Author addresses issues in Middle East
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 08:03
Best-selling author and entrepreneur Reza Aslan visited the West Virginia University Erickson Alumni Center Tuesday evening to talk about issues facing this generation of Muslims and the upcoming era of Islamic democracy.
A frequent guest on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report," Aslan has authored books such as "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam" and "How to Win a Cosmic War."
Aslan is also the CEO and President of Aslan Media Inc., a media company that focuses on the Greater Middle East and its Diaspora communities.
Aslan spoke to the WVU audience about the Arab Spring occurring in the Middle Eastern region today.
With a majority of the population under the age of 35, and a staggering 70 percent of the Iranian population under the age of 30, youth is the main component of change, Aslan said.
The Arab Spring began in December 2010 when a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest of harassment and humiliation the government was imposing on him and many others.
The protest of a single man has grown into a movement in countries such as Iran, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, Aslan said.
"Believe it or not, the greatest single aspiration in the region at this moment is to achieve democracy," Aslan said. "It does not matter where you pray or what skin color you were born with; democracy is a fundamental right of life."
The relentless protesting from many of the area’s youth has seen four corrupt governments, including Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, overthrown within a 14-month span.
However, one of the most prominent myths surrounding the Arab Spring and the Middle Eastern culture is that
democracy is not what the people in the region truly want, Aslan said.
Another common myth that people often believe about the Arab Spring is that it was a complete surprise.
"At first, people were just saying that this was a bunch of kids blowing off steam and it was a random occurrence," Aslan said. "If you found this to be a surprise, you weren’t paying attention."
Aslan also aimed to debunk that the Arab Spring is an Islamic takeover. This myth is simply an American paradox due to the primary belief that we live in a secular country that easily separates church and state, he said.
Seventy percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian and 96 percent of Middle Easterners identify with the Islamic religion.
Aslan said the two nations are more parallel than most think.
"There is not much difference between us and them," Aslan said. "These groups now have the opportunity to come out of the mosque and to market ideas and see how they can come to life in reality."
Many believe the Spring and the push for democracy in the Middle East were bad for both Israel and the U.S.
"Israel has become increasingly isolated – its friends in Europe and in the United States have begun to distance themselves from the country," he said. "I believe that the policies in this ultra-right government are like committing suicide for the country."
Aslan said America is uninvolved with the Arab Spring, and that may be why the revolution is working. The U.S. just isn’t the superpower it used to be, he said.
"This is our opportunity to practice the values we love to talk about," he said. "The only way our economic agenda will be maintained will be to change our relationships with these countries."
The event was made possible by Areesha Khan, a junior biology student and member of the WVU Honors College.
Khan saw Aslan on the news her sophomore year speaking about current Middle Eastern issues and thought he would be the perfect presenter to speak at WVU.
"The way he discussed his views was full of humor and charisma," Khan said. "I set up connections with the Special Events office here at WVU to bring him to campus to deliver a lecture that could really inform the people here about what is truly happening in the world."
To learn more about Aslan’s current work, visit www.aslanmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @RezaAslan.