Religious scholar Reza Aslan said Monday that Islamic State jihadists needed to be destroyed with military might, and disputed characterizations of Islam as a religion of violence — or a religion of peace.
“I think from what we understand about what the president’s going to say, the threefold structure of his plan of attack is the right one,” Aslan, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, told CNN. “Number one, you do have to respond militarily to ISIS soldiers and fighters. These guys are fighting a war of the imagination, a war that they think is happening between the forces of good and evil. There is no negotiation. There’s no diplomacy. There’s nothing to talk about with these guys. They have to be destroyed.”
President Barack Obama will make a speech Wednesday, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2001, to announce his strategy defeat the Islamic State militants who have rampaged through Iraq and Syria, and published videos showing the beheading of two U.S. journalists.
“What makes ISIS so powerful and potent is that they have managed to use grievances that a lot of Iraqis have, that a lot of Syrians have, frankly, that a lot of Muslims around the world have had, to draw people to their cause,” Aslan added. “And unless those grievances can be addressed, the appeal of a group like ISIS isn’t going to work. And then, finally, of course, you have got to deal with the mess in Syria eventually.”
CNN host Don Lemon asked Aslan to respond to a tweet sent out by Bill Maher last month, in which the comedian commented on a recent Islamic State beheading video by saying “by all means lets keep pretending all religions are alike.”
Aslan said it was unfair to characterize Islam as a religion of violence.
“Well, Islam isn’t a violent religion or a peaceful religion,” he said. “It’s just a religion. And like all religions, it is absolutely dependent on the interpretation of whomever follows it.”
But Aslan also said it was unfair to characterize Islam as a religion of peace. Religious extremists were still adherents of the faith, even if moderates disagreed with their views.
“I completely understand why most people of faith, regardless of the faith, think that the radicals and extremists within their faith are not really Jews, are not really Christians, are not really Muslims,” he explained.
“But the fact of the matter is, is a Muslim is whoever says he’s a Muslim. A Jew is whoever says he’s a Jew. The problem, however, is when we take the actions of an infinitesimal group and make it somehow predictive of the actions of everyone else, 1.6 billion Muslims in this case, that’s when the argument becomes completely strained and unbelievable. ”
“But the fact of the matter is, if you’re a violent, war-mongering person, you can find justification in any scripture. If you’re a peaceful, pluralistic person, you can find justification for your views in the exact same scriptures.”
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube by CNN, below: