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Aslan's Deception

Incautious fool cautiously schooled.

Clearly, as Reza Aslan so eloquently demonstrated, obscurantism is the new black. With an all but creepy smile, Aslan has been lionized, sniffing things like Islam does not need a reformation. Really? Then how does he answer to the experiences of Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Somalia, who against her own will, suffered female genital mutilation? Painfully, Hirsi Ali recounts the details of this event for all to witness:

"The man, who was probably an itinerant traditional circumciser from the blacksmith clan, picked up a pair of scissors. With the other hand, he caught hold of the place between my legs and started tweaking it, like Grandma milking a goat. "There it is, the kintir," one of the women said. Then the scissors went down between my legs and the man cut off my inner labia and clitoris. I heard it, like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs, indescribable, and I howled. Then came the sewing: the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia, my loud and anguished protests, Grandma's words of comfort and encouragement. "It's just this once in your life, Ayaan. Be brave, it's almost finished." When the sewing was finished, he cut the thread off with his teeth.”

Many people may decry these actions as being completely foreign to Islam, just as Aslan does. And to an extent, they are right. Not once does the Qu’ran have any mention of ripping of the clitoris via brute force. However true, it still remains true that the Shafi’i school of Islam finds these practices to be obligatory. But these people must be a minority, you might be thinking. To the contrary, by number of adherents, this school is the second largest of Sunni madhhabs; predominating over countries such as Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Hirsi Ali’s home country Somalia. Whatever analytic acrobatics it takes to say that this doesn’t constitute a majority, or a clear link between faith and genital mutilation, is obscurantism. Those who hold this form of academic dishonesty as their weapon of choice may jab that it is not the largest school of Sunni Islam. Well, in that case, let us look at the largest school according to adherents: the Hanafi. Punishing apostates and blasphemers with death, stoning adulterers, and having “preference” to female genital mutilation, this creed is fantastically despicable. But, according to Aslan, the call for reformation in Islam is worthy of a “tirade,” because the reformation is ongoing. So is the reformation going in Libya, where 73% of citizens think that suicide bombing in defense of Islam is justifiable, or is it occurring in Egypt and Pakistan, where 82% of people agree that adulterers should be stoned to death? Or maybe it is being penned in the newspaper Al-Akhbar, a widely circulated newspaper in Cairo, when a contributor said: “Thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians took revenge in advance against the most vile criminals on the face of the Earth...Although we do have a complaint against him, for his revenge was not enough.” So, does Islam need a reformation? Yes it does, and until then obscurantists such as Aslan need one too.


  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel (New York: Free Press, ©2007), 32.
  • Abdelwahab Bouhdiba and Muḥammad Maʻrūf al-Dawālībī (1998), The Different Aspects of Islamic Culture, ISBN 9231027425, UNESCO, page 436
  • UNION OF THE COMOROS 2013 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT U.S. State Department (2014), Quote: "The law provides sanctions for any religious practice other than the Sunni Shafi’i doctrine of Islam and for prosecution of converts from Islam, and bans proselytizing for any religion except Islam”
  • Elyse Semerdjian (2008), "Off the Straight Path": Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo, Syracuse University Press, ISBN 978-0815631736, pp. 22-23
  • L Wiederhold L, Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (sabb al-rasul, sabb al-sahabah) : The introduction of the topic into Shafi'i legal literature, Jrnl of Sem Studies, Oxford University Press, 42(1), pp. 39-70
  • David Forte, Islam’s Trajectory, Revue des Sciences Politiques, No. 29 (2011), pages 92-101
  • Peters & De Vries (1976), Apostasy in Islam, Die Welt des Islams, Vol. 17, Issue 1/4, pp 1-25
  • E.Goldberg, The Executive Brain. Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind (Oxford: Oxford Univs. Press, 2001)

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