Well, I’ll be—get a load of this. Marc Manly is an American “imam at large” who seems to have considerable Islamic cred:
The last fifteen years has seen me involved in a number of ways in the Muslim community. In my early twenties, I was asked to teach Islamic studies along side Shaykh ‘Ali Sulaiman ‘Ali, of the ALIM Program, at Crescent Academy in Canton, Michigan. Since then, I have worked as a Muslim educator in subjects ranging from Arabic language, philosophy, and creed, to spirituality and self-purification. During my tenure at the University of Pennsylvania I teamed up with Adnan Zulficar, the Interfaith Fellow and Campus Minister to the Muslim Community at the University of Pennsylvania, to create and teach the Islamic Literacy Series. Notes and audio recordings can be found here.
In 2008, I completed an ijazah (license to teach/preach) with Imam Anwar Muhaimin of the Quba Institute, in Philadelphia, in the area of khutbah. Since then, I have been working as a khatib, delivering Friday sermons at a variety of locations in and around the greater Philadelphia area. In addition, I have spoken at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Hillel, Charter School, and Yale University just to name a few venues.
In August of 2011, it was my great pleasure to be appointed to the position of Muslim Chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania. Here, I worked alongside Revered Charles “Chaz” Howard in serving Muslims at Penn as well as the broader University community. 2012 also saw the pilot launch of a Muslim chaplain position at Drexel University. Both positions allowed me a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance to serve my faith community. I am grateful for the experience. In addition to my religious duties I concurrently worked full-time at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania, in the IT and instruction technology fields.
So it’s particularly satisfying to see Manly pronounce the unctuous Reza Aslan, Grand Mufti of Muslim Apologetics, someone whose Islamic beliefs are not recognizable. To Manly, Aslan is “no true Muslim.” In that way Aslan is like the members of ISIS!
A few days ago, Aslan wrote a piece for CNN, “Why I am a Muslim,” It’s about as saccharine as you’d expect. Always the careerist, he touts his new CNN show “Believer“, but he also says stuff like this:
Can you have faith without religion? Of course! But as the Buddha said, if you want to strike water, you don’t dig six 1-foot wells; you dig one 6-foot well. In other words, if you want to have a deep and meaningful faith experience, it helps — though it is by no means necessary — to have a language with which to do so.
So then, pick a well.
My well is Islam, and in particular, the Sufi tradition. Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is “truer” than other religions (it isn’t), but because Islam provides me with the “language” I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it.
In other words, he just likes the symbols and metaphors of Islam better than those of, say, Catholicism. Fine. But let Aslan recite that litany from the steps of the Masjid al Haram in Saudi Arabia. How long would he last before he was thrashed within an inch of his life? Metaphors, indeed! (And Sufis have long been persecuted by other Muslims.)
But he not only neglects to tell us why the symbols of Islam resonate with him the most, but then has the temerity to say that, at bottom, all religions are the same: “My goal — as a scholar, as a person of faith, and now as the host of Believer — is to be the linguist, to demonstrate that, while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.”
Well that might get Aslan not just beaten, but beheaded. No True Muslim would say that their faith is the same as that of Christians, Jews, or Hindus! How could it be? If you see Jesus as the savior, Islam damns you while Christianity lauds you. And, according to the Qur’an, you’re an infidel and should be killed. The whole story behind and the ethics undergirding different faiths—not just Islam and Christianity—diverge among religions. Whatever you can say of them, they are not the same. Of course different faiths recognize their differences, which explains the continuing violence between them: Sunni against Shia, Sunni against Ahmadi, Muslims against Sufis, Christians and Hindus, Hindus against Muslims—the list goes on forever.
And Manly recognizes these differences, saying this:
What’s most amusing about Aslan is that I can find nothing recognizable about his Islam. It’s not that it’s totally foreign, it’s more that it’s totally absent.
The first curiosity is his almost complete lack of discourse about the Prophet. More akin to a deist, Aslan talks at length about God but is awkwardly silent about the man that God revealed the codified form of Islam we know, as espoused in the Qur’an. Why is that? It seems Aslan, and those pundits like him, seem more comfortable endulging [sic] their flights of fancy about this or that abstract or esoteric theological point versus dealing with “the Walking Qur’an”: the man who was not only the recipient of Revelation, but who aslo [sic] clarified its meanings, etc. Instead, the Prophet seems to be — as far as Aslan is concerned — a mere envelope, as it were, in relation to revelation which Aslan does not, by his own account, believe the Qur’an to be true in its entirety (he rejects the story of Jesus in the Qur’an where he was not crucified let alone his outright rejection of all hadith as made up). So the question that begs answering is: By what standard is Reza Aslan Muslim? It seems rather that it’s an Islam which requires nothing of the believer other than what happens to stir his (or her) desires. Oddly enough this is the same metric by which the likes of Aslan will condone homosexuality as a lawful identity and pursuit but will in turn impugn a Muslim man for wanting to take another wife (polygyny), which is clearly outlined in the Qur’an as permissible, even if he wanted to do so only for passions or identity (heterosexual).
And indeed, you can make a far better case that Aslan espouses a perverted form of Islam than does ISIS. ISIS, after all, is following the literal words of the Qur’an, while Aslan, saying they’re mere metaphors, is almost completely abandoning the tenets of Islam—tenets that require literalism. He’s a man of all faiths, who just happens to find the label of Muslim the most expressive of his tastes. But Islam is not a taste to Muslims: it is the Final Faith, the Last Word of Allah. Most Muslims, I suspect, would see Aslan as an apostate or even an infidel.
It’s amusing to see Aslan outed in this way, the same way apologists like him go after ISIS for not adhering to “true Islam.” I wonder if Manly can formally declare him an infidel or apostate. (Aware of the possible consequences of such a fatwa, I hasten to add that I wish no harm to Aslan—just a nonviolent and titular declaration that he’s a nonbeliever.)
I have no use for Aslan, for he dissimulates in the service of his ambition, knowing full well that people want to see Islam as a religion of peace, and that liberals like nothing better than hearing that all religions are, at bottom, the same. (Well, in one sense they are: they all depend on faith—on the assertion of claims about reality with no evidence behind them.) No thinking person should admire Aslan, for he distorts reality to feed people’s confirmation bias—and to make himself famous. In fact, admiration of Aslan is a sign of soft-headedness.