Reza Aslan

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
8:00 p.m.
Murchison Lane Auditorium
Babcock Fine Arts Center

Free and Open to the Public.
Book-signing to follow.

In conjunction with the y:1 program, Reza Aslan — author of this year’s Common Reading Book, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization— will visit  Sweet Briar College on Tuesday, September 27, 2011. He will conduct a Q&A with students and deliver a public lecture, ” Ten Years Later: Fighting Islamophobia and Understanding Muslims.”

Against a swell of rising Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in the US, Reza Aslan sidesteps the division of “us” versus “them” to deliver a timely and resonating talk on strengthening US-Muslim relations. What’s happened in the last ten years to move anti-Muslim rhetoric from the fringes and into the mainstream? Why do more Americans view Muslims negatively today than during the immediate aftermath of September 11th? What does the tide of Islamophobia say about America ten years after that tragic day? What significance does the death of Osama bin Laden play? And how do our words affect America’s security at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East. Aslan provides incisive and compelling answers to these vital questions. More than that, he offers a way forward. The majority of young Muslims in the Middle East, he shows us, are fighting for social change:  Fundamentalism isn’t heating up; it’s winding down. Meanwhile, Muslim Americans are becoming ideal citizens. Unfortunately, many still view Islam as a shorthand for nearly everything we fear; a scapegoat for our troubles. So, how do we counterbalance this harmful but near-ubiquitous mindset? Instead of casting Muslims into the role of the “other”, we must embrace them as part of the multi-cultural, multi-religious fabric of American society. As Aslan reminds us, what is said today about Muslims has been said before about Catholics and Jews — and we look back at those times with derision, even mockery. Within one generation, Aslan proclaims, we will look back on today’s anti-Muslim sentiments with the same sense of bewilderment and shame. How we can get there — through relationships, through one-on-one connections, and through a deeper, more thorough  understanding of Islam — is the subject of this hopeful, humorous, and slate-clearing manifesto. This is an absolutely necessary talk about the kind of country we want to live in, and how each of us must work to make that happen.

Aslan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religions from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University, and a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Abraham’s Vision, an interfaith peace organization; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; and he serves on the national advisory board of the Levantine Cultural Center, building bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world.

In addition to Beyond Fundamentalism, Aslan is the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into thirteen languages and editor of the anthology Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. Aslan is President and CEO of Aslan Media Inc, whose holdings include BoomGen Studios, a mini-motion picture and media company focused entirely on entertainment about the Greater Middle East and its Diaspora communities. Born in Iran, he now lives in Los Angeles where he is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.



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