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Read time: 3 minutes

Reza Aslan: If You Are Painting 1.5 Billion People With The Same Brush As Al Qaeda, 'You're A Bigot'

Good for you Reza Aslan! Too bad Rudy Giuliani didn't get a chance to hear this said to his face on this week's Meet the Press. David Gregory made sure Reza didn't get to say too much else for the rest of the panel segment after this. Probably
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Good for you Reza Aslan! Too bad Rudy Giuliani didn't get a chance to hear this said to his face on this week's Meet the Press. David Gregory made sure Reza didn't get to say too much else for the rest of the panel segment after this. Probably afraid he won't get another "exclusive" interview with A-Noun-A-Verb-And-9-11 if he let him Reza go after him too much more.

GREGORY: I want to talk politics, I want to talk the economy, but I do want to talk about 9/11 and this tumultuous week, a surreal week in many ways, with the threats from the Florida pastor and this ongoing debate about what's going on in lower Manhattan. And, and we look at this, the views of Islam in The Washington Post poll, unfavorable now at 49 percent. Look at that, eclipsing even the unfavorable rating in October of 2001. And you look at the, the flag burnings, some of the reactions that we've seen to the debate we've been having here going on in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, burning flags, you see this kind of thing. This is a hearts and minds campaign that General Petraeus is waging in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Pakistan, and there are setbacks to it.

Reza, you wrote this as part of an NPR commentary at the end of the summer, "The fear is that this [Islamaphobia] may lead to the same kind of radicalization among Muslim youth in the U.S. that we've seen in Europe. It has already played into the hands of al-Qaeda, which has for years been trying to convince American Muslims that the unfettered religious freedoms they enjoy is a mirage. ... Are we in danger of proving al-Qaeda right? I am a liberal, progressive, secularized American Muslim. But when I see that bigotry against my faith - my very identity - has become so commonplace in America that it is shaping into a wedge issue for the midterm elections, I can barely control my anger. I can't imagine how the next generation of American Muslim youth will react to such provocations." What's behind this?

ASLAN: Well, look, I think part of it has to do with the controversy surrounding the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. And while it's true that there are those who oppose the project because they do believe that it will disturb the sensitivities of some 9/11 victims--though I, I, I do want to remind everyone that in this country we do not define our constitutional rights by how they disturb people's sensitivities--you only had to spend a few minutes at Ground Zero yesterday and to take in this international cabal of anti-Muslim zealots that had gathered together to spout the most vile racist bigotry to know that this is about something more. Anti-Muslim sentiment in this country is at unprecedented levels.

We all know this. But what's truly disturbing is how mainstream it's becoming with politicians on both sides--and I would have to include the former mayor in this, in this category--openly and explicitly associating American Muslims with al-Qaeda. I mean, what I'd like to know from, not just the former mayor but from, you know, the people who, who keep talking about this Islamic community center, is that what is it that this multifaith, multistoried community center being led by an American imam that two presidents, Republican and Democrat, have used as a--as an ambassador to the Muslim world, cultural ambassador to the Muslim world, what does that have to do with al-Qaeda?

The answer is kind of simple, actually: Islam. But let's call a spade a spade for a moment. If you are painting 1.5 billion people with the same brush of violence and, and, and extremism, you're a bigot. And I think what's, what's disturbing is the way that that's become part of the, the, the natural discourse now.

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