Sunday, 9 November 2014

Reza Aslan on Christian Terrorists & the Innocence of Islam


Predictably, Reza Aslan responded to the Murder of Corporal Nathan Cirillo (by the Muslim fanatic Michael Zehaf-Bibeau) - as well as to the other recent killings of military men by Muslims in the West - with yet more apologetics. He does so in the CNN piece entitled: 'How strong is the link between faith and terrorism?'.

Just about everything Reza Aslan says about Islam and the behaviour of Muslims is predictable. It was also predictable that he brought up the case of Anders Behring Breivik.

It's no surprise at all that Reza Aslan, as a Muslim, defends Islam.

Many Muslims on Facebook defend and advance Islam with threats of violence and obscenities about the mothers and sisters of kuffar. A Muslim at the Church of Interfaith or the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) may defend and advance Islam by talking about Jesus or “the people of the book”. A Muslim of the Islamic State (IS) advances Islam by beheading people.

And because Reza Aslan is a Muslim who also happens to be an academic, he defends Islam academically.

Aslan on Mind-to-Action Necessity

Reza Aslan admonishes all us “Islamophobes” and “racists” (i.e., critics of Islam) for our lack of sophistication when it comes to our general philosophies of mind and action. He tell us that the

"mistake lies in assuming there is a necessary and distinct causal connection between belief and behavior -- that Bibeau's actions were exclusively the result of his religious beliefs”.

Reza Aslan, as usual, is grandstanding his academic credentials here as well as indulging in academese.

In another instance of this, Reza Aslan says:

"The notion that there is a one-to-one correlation between religious beliefs and behavior may seem obvious and self-evident to those unfamiliar with the study of religion. But it has been repeatedly debunked by social scientists...”

No, Mr Aslan, it hasn't been “debunked by social scientists”. It's been debunked by some social scientists. (Those defending the actions of Muslim killers?) And, in any case, what Aslan says is neither accurate nor clear.

Who, exactly, thinks that there's “a one-to-one correlation between religious beliefs and behaviour”?

Reza Aslan again displays his half-digested philosophy of mind-action causation by saying that – presumably - haters and racists always “assum[e] there is a necessary and distinct causal connection between belief and behavior”.

Well, the fact is that most people don't believe that there's a “necessary and distinct causal connection” between anything. That's because people, on the whole, neither use nor think in terms of modal notions. Similarly, philosophers like Sam Harris and most others will also have a very deep problem with Aslan's strange notion of belief-to-action necessity.

Let's put it this way: What does “a necessary and distinct causal connection between belief and behavior” so much as mean?

I doubt that Reza Aslan is denying the very existence of what are called “propositional attitudes” (such as belief) here (which is what eliminative materialists believe). So he must be arguing that beliefs do indeed exist; though that they never work on their own or in isolation. If that's the case, then that's what most “folk” also believe about belief.

The other thing that can be said that even though there is no necessary link between a belief – or a set of beliefs – and a specific action, that doesn't mean that there is no link at all. Again, we simply don't need the modal notion of a necessary causal link here.

Sure, there are no necessary causal links between the 109 violent passages in the Koran which “call Muslims to war with unbelievers” and every Muslim on the planet acting on those passages in specific and deterministic ways. Then again, there is no necessary link between being a critic of Islam and also being a“racist” and/or a “fascist”; which is what Reza Aslan seems to believe.

Less controversially, there isn't even a necessary link between Reza Aslan's belief that acid is poisonous and him not drinking acid.

Reza Aslan also tells us the following:

"Strangely, this causal connection between belief and behavior seems not to be as aggressively applied if the criminal in question claims a different religion than Islam.”

Yes it undoubtedly has been “aggressively applied” to non-Muslim cases. And Reza Aslan knows that!

The religious nature of “Christian terrorists”, Israel (e.g., Edward Said'saccounts), “Zionists”, Tea Party members, “Christian fundamentalists”, “Christian terrorists”, etc. has been extensively featured in The Guardian, the Huffington Post,The New York Times and countless (Leftist and left-liberal) academic journals, books and rags. Indeed Reza Aslan himself has no doubt done so (as he surreptitiously does in this article).

What About Nazis & Racists?

The other problem with Reza Aslan's sophisticated and academic account of causation is that it can be applied to Nazis death-camp operatives, Stalin, Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge and.... everyone. So the question is: Why is he applying it to Muslim killers only?

So let's rephrase something else which Reza Aslan said earlier:

The notion that there is a one-to-one correlation between Nazi and racist beliefs and behaviour may seem obvious. But it has repeatedly debunked by social scientists.

So is Reza Aslan simply saying that these Muslim killers had more to them than Islam or the passages of the Koran which they'd memorised? Yes, that's true; though the same can be said about Hitler, the Nazis, Pol Pot, etc. None of these killers had only Nazism or Communism in their heads.
Nonetheless, Nazi or Communist beliefs led to Nazi or Communist killings. And Islamic beliefs lead to Islamic killings. There simply doesn't need to be a “one-to-one causal relation” between a single belief and a single action in any of these examples.

Anders Breivik: Christian Terrorist?

As mentioned in the introduction, Reza Aslan couldn't resist mentioning the Huffington Post and The Guardian's saviour of 2011: Anders Behring Breivik.

So how many acts of Islamic terrorism has there been since Breivik's own act of terrorism in 2011? In 2011, the year of Breivik's attack,there were seven Islamicterrorist attacks which claimed more lives than those claimed in Norway (i.e., 77 lives). There were literally hundreds of Islamic terrorist attacks that year which claimed, all in all, well over1,000 lives. (All this will have quickly faded from The Guardian’s memory; not that the majority of these Islamic attacks will ever have been featured in that newspaper.)

In any case, Reza Aslan says:

"Breivik explicitly defined himself as a Christian warrior fighting what he called an 'existential conflict' with Islam. Nevertheless, a great deal of the media coverage surrounding his actions seemed to take for granted that his crime had nothing to do with his Christian identity-- that it was based instead on his right-wing ideology, or his anti-immigrant views, or his neglectful upbringing...”

Only a few minutes of Google-time would have shown Reza Aslan that Anders Breivik was not really a Christian at all – let alone a Christian terrorist. How do I know that? Because Breivik himself said so. He variously described himself as an “agnostic” and went on to say that he's only a “cultural Christian” (though he was indeed, according to himself, a member of the Knights Templar).

Even though there are references to Breivik being a “Christian warrior” in various articles, none I have seen provides the source of that self-description. However, Breivik might well have used that description. Though even if he did, then, clearly, he was very inconsistent on this matter as he also believed in abortion, prostitution and vampires.

The same kind of thing that has been said about Breivik was also said - by Muslims, Leftists and the Southern Poverty Law Center - about Timothy McVeigh: that he was a“Christian terrorist”. However, they too left out the ever-so-minor fact that he was a self-described“agnostic”. Not only that: he didn't believe in Hell and said that science was his religion.

Even Andrew Brown - in his 'Anders Breivik is not Christian but anti-Islam' - denied that Breivik was a Christian terrorist. Indeed in Reza Aslan's own Huffington Post (in its 'Is Anders Breivik a Christian Terrorist?') there's a quote from Breivik himself which goes:

"....I guess I'm not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a mono-cultural Christian Europe.”

Now would any Muslim killer of a Western soldier ever come even close to saying that he's “not an excessively religious man“; that he's “foremost a man of logic”; and that he's an “agnostic” who doesn't believe in Hell?
And when Breivik said that he's “a supporter of a mono-cultural Christian Europe”, all he essentially meant – I guess - is that he believes that Western society is largely based on Christian traditions and values. But that's not a surprise because none other than Richard Dawkins – an agnostic! - has said more or less the same thing. Indeed I know of many atheists who accept this sociological and historical fact. Are they all “Christian warriors” too?

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