Dr. Reza Aslan, author of "Zealot," a controversial book released last year about Jesus, recently appeared on Fusion to discuss religion in America and comedian Bill Maher's ongoing critiques of Islam, claiming that "anti-Muslim sentiment" is at "unprecedented levels."
Aslan, a Muslim scholar who has come under fire in the past for his theories on Christ, said in the interview that all faith systems operating in the United States are profoundly and uniquely impacted by one specific cultural element.
"What's unique about America is this inherent individualistic culture that we have … this thing that we — just it's all about the individual over the community," he said. "And every religion that comes to the United States … gets infected by this sense of individualism."
Aslan said that it is this key issue that makes religions in America — whether Christianity or Islam — unlike faith systems anywhere else.
These views on individualism are intriguing, as the author said last month that Jesus' teachings are “as close to Marxism as it gets.” Aslan specifically told HuffPo Live that Jesus’ focus was on the poor, teaching that the downtrodden would one day be the “inheritors of the earth.”
“If there’s one thing that you can really zero in on when it comes to Jesus’ preachings — and I mean the historical Jesus — was his absolute hatred of wealth,” Aslan continued. “This wasn’t the man who was neutral about it … what he preached was that those who have wealth, that wealth will be taken away.”
He added, “That’s as close to Marxism as it gets.”
As far as anti-Islamic sentiment goes, Aslan said in his most recent Fusion interview that he blames the rhetoric disseminated in media for negative views on Islam.
"The problem is that anti-Muslim sentiment in this country is at unprecedented levels thanks in great part to the media rhetoric and people like Bill Maher who have been saying these things for a long time," Aslan said. "People who are smart [and] engaged are just not putting up with it any longer."
Problems in the Middle East, he argued, are not necessarily a result of the Muslim faith.
"Like all religions, [Islam is] privy to all of the cultural and nationalistic and social and political and economic facts that define how it's lived in real life," Aslan said.
He went on to note his belief that European colonialism and its after effects led to many of the problems observed in the region, including the "rise of religious radicalism."
"That's what religion does. It tends to fill the vacuum, so when other things collapse — when other parts of your identity begin to be in flux — religion shows up and sort of fills the hole if you will," Aslan said.
Watch Aslan's comments below (caution: segment opens with adult themes):
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