Chelsea Langevin – Senior reporter.
An internationally renowned scholar spoke Feb. 24 to a packed audience in Ice Auditorium about Middle Eastern politics, religion and the “War on Terror.”
Reza Aslan has provided scholarly commentary about the war on nationally recognized shows such as the “Leher News Hour” and “The Daily Show,” Professor of Political Science Dawn Nowacki said.
The lecture centered on Aslan’s most recent book, “How to Win a Cosmic War,” which raises questions about how the war on terror is framed by discussing the origins and beliefs of Judaism, Christianity and Islamism, Nowacki said.
“His point is that if we frame this struggle as a cosmic war, then people perceive it that way,” she said.
Because the objective of a cosmic war is to get rid of evil, there is no end in sight, Nowacki said. So, Aslan’s conclusion is that the conflict must be understood as a political, rather than social, problem.
“I think Aslan takes on very large questions and doesn’t hesitate to answer them,”
Aslan provides context in his book about Arab society and culture to help create a better understanding of the current conflict, Nowacki said. At times he quotes Bin Laden to show how Jihadi leaders are actually ignorant about Islam, which is evident when they try to discredit traditional clerics.
Instead of separating the religion from the social movement, the public ties peoples’ religious identities to groups that become political movements, Nowacki said about Aslan’s message.
Junior Colin Jones said Aslan’s message is that religious language taints each group’s side, and neither group has material goals.
“He talked about religious nationalism and how that’s very different from the Jihaddism movement,” Jones said.
Aslan’s invitation to Linfield was part of the Edith Green and the Gordon Frazee endowments of both the psychology and religious studies departments, Nick Buccola, professor of political science, said.
Nowacki, Buccola and William Millar, professor of religious studies, collaborated to bring Aslan to Linfield.
“Aslan is very interdisciplinary with a broad appeal around campus,” Buccola said.
Both Buccola and Nowacki said Aslan is a young scholar who can relate well to college audiences because of his Web presence and appearances on popular TV shows.
“We expected there to be a good turnout,” Buccola said.
Jones said he suggests both of Aslan’s books, “No God, But God” and “How to Win a Cosmic War,” for students who are still trying to make sense of the conflict.
“They went from flying planes into some of the tallest buildings in the country to a lone, depressed, 19-year-old lighting his crotch on fire — yeah, I think we’re winning,” Aslan said, giving hope for U.S. perseverance.