Forever Under Construction

The ME

Posted in Middle East by homeyra on April 2, 2008


In this series of 21 short films (1 to 6 minutes), author and scholar Reza Aslan talks about less known – or discussed, aspects of the Middle East. Well worth a watch.

Posted initially at 99: reza aslan says THE most astonishing thing at 5.45

12 Responses

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  1. Pedestrian said, on April 2, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I’ve been following Aslan for a few years now, and to be honest, he did not seem like a big deal.

    Well, actually, I need to elaborate!

    For sure, he was saying things that went against the norm and were refreshing to hear – but that just shows you what an intellectual void exists today. They were refreshing to hear, but, in their essence, were not new, innovative or novel.

    He is certainly no Edward Said or Mclaren.

    So first off, I have to give him credit for saying things that went against the “norm”.

    But they were not, in their very nature, anything new or amazing. His analysis of Iran was something that again, many had not heard. But often I find it simplistic.

    I only listened to the first video you posted so far, and I am liking this more than his previous lectures, interviews, talks, etc. He sounds a bit different. Because he sometimes sounds like an apologist to me. For instance, on his 1 hour lecture on terrorism he gave around 2 years ago, he only once briefly touched upon the fact that Western foreign policy was, in part, responsible for the state we are in today.

    In this new talk you’ve posted, he is putting blame on the American government and that was good to hear! ………. However, I don’t agree with his statement that “most of the Arab world bought the U.S. administration’s promise of democracy and freedom” which he presses quite forcefully. I lived and studied in the “Arab world” during that time, and there was no such thing. At least not “on the street” the way he claims.

    And in the end, I like what he says, but they are too mainstream: they are no more enlightening than the ideas in my mind and that of many others. Many of us think the exact same thoughts he is noting in his talk. In one respect that’s good, he can reach out to the “every man” because he is not caught up in lengthy, complicated analysis. But then, he’s supposed to be a scholar and an academic: he is supposed to get into lengthy, complicated analysis that might harbor new solutions.

    Have you ever heard Robert Fisk talk? (far from an academic!) but even he gives a more historical analysis, complicated overviews, a mix of why, how, when and where everybody involved is responsible.

    So is Aslan’s simplicity a pro or a con?
    I don’t know!

    By the way, according to Wikipedia, his aunt is Leila Forouhar … Hard to imagine! 😉

  2. homeyra said, on April 2, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    I didn’t know Aslan, and I sort of liked the first video you saw. By now I have seen 4 of them. I hoped that people who know him would tell me more and here you are, thank you.
    My impression so far is close to your analysis, he is no Said, but he is refreshing in his views, also as an Iranian-American who looks beyond Iran.
    Imho the fact that he reaches “every man” is not all negative. Pro or con? good question 🙂
    I haven’t read his analysis on Iran, I hope it won’t be too disappointing; I’ll have to look it up.
    I considered adding a trivia line about his aunty, but then I thought … naaaa, let’s not distract the public 🙂

  3. 99 said, on April 2, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    I’m still reeling from the surprise of his statement about * proposing good things and being ignored. I ignored it! I only vaguely remember hearing about it, and I hear radically more than most Americans, and it was so soon overtaken by the press of events that it was completely buried in my brain. Had to excavate with a tractor.

    Had to go back and look for the news about it, and put it together with my mistrust about Israel attacking Gaza so soon on the heels of that trip, and… well… * pretty much came out publicly on Palestine’s side, AND EVERYONE IGNORED HIM. I think that is huge.

    And horrifying.

    And Aslan gets lots of points with me for pointing out that one thing.

  4. Pedestrian said, on April 2, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Agree with you there. I was STUNNED … I have a fairly thorough look at the news every day (not from sources inside the U.S), and I had heard nothing.

    But that just means he’s a very thorough news reader! It doesn’t add credibility to him as a scholar.

    In fact, I quite disagree with him as why we didn’t hear it. He said something along the lines of “the world has no regard for the words of the U.S. anymore” … But that’s certainly not why Bush’s words ended up on page 17 of the New York Times.

    That may have been the reason why this news was not reflected in the Middle East. But in the U.S., his words make front page news irrespective of what garbage he’s blurting out everyday … I think this one not making it out anywhere in the U.S. & Canada was intentional: even when the president acknowledges a fact about this subject, tells the Israelis to get out of occupied territory, etc … nobody is willing to have any of it or to even hear it.

    In fact, one thing I don’t like about Aslan is that he never, ever criticizes the American press … I am from Iran, so I know what a biased, propaganda-filled press is like, and I SWEAR … Sometimes, that in America seems as bad, if not worse (at least we don’t call Iran a democratic, free nation, we’re not expecting a fair, justified view to begin with). But it is just blatantly catastrophic: the voices coming out of CNN, NBC, The NY Times, … And some academics and journalists are talking about this: but not Aslan.

    Of course not! CNN and NBC are what made him “famous” …….. The best I can explain Aslan is a refreshing voice for CNN … which, is an insult or a virtue depending on where you come from …

  5. 99 said, on April 3, 2008 at 4:09 am

    Well, you pretty much have to hate everyone who gets on tv nowadays then, because our CMSM [corporate mainstream media], aka Pravda, won’t have any of it. Period. People with issues just are forced to pick their battles nowadays. Nothing gets said if they don’t. I don’t know if this accounts for this fault you find with him, or even if it is something he ought rightfully to be held accountable for. I don’t know much about him. I just know I went berserk for that little bit of information he blurted out there. Certain weird things blow my skirt up and I make a hairy deal out of it when it seems rare and truthful to me.

  6. homeyra said, on April 3, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Thank you both for bringing up important points.
    Finally I went through all the series. In an inoffensive way Aslan tackles issues unknown to many starters. He’ll have my vote for doing this.

  7. naj said, on April 6, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    oh a cute Iranian! 😉

  8. Pagan Sphinx said, on April 7, 2008 at 2:24 am

    I found him young, smart and accessible. He may not be scholar material, I wouldn’t know, but that’s cool with me; I’m just a dumb American anyway!


  9. Pagan Sphinx said, on April 7, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Oh, and homeyra, I hope you are well. I continue to find interesting items on your blog. Thanks and keep it up!


  10. homeyra said, on April 7, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Thanks PS 🙂 and same to you.
    lol! The “loud” news is usually so charged, most of the time it distracts us from an understanding.
    As Pedestrian put so well here is a refreshing voice, new to me too.

  11. Amina said, on April 8, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I’ve just discovered your blog, and got interested with this post. I know briefly work of Aslan and find him pretty cool. he might not be typical mufti but he has always something interesting to say.

    regards from poland

  12. homeyra said, on April 9, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Hi Amina and Poland 🙂
    Thanks for your visit and for sharing you impressions on Aslan.

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