Aasif Mandvi on Islamophobia, Acting, and the Long Shadow of Jon Stewart

Still from Halal in the Family.

This couldn’t be a more topical interview. Aasif Mandvi might be most famous for his hilarious commentary on The Daily Show, but he’s also a very well-regarded actor, creator, artist, and writer.

At a time when we’re not having a debate about Islam and extremism so much as we’re slinging talking points past each other, Aasif Mandvi took time out of a very busy schedule to talk about Halal in the Family and much more.

Namely: He teases us with glimpses into his upcoming HBO show, The Brink; his time with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, and some valuable insights on the fine line between free speech and hate speech.

I read your book, No Land’s Man, [Note: You should too. It’s wonderful.], and I’ve watched Halal in the Family. What’s sparked your interest in combating Islamophobia?

We did a piece on the Daily Show five years ago, sort of spawned by Katie Couric’s saying American Muslims need their own Cosby Show, and we took that literally. We created this sketch, put it on the show, it was very funny and very popular, and that was the end of that.

Then, years later, I was approached by my manager, Lillian LaSalle, with a company called Moore and Associates, and they said to me, “Is there anything you want to talk about? Anything to make a social impact?” I had been on the Daily Show for a number of years at this point, and spoken to a lot of Islamophobes, people who had a lot of misinformation about Islam and Muslims.

It was a personal thing to me, and it was an issue I thought I could lend my voice to in a satirical space.

Were there any particular misconceptions or fears you wanted to address?

There was a lot of stuff about Shari’ah Law, the protests against the mosques, the standard stuff—the stories that kept coming up.

You work as an actor, a writer, a comedian, in a lot of creative spaces. What’s the line between free speech and bigotry?

Wow. What is the line between free speech and bigotry? Look, there’s always going to be free speech, and it’s a fundamental right. We are allowed to speak our minds. But bigotry will always exist—there will always be a certain amount of prejudice, and I don’t think you can eradicate that. What I wanted to do was address some of that prejudice, the misinformation that gets put out there.

You can talk about and think about Muslims as you want, but you can’t stop Muslims from building a mosque. You can hate Muslims from the comfort of your house, or publicly, but when that becomes stopping Muslims from building a mosque, or worshipping, then we are crossing the line into something else.

How do you feel Hollywood deals with diversity—is it getting better, or is it getting worse?

We are definitely seeing more diversity today, in television and in movies. Probably more than we ever have. There are certainly more Asians, more South Asians, more people from the Middle East, portrayed on television today, as compared to when I started out.

But in Hollywood, Caucasian is still the norm. Your heroes are still Caucasian. So that is somewhere we need more diversity, in terms of who’s creating the stories, who’s starring in the stories, who the stories are about. You can have a lot of brown people, but if the story’s really about white people, then it’s diversity, but not the kind we need.

It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, that you have more brown people. Nobody’s not watching a show because there’s not enough brown people on it.

You mentioned, in No Land’s Man, how you got the job on The Daily Show. It put you in a fascinating position. A lot of people in my generation turned to Jon Stewart for the news, and so they turned to you as a Muslim voice. They look at you as a spokesperson for Muslims. Do you then feel any responsibility to speak for Muslims? Does it limit you, or pressure you, in any way?

It’s not a responsibility that I chose to take on. It’s something that happened in the culture because there are so few Muslim voices, so few faces, so little representation. It became a thing: “You’re our friendly Muslim guy.” And because of the nature of what the Daily Show was.

People might not have known I was a Muslim had I been on a sitcom, but because it was my name being used, and had to do specifically with, say, the Middle East… but it was an identity that I didn’t wear on my sleeves before the Daily Show. My family is Muslim. But I don’t consider myself a very devout Muslim, but a cultural Muslim, whatever that means.

And there are things I’m going to do that might piss off Muslims. I did a play called Disgraced, in 2012, at Lincoln Center, which ultimately won the Pulitzer Prize. I played the lead character, a Muslim American, who had renounced Islam and became very anti-Islam. The subject matter of that play made lots of Muslims very uncomfortable but I have to adhere to being a Creator, to being an artist, to being a writer, to being an actor.

People don’t like to hear this, but my character on the Daily Show is a character. The way Mindy Kaling is playing a character. It’s a character, but it’s not me. Even though that character happens to have my name.

When Jon Stewart announced he was moving on from The Daily Show, there was a lot of speculation about who would or should get the spot, and I know a lot of people thought you should. Was that something you thought about, or that was discussed? Do you think it would have been a good idea?

For me it was never really an issue, because I have this HBO series I’m doing, The Brink. Jack Black, Tim Robbins. I’ve already been committed to that show. So that was one thing, on a purely contractual level I wasn’t really available. I had another job.

On a personal level, I don’t know if I want to take that chair. The conversation never came up, and I don’t know if it’s something that I would even want to do. That’s a tough role to fill. If I was going to do that kind of show, I might just want to start completely fresh, somewhere else… like, go to Al-Jazeera, I don’t know. Do a show, sure, but the Daily Show chair? I’m in the shadow of Jon Stewart—that’s tough. That’s not necessarily where I wanted to be.

Well can you tell us about your next project, The Brink?

It’s a geopolitical comedic satire. It is on HBO, spans ten episodes. Basically the premise is you watch a global crisis unfold across ten episodes. You see a global crisis erupt, unfold, hit a crisis point, and be resolved, within ten episodes. It’s dark comedy, in the vein of Dr. Strangelove or M*A*S*H.

The epicenter of the global crisis is Pakistan, but it sends the Middle East into a crisis, involving Arab countries, Israel, China. Everyone is reacting to this crisis including the U.S. government, which is reacting and trying to mitigate this crisis. We see the Foreign Service, the State Department, and the U.S. military. It debuts on June 21st.

We are short on time, so I want to make time for one last question: What’s your advice to people who want to be creators, who want to be writers, directors? You talked about your journey in No Land’s Man, from where you started to being nationally known.

What would you tell someone who wants to get her foot in the door?

Look, being creative means you create. One thing I always did in my career was writing. I always was writing. I was trying to create things. For myself, for other people. If you’re a creative person, a writer, a musician, a director, whatever it is, just do it. Get up and do it. And also: Go to school. Study. You know what I mean. Go to school, learn what it is what you want to do. A lot of people in Hollywood are like, I can do it, I can act, I’m just gonna go there, get an agent and do it. It makes a difference when you have a class—it’s like anything else. You’ve got to dedicate the time to it.

And here’s the thing, it’s not an easy road. It’s just something that you love, and if you can’t see your life being fulfilled if you don’t do it, then do it.

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30 Comments

  • jeffj@cruzio.com' Jeffrey G. Johnson says:

    I found the question about the line between bigotry and free speech to be odd, like it’s one that only a person who doesn’t fully get free speech could ask.

    The correct answer is that there is no line between bigotry and free speech. Accepting free speech means giving up the wish to be able to control and limit other people from saying things you don’t like or find offensive.

    The primary value in free speech is in allowing people to feel free to criticize the government without fear of reprisal from an unfettered exercise of government power. That is the reason all the other unpleasantness surrounding free speech must be tolerated: because there is no authority that can be trusted with the power to decide once and for all what speech is allowable, what is bigotry and what is legitimate criticism. Such a power can easily be used to silence those who would criticize tyranny. Instead the system of free speech is meant to be self-policing. When bigots open their mouths, they get criticized by others exercising their free speech rights.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Of course when it gets political than all bets are off.

  • dkeane123@comcast.net' DKeane123 says:

    I thought the same thing when I can across that sentence – thankfully you had commented already.

  • emilyk04@gmail.com' Fired, Aren't I says:

    Ithink it was mis-worded and they were referring to “free speech vs. hate speech,” like it says in the beginning of the article:

    …some valuable insights on the fine line between free speech and hate speech.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    I have to be careful here. I am not doing taker, but I do ask we be honest. “Muslim” seems to be the most hated term in the world and the most loved at the same time. The Nation of Islam is an American Nazi movement, but they lie and say they are Muslims. The Ahmadiyya movement is peaceful nice group of guys…who reject basic Islam. I am always perplexed by those who do not like Islam, but insist on calling themselves Muslim. I am not perfect, but the line, I have been told, is that when you miss prayer and you say, “may Allah forgive me, I did a wrong thing today (and lots of days),” is totally different from, ” I don’t pray.” To reject the salah is an act of disbelief. To deliberately take alcohol or to reject the basics of Islam mean you don’t do Islam and a Muslim is one who does Islam. I have nothing against “cultural Muslims. I think the issue is they are using the wrong words. The right words are: I was raised by Muslims and my family is from a Muslim country, but I am secular.”Muslims are not Jews. There is no such thing as a cultural Muslim. There is no such thing as a secular Muslim. We are not Muslim by the virtue of our parents our where our parents immigrated from. We are not Jews. If you don’t like Islam and your history is Islam, that’s fine. Just say so. I am not one to burn anyone at the stake, but I don’t like apostates thinking they can use the Jew card and pretend they belong to minority culture that in reality they have nothing to do with. And by the way….

    I love this tv program and wish it all the success in the world!

  • jeffj@cruzio.com' Jeffrey G. Johnson says:

    It does sound more logical expressed that way. But I don’t see a lot of insight on that question in the interview. Aasif kind of dodges the question I’d say, but is admirably restrained about trying to draw that line. It’s a line that really can’t be drawn because there are so many ways to construe speech as hate speech. For someone in Mandvi’s business, which is comedy that relies on satire, parody, mockery, and ridicule of that which is ridiculous in our society, drawing limits on speech can boomerang quickly, and he evidently understands this well. Which gets back to my point: I don’t think that line exists. Some free speech is hate speech. They aren’t distinct categories.
    One thing for sure: any speech that one group considers to be hate speech does not license that group to engage in violent reprisals because they are offended by that speech. Nobody has the right to not be offended.
    I think our law already pretty well covers the reasonable limits to speech such as libel and defamation, where speech is intentionally used to harm particular individuals. There is the case when speech actively and intentionally incites violence in which the speakers may be found complicit. There are the cases of credible threats of violence, or bullying and stalking that go too far and cause real harm to people. The classic examples of yelling fire in a crowded theater or making bomb threats have no reason to be protected as free speech.
    But there is no case in which somebody can justify a violent reaction to offensive speech, or justify extorting the silence of people from expressing even their bigoted opinions because of a threat of violent reactions by the “victims”.
    Parties who are the subjects of bigotry must use free speech to their advantage to express their rights and to demand acceptance. That is part of the beauty of free speech. They must use free speech to counter the incidents of bigoted speech, to use their voice to express their grievances and their needs. But if people start to insulate themselves from insult or criticism by using censorship, it sets a precedent that is dangerous for democracy, and it can create an illusion of harmony while forcing dissent or hostility to go underground. It creates a new power enabling the politics of victimhood to silence others. Allowing people to voice their frustrations, even if bigoted, can help to diffuse the build-up of violent anger, and it forces a public dialog to take place which is part of the process of healing that bigotry. Suppressing it is more dangerous than airing it.
    I’m not saying anyone should accept bigoted speech and allow it to go unremarked upon. Call it hate speech. Decry it in the most certain terms. Dissect it and expose it. But don’t make it a crime. It may be hate speech but it is still free speech.

  • jeffj@cruzio.com' Jeffrey G. Johnson says:

    “I don’t like apostates thinking they can use the Jew card and pretend they belong to minority culture that in reality they have nothing to do with.”
    The Nazis did not give any Jews a free pass because they were secular. If you are born into a Jewish family, a Muslim family, or a Christian family, and your free exercise of conscious and your understanding of the world lead you to decide that religious fundamentalism is a false way of viewing the world, you are still much more connected to the religion of your family than you are to any other religion. Like it or not, culture is a huge part of religion. Religions are inextricably bound up with cultures, and vice versa to a large degree.
    All that you have written is free speech and your opinion which you have the right to air.
    Also, I’m free to object and say it is bigoted. Why should it bother you if a secular person chooses to call himself Muslim or Jew because it was his upbringing, and it is the religion of people he loves and shares family and community ties with? Why should this bother you any more than the kind of clothing or hairstyle a person chooses? If anyone needs clarification, this person can say they were raised Muslim but are no longer practicing or no longer religious. You mind your business, and they will mind theirs.
    There is such a thing as freedom from being Christian, Muslim, or Jew. There is also the freedom to use the word Muslim in a looser way than you choose to use it. You are free to argue against that, but not to stop me from thinking and saying what I feel is true and correct. And you can’t own the word Muslim and stop people from using it as they see fit.

  • maintour@yahoo.com' MainTour says:

    That sounds a bit like the Sunni’s saying they are the real Muslim, but that the Shi’a are not and vice versa, the Shi’a claim to be the real Muslim but that the Sunni are not.

    In my eyes anyone who is making the attempt to follow Muhammad is Muslim (regardless of how they interpret his teachings). There is no perfect Muslim, because no man on earth is ever perfect. They are Muslim just by claiming to his disciple.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    (I have to be careful!) I am a little perplexed. I think I indirectly addressed the definition of Muslim. Now do you or mr. main….know the definition of Muslim…know ANY definition of Muslim?

    I am supposed to debate with you the idea that words have no objective meaning? What fools the fools at Websters’ are? The two arguments here are buzz-word arguments, full of innuendo and totally lacking any substance or even a pretense of addressing my comments. “Sunni Shia”??? “Fundamentalists” “In my opinion…” Hmmm…is the sky blue? Is the sky pink? My opinion is it’s pink. My opinion is (fill in the offensive blank directed at your vacuous reply. What has Nazi Germany got to do with this? Oh! I am like a Nazi? I almost forgot, you are making an innuendo argument, that in no way actually addressees the intellectual points I address here. To do that, you would actually have to know the definition of Muslim in an Islamic context. Do you? Do you know what the word takfeer means?

    I am a little tired of, “my skin is white and I am a a subtle racist, so I get to go around putting non-whites in their place.” Please stop. I say this all the time to the now out-of-the-closet white bigots, who think that their condescending remarks have some deep wisdom. You are not Muslim. You haven’t even bothered to take five minutes of reflection on Islam, but the “fundamentalist” Muslim is talking, so obviously, it’s your duty to correct…even if you don’t know Islam from (fill in the objective word).

    Your argument is pro-incoherence. Please stop the racist nonsense. If you knew anything about Islam you would know that I am addressing Muslims, whom I respect and whom I was quite deliberate in not going at them in a “fundamentalist” way.

    I specifically said Islam is not like Judaism. And your reply is to lecture me about the Germans in 38′? I don’t remember debating anyone being free. Whites have been free to remain stuck in racist behavior for the last 400 years.

    When will you exercise the freedom to quit with the racist impulses that propel you into conversations where you have absolutely no expertise?

  • jeffj@cruzio.com' Jeffrey G. Johnson says:

    “What has Nazi Germany got to do with this? Oh! I am like a Nazi?”

    I guess I will need to spell things out in more plain language. That means the relative politeness of my more subtle remarks will go away, and I will be more blunt.

    This was a reply to your statement, which again I will quote: “I don’t like apostates thinking they can use the Jew card and pretend
    they belong to minority culture that in reality they have nothing to do
    with.”

    Perhaps you don’t realize this is an offensive remark. It is to me and I’m not even Jewish, and probably it is much more so to someone who is Jewish. The very formulation “Jew card” is insulting, and the term “apostate”, especially coming from a self-professed Muslim, is generally intended to be a nasty slur. Certainly many people might perceive it that way. I myself am proud to be an “apostate”. That means I can think for myself and will not allow my life to be ruled by an ancient book.

    My statement was intended to counter your attempt to separate Jewish people into those who are observant, and those who are culturally Jewish, to whom you would deny the right to call themselves “Jewish”. No, I was not claiming you are a Nazi. I said no such thing. I said that the Nazis did not give any Jewish person a free pass for being secular. That means, in the context of your remark, if you think for a minute, that your attempt to exclude secular Jews from Jewish culture is not accepted by others who hate Jewish people. They do not just hate the religion, they hate the culture, they hate the people, whether they are secular or orthodox or somewhere in between. So the whole idea that based only on their level of religious observance you can exclude Jewish people from membership in a minority culture that has at the hands of ignorant hateful people collectively suffered a very painful history is both arrogant and foolish.

    Perhaps you do not hate Jewish people, but you made a remark that appeared to me to be hateful toward Jewish people. Maybe you wish to clarify.

    Regarding the definition of “Muslim”, I know a simple definition, which is a person who follows the five pillars of Islam. I even know what the five pillars are.

    I am an atheist, but I don’t mind if people wish to believe in a religion, so long as they don’t get violent and try to impose their religion on others.

    Language is far more complex than trying to assign one simple meaning to every word. Words have many meanings, and most adults, and even children, are intelligent enough to resolve ambiguities from context.

    For me the word Muslim has the simple and basic meaning of one who believes there was some special guy named Mohammad who was visited by angels who told him what to write in a book. You can believe that if you want.

    But the word also has many other meanings. It encompasses secular Muslims who live in the modern world, and it includes primitive people who cut off people’s heads and stone women and approve of blasphemy laws and all sorts of other horrendous atrocities that I regard as evil.

    I have traveled in several Muslim countries (the word here is an adjective referring to the idea that generally the prevalent religion in the country is Muslim, even though Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, and others may live there). My general attitude toward Muslims, based on my direct interactions with them, is that they are for the most part very sincere, warm, honest, gentle, kind, generous people.

    Sadly there are too many who believe they must use violence to force others to be Muslims, not matter how strongly they do not wish to be Muslim (by your definition).

    So you see, your definition of the word “Muslim” is not the only one, no matter what you say.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    I don’t have time to write a dictionary, Muslim or otherwise. They taught me in grade school to use a standard dictionary when I want to know what a word means, and that is is ignorance to make up “what a word means to me.” I should not be offensive. This is a basic teaching of Islam. the issue here is, you are offended…and you are NOT a Muslim. This is my point to you. I am discussing Islam in an Islamic context. I am not asking you, who has never set foot in a mosque, what offends a Muslim. You are answering and defending something that is so beneath you, you have never bother to look at in a serious way and instead you assume to lecture me on offensive language in a subject of which you have no expertise. But you don’t see how that is offensive? I ask you in as humble a way as I can, why do you think white skin makes you an expert on Islam and Muslims and what a Muslim is and isn’t? Can you cite me an OBJECTIVE source for your correcting me? Is there some book on Islam that you read and you are here citing the book’s arguments to me? Can you be blunt and tell me the source of you being an authority on Islam and the definition of a Muslim? In America, every day people use the term “race card.” Jew card is offensive…because? My usage has an exact context and the context was to say that Muslims should not use Jewish terms and definitions and instead should be true to authentic Muslim definitions and terms when describing Islam. How is that offensive to Jewish people? I am telling Muslims not to go around stealing Jewish labels…and you really believe that is an attack on Jews? The Jewish faith is unique in that they do have secular Jews. I guess there are “secular Christians,” but I tell you that the term secular Muslim is an oxymoron and if you look at historical Islam, there is no such thing as cultural Muslim. This is a term some are trying to create. They may succeed, but it’s not in any dictionary I know of yet. Apostate is a slur? I am an apostate. I abandoned Christianity a long time ago. As an atheist, you apostate from your Christian family. You are making up insults instead of dealing with the very offensive nature of you thinking you are supposed to dictate religion and what it means in an objective sense to me, who is in the religion, that you are supposed to tell me what Islam is FROM THE OUTSIDE. Your focus on Jewish people is so typical. Obviously I am a foul person who insults Jews (never mind your white superiority complex) and now it’s your duty to stand up for Judaism…as you proudly proclaim you do NOT believe in the God of Abraham. And you don’t see that there’s a little twisting in your thinking. The only thing you are defending is white superiority. If you are not defending white superiority, then please stop trying to teach me about Islam. I think, it’s fairly rational, that when a Muslim wants to learn about Islam or existential answers about what it means to be a Muslim, we don’t go to atheists for answers. If it’s not merely your skin that makes you assume you are an authority that qualifies you to lecture me on religious matters, please tell me your study that makes you go on and on. “For me,” shows racism. Islam is not for you, by your own words. A Muslim is not exactly the five pillars. I am not even worth you going and finding a real definition, yet you go on and on, and insist that even in your ignorance, you get to teach me. White racism is a plague on the earth today that kills millions of innocent people. I am so tired. Your skin does not give you special powers. You have every right not to study or know Islam. But then don’t you think the decent thing to do when the subject comes up is to leave the conversations to people who have actually studied it?

  • jeffj@cruzio.com' Jeffrey G. Johnson says:

    “I am discussing Islam in an Islamic context.”

    I am not discussing Islam, except to answer one of your questions, which was: “Now do you or mr. main….know the definition of Muslim.” Actually, the world of human culture is far larger than Islam. I was discussing freedom of speech, whether or not a secular Jew can claim the identity of Jewish, and I was discussing culture, language, and meaning. Islam was a tiny side note, largely irrelevant to my points.

    I ask you in as humble a way as I can, why do you think white skin makes
    you an expert on Islam and Muslims and what a Muslim is and isn’t?

    I didn’t say anything about skin color, and I made no claim to be an expert on Islam. I merely answered your question and gave you some context about my personal view of and understanding of Islam. The idea that I claimed to be an expert comes out of your own imagination, not from my words.

    Look, if you think whether or not I’ve ever set foot in a mosque is an important qualification for taking part in a discussion, then we probably shouldn’t bother trying to discuss anything. Let’s just end this useless argument.

  • maintour@yahoo.com' MainTour says:

    I see this exact same argument inside the Christian world where the one Church accuses the other church of not being Christian because each church has their own definition of what it means to be Christian. But to the outside world they are just all different brands of Christian.

    This is the same way that Christians view Muslims – We see different types of Muslims, devout fanatical Muslims that practice sharia law, then Moderate Muslims that pick and choose to follow certain laws so that they can integrate with Western Society and then there are Secular Muslims that identify so just because that they follow the traditions of their family, but have no formal training or education in the law.

    My definition of Muslim is simply someone that pledges allegiance to Muhammad. See Wikipedia definition of Muslim = “A Muslim, relates to a person who follows the religion of Islam.”

    Are you saying Wikipedia is wrong?

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    First off, you said one definition and your definition is not the wikipedia definition. Second, the Wiki definition means you would have to know Islam.

    Main, my comments for Mr. Jeffery were for you as well. I usually write this in bold, but I am trying to have manners these days, so I ask you in small caps: Have you ever set foot in a mosque?

    Am I a Christian? Then obviously, this is NOT, “the same exact argument.” Are you trying to teach me about secular Christians and there is some Christian here saying they are not really Christian? That would not be exact, but it would be a parallel argument and not an exact match. So mostly, you are like many who toss around words and disregard the facts or lack thereof behind them. Your terms: “fanatical” “moderate” and “secular” are terms you are making up. I ask again my opening question?

    Have you ever set foot in a mosque? Talked to a Muslim scholar? Then why are you here tossing words at me from your computer as if you are an authority on my faith? A computer AND…

    white skin????

  • jeffj@cruzio.com' Jeffrey G. Johnson says:

    Am I a Christian? Then obviously, this is NOT, “the same exact argument.”

    Why should it matter what you are for a general point to be correct? I think rather than trying to teach you something, MainTour was expressing his/her opinion, which you are free to disregard.

    If you wanted to be a bit more charitable and friendly, we could generously interpret the remark as “a very similar argument” rather than the more absolute “exact same”. People often exaggerate and say something like “exact same” when really they mean “so similar as to barely be distinguishable”, which is a weaker statement than “exact same”. Obviously something that has the word “Christian” in it can’t be the “exact same” if you substitute the word “Muslim”. Extreme literalism doesn’t make conversation any easier.

    Have you ever set foot in a mosque? Talked to a Muslim scholar?

    I have set foot in a mosque. So what? They were historical buildings that are tourist attractions in Istanbul. People still go there to pray, but I did not pray. I merely enjoyed looking at the buildings (the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, formerly a church).

    I have not talked to a Muslim scholar, but I’ve seen videos of some Muslim scholars talking. I’ve read opinions of Muslim scholars. In some cases I felt there was nothing of value in their words. In other cases they made sense to me on some topics. Some of them made me feel sick by their ignorance and their hatefulness. One can know a great deal about Islam and the Quran, and still know very little about the world as a whole.

    Why should the answers to these questions matter? Nobody is claiming to be an expert on Islam. Instead people are sharing their opinions. This is how people converse and compare information. Our opinions may be ignorant, but simply challenging a person’s right to have an opinion because they lack certain authority or experience isn’t very helpful. It would be more interesting if you explained what you see as wrong with those opinions.

    Your terms: “fanatical” “moderate” and “secular” are terms you are making up.

    In the US media, these words appear often in connection with religious beliefs to distinguish them. They are not just being made up. Perhaps what you mean is that you disagree with such terms, you reject those terms when applied to Muslims. It sounds to me like you are trying to say that there are true Muslims, and anyone else is not a Muslim.

    By doing that you are narrowing the number of people who may call themselves “Muslim” by a lot. Is Aasif Mandvi a Muslim, in your opinion? If I were to ask a Muslim a question about Islam, for example what is the definition of “Jihad”, do you think every Muslim have the same answer? Or could these answers differ from one Muslim to another? If the latter is true, how much variation is allowed Muslims in their opinions about Islam? Are there not Muslims who can have opinions that vary on the question of “Jihad”, or what the punishment for apostasy should be? Don’t even Muslim scholars differ on these points?

  • abdurrahman3261@aol.com' Abdur Rahman says:

    sorry, my usual sign in did not work. If you think I am being unfriendly, it is only because you are assuming things you should not assume about another human being. Well! You were inside a mosque? Or was it a Museum? There is a big difference. Were there Muslims praying where you went? could you make out “the fanatics” versus “the moderates”? Did you speak to the Imam or any senior person in charge there? Or was it a museum walk through? This is our beginning of a conversation. Tell me about the Muslims you have interacted with in the real world that you met at the mosque. Did you meet any secular Muslims at the mosque? (It’s like fairies for me, I don’t know where you find them. Mr. Jeff, what you call unfriendly is, I being chatting here and I tell you about the warts on your wife’s butt. You Object! you have never seen the butts on my wife’s butt. Now I say, sir, your response is “unfriendly.” (smile). As soon as you quite making assumptions about things you have never seen, and you begin to chat with me about what you actually know, free of innuendo and soundbite, then we will be talking. The “general point” is Muslims and Christians differ on how we define ourselves. I said this already about Judaism, when you accused me “attacking Jews because I said Muslims can’t use the Jew card. Anyway, I wander. I really appreciate the chance for an exchange and I don’t wish to offend you (with the limits of truth). Please tell me about your visit to a mosque? Where was it? Was it an active mosque or a museum mosque? Did you talk with Muslims there? Did you meet any fanatics or any seculars? Sort of sounds like me asking you about a field trip to the local zoo, but please don’t be offended. Tell me about your mosque visit?

  • abdurrahman3261@aol.com' Abdur Rahman says:

    you did not visit an active mosque. Mr. Jeff, please don’t be racist. What makes you think I don’t know the Constitution? Because I am a Muslim, that means you must teach me civics? Really. I never blow my own trumpet, but let me keep saying. I know all about Martin Luther King. Why are you not treating me as an individual. Why do you assume an authority over me in matters in which you have no expertise. When I point out your lack of expertise, why do you see it as hostility? Because the non-white is supposed to bow down at your feet? I will no longer debate what a Muslim is with you simply because you have no expertise in the matter. I would like to talk with you about what makes you an authority on things in general. I am a Muslim, who does his best to practice. So when I speak on that, I speak from learning and years of experience living as a Muslim. Where does your authority to speak on my religion come from? “everybody’s got a right to express their opinion”? So you will; defend me if I say my opinion is “the sky is pink”?

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    It’s over literal of me to say when someone uses the word “exact” and then substitutes Christian for Muslim, they are not being exact….sorry for being a Neanderthal. If a word is created by the US media and it falls in the forrest, does it make a sound? …sorry. Made up words are made up words. I ask you again, did any Muslim come up to you during your zoo/museum tour and introduce themselves as fanatics? How about any the secular ones? Did the secular Muslims approach you during your museum tour and let you know they were the good Muslims that you are supposed to defend? You ask a sort of interesting question. It is troubling that Mr. Aasif describes himself as a cultural Muslim. This has a specific meaning in Desi culture. By the way, that is what they mean when they say that. Many Indo/Paks are secular, but they come from Muslim families and migrated from a Muslim run place. I am taught to assume the best until I have solid evidence otherwise. His published statements are troubling, but not enough for me to condemn him. In fact, I only said he was wrong for using the term. I did not do a takfeer (Muslim announcing another Muslim is not a Muslim). Anyway, below, I said I won’t be discussing who is and who is not a Muslim. You obviously are not in school studying that one. Can you tell me why you assume authority, on things you don’t study, under the guise of opinion?

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    If an atheist has an understanding that there was no actual Abraham, doesn’t that give him in some ways a truer understanding of the Abrahamic religions than those who believe in these religions?

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    short answer…definitely not.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    It seems like something pretty important. If the religions are based on an illusion, then everything following is probably an illusion. The only way to sort it out is to start over at the beginning.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    are you an illusion? How do we know you are not an illusion and that everything that exists is not merely a dream in some huge mind? I won’t go on and on with you about the existence of God. I will say, ATHEISM IS A BELIEF SYSTEM. As such, it does not offer much, other than cynicism and the child-like naive belief that if everyone denies God, then the world will become heaven. You base your arguments above on your belief and then present them to me, a believer., and then you assume you are making some great point. This is evidence of you having trouble thinking in a straight line.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I am just saying maybe we should start at the beginning and check where our beliefs came from, and why we still believe them. We don’t want to continue forever jumping from one justification to the next for beliefs that don’t make sense in the first place.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    you are sort of talking to yourself. If you can prove God does not exist, then please feel free to insert it here. 90% of the world, believes. For we who believe, you unbelief is nonsensical. I do not mean to insult you. I ask you to consider that one of the great effects of the internet is that it has caused people with marginal views to see themselves as front and center and to become fascinated with attacking mainstream views. I do this as a black man, but I think I have a good reason. Whites killed Martin Luther King and today work to dismantle his legacy. So if you let me type for five minutes….you are probably going to see the words “white racist” appear in my comments…because many whites have a racist impulse that overwhelms their moral systems. This is historical fact and it is my windmill. Now your windmill is God…. I am not a good candidate to join the atheist movement. I fear God and I love Him to the best of my ability and I am really a sort of misanthrope. So this talk about “where our beliefs come from” won’t go far with me. I think you should check where your beliefs come from. Someone raised you and the odds are 90% they were not atheists. You have no proof they were wrong, so maybe you should check where you get your belief without proofs from?

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I believe there is proof they were wrong. I was raised Christian, like most people here in the US, and everyone in my family. You don’t have to prove there is no God because we can prove there is no Jesus. The issue there is the historical data shows he was an invention of the church, in the later part of the first century and on into the following centuries. People who believe Jesus was real are just following what they were taught without looking at the evidence.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    You can prove there was no Jesus? In Islam, we believe Jesus existed. The key words being used here by both you and I are “Believe.” Even if you had concrete proof Jesus did not exist (obviously not so concrete to Christians especially), that does not prove that God does not exist, but only that Christianity is false. That still leaves you with thousands of other beliefs to prove false…but I think this goes back to the Eurocentric thing. You only know Christianity as THE belief and now in your mind that you have disproved it, that settles it…..the objective truth is, at best you can disprove only one religion, and Christians would say you have not even accomplished that.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I think if Christianity comes to an end, the others will start to fall into place. America is still a key that has some influence. I don’t think Americans are looking for a second choice religion. I think once they are past Christianity, they will figure it might be best to just give it a rest for a while. To some degree religions are built up to oppose each other. They have to be strong because they can’t allow Christianity (or whoever) to dominate. If they all start to relax and let down their guard, everyone will start to see how it can be better without religion.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    you “believe” you “think” other than your opinion, do you have any real facts to give? You think all the Jews Muslims, Buddhists, Sihks Hindus…et. all will follow white Christians? This was my earlier point. you want me to stop believing in God. I want you to stop believing the world revolves around white people and what they believe. Racism and God on equal footing…only on the internet.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    It is just my guess. I think Islam had to build up as a counterbalance to Christianity. I think once Americans give up on Christianity, they won’t be looking for another religion. I think other people will see how much it helps America to do without religion, and over time they might start dropping other religions. This is just the feeling I have for how it will work out. If you want something more concrete, you have to go back to the beginning and ask why do religions believe the things they do? Does it make any difference that the religions are basically based on nothing? I think if the question is asked enough times, eventually people will start to see what the issue is. Belief based on nothing might last a long time, but it can’t be permanent.

  • Did anyone else find the program clip cringe inducing? Not funny. Extremely didactic. And forced.

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