22nd, Reza Aslan, the author of “No god but God” spoke at a gathering sponsored by Bay Area Iranian American Democrats (BAIAD).   The event’s focus was on the future of U.S.-Iean relations and the potential for reconciliation.  

Mr. Aslan is commanding speaker and knows how to charm a crowd with an impish smile and rich vocabulary.  Early in his speech, he admitted the emotional nature of this topic among Iranian Americans. He proclaimed that the West’s plan to isolate Iran has failed to safeguard the future of the democratic movement in Iran and has strengthened the clerical regime, as well as convince it to assume an aggressive nuclear posture and pursue political repression. 

The economy, in Aslan’s view, plays the most critical part in deciding the reaction of Iranians toward their government.  As such, the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad explained the economic concerns of disenfranchised Iranians with the political establishment.  Indeed most who voted in his favor perceived him as an outside candidate.  Clearly many believed his campaign promises and gave him the mandate to lead the country- to the dismay of opposition.

Reza Aslan ridiculed the flawed perspective of neo-cons that an attack on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel would trigger a popular revolutionary movement by the masses. Iran, in his view, is not a carved-out state born out of aspirations of Western colonial powers.  Such a foolish move in contrast will cause a nationalistic backlash and a major pause in the democratic movement. 

Moreover, Iran holds many winning cards in theaters such as Iraq; Iran’s stabilizing role there could easily take a reverse course should U.S. decide to aggravate the situation.

Movement in Congress, such as the Iran Freedom Act, provides funds for waging a propaganda war against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Supporting Los Angeles based satellite broadcasters has amounted to nothing more than providing Persian language entertainment to the younger Iranian generation -- all to the relative indifference of the Iranian government.

Mr. Aslan took delight in attacking the Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MEK) with unusual fervor.  Indeed he dedicated almost a third of his speech to discrediting the organization by characterizing them as a Marxist cult with a colorful history of terrorism but strangely a darling of many in the U.S. Congress. The fact that MEK positions itself as the beacon of progressive Islam and the antithesis of the Islamic Republic does not wash its past.  

Mr. Aslan offered a working formula to bring the position of Iran closer to the international community.  He proposed heeding the calls for an approach similar to what the U.S. took toward China in the 70s.  Borrowing from global market capitalism, he suggested that some kind of representative government plus some kind of market economy usually creates a successful modern nation-state. 

Mr. Aslan made the palatable statement that the thought of imminent doom of the Iranian government is utter fantasy; the Islamic Republic has never been more entrenched and fortified than present. 

Moreover, Iran is not a hermitic kingdom like North Korea. In fact the IRI plays a very vibrant part in the world economy, culture and politics.  The clerics are also master survivors and no one should believe that if Iran acquires nuclear-fuel-cycle independence, it will easily give its hard-earned knowledge to shadowy groups -- and that would be an act of suicide.

Mr. Aslan made it clear that he is a big fan of Islam as a religion based on practice not creed.   He also gave a scathing review of the militant, ring-wing Islam of Osama bin Laden and demanded that his actions not be misconstrued as representative of true Islam. 

He reminded the audience that other religions, like Christianity, assume manifestations conformant with regional cultures and needs; Jesus Christ was a revolutionary prophet fighting for the poor in Latin America inasmuch as he is a white man beholding traditional Western values in America.

Reza Aslan belongs to a restive flock of modern religious thinkers with a flair for controversy, publicity and education.  His assimilation into intellectual religious thinking for the most part has not upset his sense of balance. But at times, the nature of his stance on issues suffers from a lack of clarity.

NIAC: Reza Aslan will be speaking in Washington DC on Sunday October 9th.

For letters section
To Hamid Karimi

Hamid Karimi

Bay Area Iranian American Democrats



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