Reza Aslan: We celebrated forgiveness for Dylann Roof -- why can't we accept Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's apology?
Reza Aslan (Comedy Central)

Reza Aslan pointed out the rush to forgive Dylann Roof, who has thus far expressed no remorse, and the reluctance to extend the same absolution to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who apologized to his victims during his death sentencing.


“It was a big deal about the fact that – despite the fact that he did not apologize – that the victims were forgiving of him, it was splashed on the New York Times, everybody was talking about how amazing it was, that all this forgiveness for him,” said Aslan, the religious scholar and author, during a panel discussion on “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore.

“Yet we’re having this argument, this debate about whether we should also forgive Tsarnaev, and I’m just trying to figure out exactly what the difference between the two of them are, and I can’t figure out the difference between them,” Aslan said.

Wilmore and the other two panelists, comedians Mike Yard and Horatio Sanz, discussed the nature of forgiveness, but they couldn’t agree whether remorse should matter in determining punishment.

“It’s not supposed to be like that,” Aslan said. “I mean, the law is supposed to be completely dispassionate. But throughout the entire sentencing, there was this whole thing about, does he deserve to go to prison, does he deserve to die. That’s sort of like the state forgiveness.”

Aslan wondered whether South Carolina would sentence Roof to death, and he outraged Yard and many audience members when he sarcastically argued that the Charleston massacre suspect was not a terrorist.

“The FBI said he’s not,” Aslan explained. “The FBI said you can walk into a church as a white supremacist radicalized by an ideology, ask by name for a state senator, shoot him execution-style and eight other people, but you’re not a terrorist because it’s not a political act.”

Wilmore said the Ku Klux Klan once proclaimed themselves a terrorist organization, although he said today’s racists are less willing to “own their sh*t.”

“The New York Times (Wednesday) reported that, since 9/11, twice as many people in this country have been killed by racists and white supremacists and far-right zealots than by Islamic terrorists,” Aslan said.

He said those deaths don’t include the victims of Michael Wade Page, who opened fire at a Sikh temple, or Joe Stack, who flew a plane into an IRS building.

“None of those guys are actually called terrorists, and yet still we’re obsessed with terrorism and Islamic terrorism,” Aslan said. “According to the FBI, you are more likely to die by faulty furniture than by a terrorist. Your La-Z-Boy is a greater threat than al-Qaeda.”

Watch the entire discussion posted online by Comedy Central: