Reza Aslan Lies About Islam and His Credentials

It should go without saying that no matter what a person’s credentials are, their argument should be evaluated on it’s own merits. Whether or not the argument made is fallacious and/or the argument makes false claims and/or is true and accurate is most important. So, I have focused on Aslan’s arguments as such. However, Aslan has argued that his credentials are consequential, making it unavoidable. So I will not avoid the question of his credentials.

I will deal with all of this in two parts; 1. Aslan on Religion and 2. Aslan on His Own Credentials

I ripped this out in the last 2 hours, so it will be a little rough. I will hopefully edit this and add to it it. This is what I found with one quick search between between breakfast and coffee. In other words, this is just a quick demonstrate that Aslan is considerably wrong where it matters. I may search for more examples in the future, but I may never have the time to do so.

  1. Aslan on Religion

Reza is famous for claiming that terrorism has nothing to do with religion. This is obviously a lie. Hopefully it is not necessary to demonstrate to you that religion is an inextricable motivating factor for religiously motivated terrorism (not all terrorism, but religiously motivated terrorism). If someone attacks Planned Parenthood and says he is doing it to discourage the practice of abortion because it is against Christianity then that person is in fact a Christian terrorist (by definition). Obviously, many acts are also motivated by politics, social factors, psychology and other factors, but it is unrealistic to deny the fact that violence can be religiously motivated. So, Aslan is wrong on this point.

Reza often says that texts can be interpreted in infinitely elastic ways, etc. and that therefore if the Qur’an says (9:5) “Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” it is not different than “I do not like green eggs and ham”. Would anyone here argue that all text is equal insofar as they can be said to be motivating factors for violence? In other words, would you argue that verses like “Kill all the townsfolk and spare none” in the Bible is just as innocent as “See spot. See spot run.”? No. Obviously not, unless one is to completely deconstruct language until it is meaningless and useless. You can join Aslan in doing so, of course, but in order to communicate effectively, one must use the agreed upon conventions of language.

Aslan denies, ignores or dismisses the central message of the Qur’an. The Qur’an does in fact say, “fight in the way of Allah until over the whole world, religion is only for Allah” and to “lay in wait” so you can, “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (Pickthall, 1955) and that it gives 3 choices for every person on the planet (Antitheist, 2015);

First choice – convert to Islam

Second choice – be subsumed into Islamic society, living under Sharia as a dimmi (a person with almost no rights and who must pay the jizya – a tax for not converting to Islam) or

Third choice – death

My article What You Should Know About Islam (Antitheist, 2015) contains quotes, citations, references and a logical, accurate, valid and true argument that the Qur’an’s message makes it clear that the goal of Islam is to spread until there is one world under one rule under the religion of Islam. I encourage you to read it. Once you do, you will see how facile and dishonest it is to claim (as Reza claims) that the Qur’an is neutral.

Some have taken issue with Aslan’s comments on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), trying to divert attention away from the fact that in huge numbers (but not in all cases) this mutilation is done by people of the religion of Islam, done in a religious context, in accordance with the tenants of Islam insofar as those people understand them. There is a debate as to whether or not it is actually supported by or proscribed by the Hadith(s). However, it is clear that huge numbers of victims of FGM are victims of a religious practice. So Aslan is categorically wrong (at best) or lying about Islam in this area as well. But there’s more devil in the details. If you want a more detailed focus on Aslan’s deception in this particular area, see the following (Sanders, 2014);


  1. Aslan on His Own Credentials

You may or may not have read the article Stop Calling Reza Aslan a Fraud and Learn How Academia Works (Facciani, 2015). The author correctly writes;
“Reza Aslan has a B.A. in religion from Santa Clara University, an M.T.S in Theological Studies from Harvard; an M.F.A. in Fiction from the University of Iowa; and received his Ph.D in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Now a few atheists (even Glenn Beck) have pointed out that his PhD is in sociology and not in religion. Therefore, he must be lying and is a fraud! Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Academia is weird and sometimes the name on your degree does not match up with your expertise. What really matters is what area your research is in (i.e. your dissertation).”

You may have stopped after reading that, convinced of this argument. But with more information, one sees how this is not correct or valid.

As Dan Arel writes (2015), Facciani is right (in that quote above) but this is beside the point because;

“this is not what Aslan tells the public. He clearly states he is a professor of religion, not that he once was, and he says time and time again he has a Ph.D. in the history of western religion, which he does not.

He lies and conflates his credentials to be something they are not. Why not just stand by the credentials you have?

No matter how you slice it, Aslan is misleading people about his credentials.

And the reality is, all of this would be meaningless if Aslan didn’t tout his credentials each and every time someone pointed a camera at him or anytime someone questioned his defense of Islam or statistics about female genital mutilation or women’s rights under Islamic law. The fact he uses his “credentials” to act as though he is above criticism means his credentials are worth discussing. Unfortunately for him, he should have been more honest.” (Arel, 2015).

In this piece, Arel gives first qualifies his argument with, “Now to be clear, I despise everything about FrontPage Magazine, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.” before then quoting from the nevertheless accurate article by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh (Arel, 2015). As Dr. Rafizadeh writes;

“In actuality, Reza Aslan is not a “professor of religion,” and what he claims he does “for a living” is an outrageous inaccuracy. Reza Aslan is an associate professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of California, Riverside. He teaches there based on his Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from Iowa, his relevant academic credential.” (Rafizadeh, 2013)
As Rafizadeh points out, Reza has said (on national TV, I will add), “I am a scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament . . . I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions . . . I am a professor of religions, including the New Testament – that’s what I do for a living, actually . . . To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions.”as well as saying, “I have a BA, MA and PhD in the history of Western Religions so yes, again, I am an ACTUAL expert in Judaism.”

But much of that is a lie. As Rafizadeh writes;

In actuality, Reza Aslan is not a “professor of religion,” and what he claims he does “for a living” is an outrageous inaccuracy. Reza Aslan is an associate professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of California, Riverside. He teaches there based on his Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from Iowa, his relevant academic credential.

In addition, Reza Aslan received his PhD in sociology – not “History of Religions” – from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2009.

I used to teach at the University of California at Santa Barbara and I am familiar with the prominent theologians, professors and academic scholars at the school. None of these individuals that I met considered Reza Aslan even remotely close to being a scholar in religion. After all, he received his PhD in sociology. At first, I did not know of Reza Aslan. But when his name was brought up, I asked a director of one the departments at the university – who prefers to remain anonymous – for more information. He stated simply that Reza Aslan is a hungry self-promoter who begs for media attention and appearances, and who repeatedly misrepresents his credentials. He added that it goes without saying that Reza Aslan is laughed at within scholarly circles, and that academics do not consider Reza Aslan even a minor religious scholar.

Secondly, the expertise – which Reza Aslan claims is based on his PhD – should be determined by the topic of the dissertation. Reza Aslan’s dissertation, titled “Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework” reveals that if he is an expert based on his PhD, he should be an expert on social movements in early twentieth-century Islam, not on Christianity or even modern Islam.

Third, although Reza Aslan calls himself a “historian,” he has never attainted (sic) a degree or had professional training in history, and has never even taken an elementary course in historiography for that matter. His dissertation focuses on the events and movements of the twentieth century and does not apply any historical methods or archival research. In addition, his dissertation is also an abnormally short one – approximately 130 pages double-spaced – which seems to have been written for publicity purposes for his book, Beyond Fundamentalism. Reza Aslan has been exploiting the situation in the United States after 9/11 to self-promote and make profits through these exaggerations and fabrications.

Fourth, Reza Aslan is a self-proclaimed “scholar,” yet his background is inconsistent with academic scholarly standards. Reza Aslan has barely published any papers or articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals.

Fifth, Reza Aslan received his PhD in 2009. Yet, there are several interviews and events before 2009 where Reza Aslan sounds as if he is a professor with a PhD.

The work of “real” scholars of religions – not of creative writing – in the United States and across the world speaks for itself, without the need for the author to shamelessly self-promote, boast oneself as a “prominent thinker” and “scholar of religions,” and to beg hungrily for media appearances with insatiable greed. Regardless of the inaccuracy of his self-descriptions, respectable scholars never flaunt their degrees so arrogantly. There are countless scholars and academics that have more prestigious PhD degrees in actual “religion,” which they obtained at a younger age and have had for decades (again, Aslan received his in 2009 at the age of 37). However, these intellectuals seldom boast or even mention their degrees. This shows that the aforementioned author only obtained his degree for flaunting purposes. Finally, the author has found the environment after 9/11 extremely advantageous for himself to exploit, self-promote, and to make profit. (Rafizadeh, 2013)

Also, read what author Elizabeth Castelli writes in her piece Reza Aslan-Historian? Yes, the Author Was Attacked on Fox News for Daring to Be a Muslim Writing about Jesus. But Does His Book Actually Meet the Historical Standards He Claims? which is referenced below with a link to the source (2013). In a nutshell, she too explains how Aslan lies about his credentials.


Arel, Dan. “Islamic Apologist Reza Aslan Lie about His Academic Credentials.” Danthropology. Patheos, 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 Dec. 2015. <>.

Castelli, Elizabeth. “Reza Aslan-Historian? Yes, the Author Was Attacked on Fox News for Daring to Be a Muslim Writing about Jesus. But Does His Book Actually Meet the Historical Standards He Claims?” The Nation. 09 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 Dec. 2015. <>.

Facciani, Matthew. “Stop Calling Reza Aslan a Fraud and Learn How Academia Works.” According to Matthew. Patheos, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 Dec. 2015. < HYPERLINK

Pickthall, Mohammed Marmaduke. Meaning of the Glorious Koran. New York: Mentor Religious Classic, 1955. pages ix, xii. Print.

Rafizadeh, Majid, Dr. “The Lies and Misrepresentations of Reza Aslan.” Frontpage Mag. N.p., 4 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 Dec. 2015. <>

Sanders, Katie. “Fact-checking Reza Aslan on Bill Maher’s ‘not Very Sophisticated’ Rant on Islam.” @politifact. PunditFact, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Dec. 2015. <>.

See also;”& HYPERLINK “”ref_blog=danthropology HYPERLINK “”& HYPERLINK “”ref_post=according-to-fox-news-the-war-on-christmas-has-already-begun>.


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