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Reza Aslan: Education, Understanding, and Islam
When Reza Aslan ’95 published No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, it was lauded as “required reading for all analysts and policymakers interested in the Muslim world.” By shedding light on headlines and news footage, Aslan has helped political leaders and citizens alike understand the nature of the reformation taking place in Islam—and what’s at stake both in the Middle East and the West.
Born in Tehran and raised in San Jose, he earned a degree in religious studies at Santa Clara before going on to earn a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard and an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa; he is currently completing his Ph.D. in the sociology of religions at UC Santa Barbara, is a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Diplomacy, and has been appointed an assistant professor at UC Riverside.
As the first speaker in the inaugural season of the President’s Speaker Series, in January 2007 Aslan offered an articulate, startling assessment of what he describes as a “cosmic war.” His position is that when the U.S. casts the war in Iraq as a struggle between good and evil, Americans fight jihadists on their own terms. Aslan argues that we need to redefine that conflict and keep democratic principles front and center. And that the most powerful weapon we have is education.