The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Lavin’s Top Religion Speakers Offer a Nuanced Understanding of Faith in the Modern World

While some consider religion a pillar of morality and community, others believe it to be the root cause of wars, political strife, and ideological dust-ups. With compassion, honesty, and humor, Lavin’s Top Religion Speakers shine a light on the pivotal role faith continues to play in modern-day life.  

Megan Phelps-Roper
Meghan Phelps-Roper grew up in the Westboro-Baptist Church: a notoriously hostile religious group famous for picketing against the LGBTQ community and funeral services for fallen soldiers. In her new memoir Unfollow,  as well as in her viral TED Talk, Phelps-Roper not only shares how she escaped her toxic faith—but how empathy and compassion can overcome even the widest of ideological gulfs.

Reza Aslan
“Whether we are aware of it or not, and regardless if we are believers or not, what the vast majority of us think about when we think about God is a divine version of ourselves.” In his New York Times bestseller God: A Human History, Reza Aslan—one of America’s most prominent voices on religion—transforms the way we think about the divine and its role in our everyday lives.


Karen Armstrong
As a former Catholic nun and bestselling religious scholar, Karen Armstrong considers faith in the context of modern life. Her latest book The Lost Art of Scripture offers a new way to read religious texts—and apply their teachings practically. A sought-after religion speaker, she says, “we must plumb our religious insights from our scriptures and let them speak to us today in new and innovative ways.”


Wajahat Ali
Wajahat Ali wrote the first major play about Muslim-Americans post-9/11, produced the critically acclaimed docu-series The Secret Life of Muslims, and was the lead author of the seminal report ‘Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.’ Today, the public intellectual speaks on the multifaceted nature of the American experience, and the growing need for religious and cultural unity.


Negin Farsad
Negin Farsad reframes persistent social issues through the lens of comedy. The author of How to Make White People Laugh, and producer of The Muslims Are Coming!, Farsad is one of a handful of Iranian-American Muslim filmmakers using humour to bridge our racial, religious, and social divides.  


Matthew Vines
The author of God and The Gay Christian, Matthew Vines hopes to shatter biblical misconceptions that fuel hate and misunderstanding in his rousing religion talks. He has been called  “an unlikely advocate (and lightning rod) for those straddling one of the most volatile fault lines in America’s culture war: homosexual Christians.” 


Bassam Tariq
Acclaimed filmmaker Bassam Tarique explores the life of American-Muslims in his work, including the Sundance Jury Prize-Winning Ghosts of Sugarland. Intelligent, thoughtful, and brave, Tariq’s religion talks not only question the religious and social differences that divide us—but consider how to transcend them.


Interested in booking one of Lavin's Top Religion Speakers for your next event? Contact one of our knowledagable sales agents today. 

Reza Aslan—the Bestselling Author of God: A Human History—Discusses New Book with Entertainment Weekly

Religious scholar and New York Times bestselling author Reza Aslan shares the details of his new book in an Entertainment Weekly Exclusive. The upcoming Baskerville will tell the story of the American citizen who gave his life fighting for Iranian freedom.

Reza Aslan’s latest book centers around Howard Conklin Baskerville, the only American citizen to have died fighting for democracy in Iran. While he is an incredibly well-known figure in Iran, recognized as a martyr for freedom, Baskerville and his story remain virtually unknown in America.


The Nebraska-born, Princeton-educated Baskerville was a Prebyterian missionary who traveled to Iran in 1907, where he taught English at the American Memorial School in Tabriz. During the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, he organized a volunteer force to defend the country’s democracy. He was shot and killed.


“This argument about what it means to be American, what it means to be Christian—I think the model that Baskerville [gave] us more than 100 years ago is as relevant today as it’s ever been,” Aslan told Entertainment Weekly. “And here we are, in the midst of an escalating conflict between Iran and the United States. As an Iranian American, I know, better than most, how devastating such a conflict could be—how much Iran and America have in common with each other. To see that from the perspective of this young American Christian, who was seen as a hero in Iran, once again, I think gives us a different perspective on this long and complicated relationship between these two countries, and maybe even an alternative model for a future relationship, one based not on violence and conflict and angry rhetoric, but on sort of a mutual understanding of each other’s humanity.” 

Entertainment Weekly  reports that the book, which will be published by W.W. Norton & Company, has also been optioned by Lionsgate for a film adaptation.


To book Reza Aslan for your next speaking event, contact The Lavin Agency for more information.

Lavin Speakers Reza Aslan and Wajahat Ali Land On CNN’s Most Influential American Muslims List

CNN spent a year interviewing more than 100 American Muslims, asking who they believed were the most influential Muslims in their fields. Though no one can speak for the nearly 3.5 million Muslims in America, Reza Aslan and Wajahat Ali were among the most influential to be named, alongside an Olympic hero, a nationally televised comedian, the leader of the Women’s March, and the first Muslim in congress.  

“Seeing my Mom and Dad every day, immigrants who came to this country, wearing a sari, making chai in the kitchen, but then watching the Warriors game, I’m like yeah, that’s America.” Wajahat Ali is a journalist, a writer, a lawyer, an award-winning playwright, and was consultant for the U.S. State Department. His keynotes are funny, insightful, brave, and audiences leave warmed by his clear-eyed take on what it means to be a Muslim in America today.    


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“To me being an American Muslim is simply being a part of the cultural and religious fabric, the mosaic that has made this such an extraordinary country,” says Reza Aslan, bestselling author, religious scholar, professor and consultant on HBO’s The Leftovers. His keynotes are deeply personal, funny, informative and challenge audiences to see the world differently.  


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To book Wajahat Ali or Reza Aslan as keynote speakers for your next event, or another speaker on religion, politics or society, contact The Lavin Agency, home to some of the most influential thinkers in the world.

CNN Premieres Reza Aslan’s Six-Part Investigation of Faith, Believer

“What is your most unshakeable belief?” This is the question driving religious scholar and writer Reza Aslan’s new spiritual adventure series on CNN, Believer. Aslan puts faith into provocative action, and is already making headlines for it.

In each episode of Believer, the six-part television event for CNN, host Reza Aslan explores one of the world’s major faiths. But rather than offering yet another dry documentary, Aslan performs an immersive deep-dive into each religion: an attempt to experience, and communicate, what it’s like to be a true believer. This means undergoing endurance worship, spellbinding rituals, and truly unusual rites of passage, opening a window onto worlds shaped by ancient traditions and community-binding beliefs.


Who are the Aghori?


The series is already making waves, and Aslan is the man to show what he’s investigating with all the patience, open-mindedness, and articulacy he’s known for. As he expressed in his recent essay “Why I Am a Muslim,” Aslan explains that the concept of the show is not to exoticize, alienate, or glorify any one religion. Instead, he aims to show the ways is which “Religion … is the language we use to express faith.”


To find out more about Reza Aslan or to book him for your event, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speaker’s bureau.

Reza Aslan’s New CNN Series Believer Is a Deep Dive into the Religious Unknown

The newest show from Reza Aslan is almost here. The six-part series Believer follows Aslan as he travels the globe meeting the true adherents, religious rebels, fanatics, and gurus behind the fringes of some of the world’s major religions. And it’s coming to CNN this Spring—check out the first trailer below.

CNN Original Series:


Aslan is a widely recognized religious scholar and author of the New York Times bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. And just as in Believer, Aslan’s brand-new keynote explores what it truly means to believe. Where do ancient traditions and modern realities converge? How are the world’s religions different? And more importantly, what do they all have in common? It’s an epic journey into humankind’s search for the divine, distilled into an unforgettable presentation.


To book Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and host of the upcoming CNN show Believer, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.



An Interfaith Couple Explains Trump to Their Kids — Reza Aslan & Jessica Jackley Choose Tolerance

As an interfaith, interracial family, Reza Aslan and Jessica Jackley were at a loss to explain Trump’s win to their young kids. But their eldest child already knew exactly what to say: “The way we defeat bad guys is by loving them so they become good guys.”

Reza Aslan is a NYT bestselling author and the host of Believer, CNN’s upcoming series on world religions. He’s a Muslim. Jessica Jackley is the co-founder of KIVA, the world’s most successful microlending site. She grew up “in a white, Protestant, evangelical suburb.” Writing for The Washington Post, they explain the confusion, disappointment, and sadness they felt as Trump won the presidency. After all, to the interfaith couple, a man who “who looks down on people like us, who would prefer we not exist in this country, had become president.” But they had to bad break the news to their kids—and how do you explain “that this time the bad guy won”?


Their son’s surprising response made things much easier—“The way we defeat bad guys is by loving them so they become good guys”—a reply that strengthened their resolve to keep practicing what they believe in. They write: 

So this will be our response. We will teach our children to be champions of all that Donald Trump denigrates. We will preach and practice equality in all things. We will show our sons how to empower girls and women. We will teach them to respect and learn from all faiths. We will show them the joy of discovering, and celebrating, other cultures. We will gather our friends of all races and creeds and hold them close. We will seek out the people who put Trump in office, who fear us and call us enemies, and we will love them.


In keynotes, Jackley explains how social ventures can transform lives—and offers stories of resilience, hope, and optimism from her work with some of world’s poorest people. Aslan speaks on how ordinary Americans can help eradicate Islamophobia, and how gaining a global perspective on faith can banish preconceptions and deepen empathy.


To book keynote speaker Reza Aslan or Jessica Jackley as the guest speaker for your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive speakers bureau. 

How to be a Moderate Muslim: Speaker Wajahat Ali in Salon

Earlier this week, speaker Wajahat Ali addressed Islamophobia in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks with a satirical piece in Salon on the “mythical moderate Muslim.” Ali, who is the co-host of Al Jazeera America's The Stream, often speaks on the Muslim American experience and is the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans, post-9/11.

“In simpler times, whenever there was a terror attack, a selfless gang of enlightened individuals known as the 'Moderate Majority' burdened themselves with the thankless task of discovering 'Moderate Muslims',” writes Ali. “Due to the advent of modern technology and the glorious invention called 'the Internet', a handful of 'Moderate Muslims' were eventually found in the U.S. and Europe after diligent, strenuous effort…In the spirit of goodwill and intellectual inquiry, the 'Moderate Majority' asked the 'Moderate Muslims' why more of their tribe had not condemned terrorist attacks committed by a fringe minority? Initially taken aback, the 'Moderate Muslims' were curious why this strange double standard was being applied to them. Naturally, they were perplexed why they were asked to condemn violent actions committed by totally unrelated individuals oftentimes on different continents. They wondered why their alleged lack of condemnation was taken as automatic validation, endorsement and celebration of violent extremism.”

Speaker Reza Aslan also appeared in the media to comment on Charles Hebdo. In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Aslan said: “Let's be clear that every single organization, major organization, Muslim organization throughout the world and in the United States, every prominent individual, be it political or religious leaders, everyone has condemned, not just this attack, but every attack that occurs in the name of Islam. Anyone who keeps saying that we need to hear the moderate voice of Islam, why aren't Muslims denouncing these violent attacks, doesn't own Google.”

Watch the full interview below:

To book Wajahat Ali or Reza Aslan to speak at your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Does Islam Promote Violence? Reza Aslan Confront Religious Essentialism on CNN

Speaker Reza Aslan—who impressed everyone on the Internet last year for his incredibly calm, intelligent responses during a surreal Fox News interview where he was repeatedly challenged about why he, as a Muslim, would write a book about Jesus—went viral again this week after an appearance on CNN.

Responding to a statement by comedian Bill Maher, who suggested the Islamic religion is more prone to violence and misogyny, Aslan said: “This is the problem: you make these facile arguments—like that women are somehow mistreated in the Muslim world—while that's certainly true in many Muslim majority countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia […] you're talking about a religion of 1.5 billion people, and it certainly becomes very easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush.”

Aslan stayed cool while CNN anchors Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota continued to question him, asking several times: “Does Islam promote violence?” It's not as simple as that, said Aslan: “Islam doesn’t promote violence or peace. Islam is just a religion, and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism, is going to be violent.”

To see the spirited interview for yourself, watch the video embedded above.

Reza Aslan is a professor, public speaker, bestselling author, and scholar with four degrees in religious study. With few peers, he presents the often contentious religious issues of the day with authority and eloquence. To book Reza Aslan as a speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.

#1 Bestseller Zealot to Hit the Big Screen: Reza Aslan’s Major Film Deal

It's been a busy week for religions speaker Reza Aslan. Lionsgate announced it has acquired feature film rights to Aslan's #1 New York Times bestselling book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which Salon calls “a vivid, persuasive portrait of the world and societies in which Jesus lived and the role he most likely played in both.”

Erik Feig, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group's President of Production, said, “Reza Aslan has written a remarkable book that manages to bring the ancient world into contemporary relief and to make a timeless story very timely. We are excited to create this uniquely cinematic and immersive world for moviegoers to experience.” Aslan commented, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Lionsgate. Their vision for Zealot is aligned with my objective in writing the book, which was to illuminate the life of Jesus in a humanistic, as opposed to religious, context.”

Aslan also appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week, discussing the Iranian nuclear agreement (and receiving much praise from Stewart for Zealot, who called the book “so good” and made reference to Aslan's surreal Fox News interview). The Daily Show interview is embedded above. (Try the link here, if the above video doesn't play for you.)

In his talks, Aslan offers a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion; and challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth. He also speaks about Islam, the Middle East, and Muslim Americans. To book Reza Aslan as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Close The Gap: Speaker Reza Aslan On The Chasm Between History & Religion

Reza Aslan, the highly requested religions speaker, is still generating a lot of buzz thanks to his book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Recently, he gave a presentation at the UN Committee Lecture at the New Canaan Library (check out the video, embedded above) and was a guest on NBC's The Interview. In the talks, he discussed the book, the press it has received, and, why he chose to write about the historical story of Jesus the man.

“What I'm trying to do is dig through those layers of theology, doctrine, dogma, legend, and myth and get to the man who lived 2000 years ago,” he tells NBC. “It's not an easy enterprise. It's one that scholars have been doing for 200 years.” He also explained why his book caused such a stir in the wider community. “I mean for a scholar to say that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem, you know it's obvious,” he says. “To a lay reader if you say Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem, well their heads explode.”

“There was actually a chasm between the historical Jesus that I was uncovering in my academic work and the Christ of faith that I had been taught about,” he says during his UN Committee Lecture. That incompleteness, he says, was what sparked his interest in telling the historical story of Jesus of Nazareth. And judging by the book's runaway success and its rise to the top of bestseller lists, other readers are just as interested.

In addition to speaking on the history of the man we know as Jesus, Aslan can also address the topics of Islam, the Middle East, and Muslim Americans with authority, wit, and an infectious optimism. To book Reza Aslan as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau.

More Reviews: Zealot, by Reza Aslan, is a “Groundbreaking” Work

Why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus? That's what Fox News repeatedly asked religions speaker Reza Aslan in a controversial interview in July. Emily Nussbaum, of the New Yorker, says that Aslan handled the surreal line of questioning “with remarkable calm.” His professionalism in the interview helped the video to go viral. “The clip was watched and cheered by millions,” The Guardian recounts, “It was extraordinary.” His already bestselling book Zealot also shot to #1 on The New York Times Bestseller list after the interview aired.

In response to Fox's criticisms, The Daily Beast argues that Aslan's “refreshingly unique” voice is much-needed in scholarly religious works. “A Muslim writing an academic book about Jesus is groundbreaking,” they reported. “It should be welcomed.” In fact: “About 90 percent of the scholarly historical study of Islam is written by Christians or Jews,” Aslan says. “Very few scholars of religion who are Muslim write about Christianity.” Rev. Matthew Anderson told The Daily Beast that Aslan's book is a crucial contribution to the Christian-Muslim dialogue. “There has been a shortage of serious academic scholarship on the historical Jesus or the New Testament generally written by Muslims,” he says. “Perhaps the book is a sign that things are changing.”

In a CNN post recently, Aslan explains how his life experiences influenced his faith and fueled his desire to write Zealot. “I wrote my newest book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, in order to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ,” he explains. Further: “I don’t know why everyone isn’t obsessed with Jesus,” he tells The Daily Beast. “He is the most interesting person who ever lived.” And, as Anderson says, Aslan's unique take on this interesting person is a truly “positive development in academic scholarship.”

In addition to speaking on the history of the man we know as Jesus, Aslan can also address the topics of Islam, the Middle East, and Muslim Americans with authority, wit, and an infectious optimism. To book Reza Aslan as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Standing Room Only: Reza Aslan Gives A Keynote On Zealot To A Full House

Earlier this week, Zealot, by religions speaker Reza Aslan, skyrocketed to #1 on Amazon's Bestseller list. Now, the bestselling author and scholar is attracting a full house at keynote speaking events, too. As The Daily Beast reports, Aslan's appearance at Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday was standing room only. Powell's also ran out of copies of Aslan's book; they flew off the shelves as fast as seats for the event were filled.

The Daily Beast's Winston Ross writes: “The crowd in Powell's was rapt—when it wasn't doubled over in laughter.” Thanks to all the recent press Aslan's been getting since appearing in a surreal Fox News interview, Aslan presented to both longtime and brand-new fans. Once he got into the nitty-gritty of his book, his aptitude for discussing the compelling subject matter was made known. “The scholar did a pretty remarkable job of explaining his viewpoint on history in a lucid, funny, self-deprecating, and engaging way,” Wilson writes.

Aslan's also been getting the nod of approval from numerous media outlets. CNN's Piers Morgan called it a “terrific read,” although he admitted the book didn't really need any additional hype as it's selling extremely well on its own accord. The fervor over Zealot was also featured in a segment on NBC's Today. Even Don Imus (who is, surprisingly, a Fox News host) called it “a terrific account of the historical Jesus.”

10 Questions: Reza Aslan On Religion, Zealot, & Controversy In TIME

As the Huffington Post writes, Reza Aslan “became an Internet hero last week for his deadpan demeanor and nerves of steel.” He earned that title after enduring a Fox News interview that went off the rails. The author of the new book Zealot (which shot to #1 on Amazon and debuted at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list) has seen his already busy interview schedule double since that media appearance. He was featured in New York Magazine and The New York Times this week, participated in an Ask Me Anything interview on Reddit, and was interviewed in TIME's August issue. (All of the aforementioned appearances were notably more thoughtful and informative than last week's Fox News interview.)

In TIME, the religions scholar answered 10 questions on the contents of his new book and religion more generally. When asked why he chose to write a biography about Jesus, Aslan replied that his work “is probably the first popular biography that does not use the New Testament as its primary source material.” By focusing on 1st century Palestine as reference material, Aslan crafted a unique analysis of the infamous figure. Zealot gives readers fresh insight about a man who has been profiled many times over. He also mentions that he converted to Christianity himself for a time, preaching the Gospel to friends and family. Amidst the heavy subject matter, Aslan proves he also has quite the sense of humor. He made a quip about the notoriety he's gained from having the same name as a character in The Chronicles of Narnia, and, provides a well-received punchline during his Reddit interview. The response to Zealot—and to Aslan's rapport with the media since its release—has been overwhelmingly positive. Overall, “I hope that people recognize that your faith, as Jesus said, is supposed to be built on a rock, not on sand,” he tells The New York Times. “I guess my message is: Relax.”

Reza Aslan is a professor, public speaker, bestselling author, and scholar with four degrees in religious study. With few peers, he presents the often contentious and hotly debated religious issues of the day with authority and eloquence. When presenting his keynote speeches, Aslan is articulate and informative—providing audiences with the tools to bridge gaps in understanding and achieve a more holistic understanding of the world.

The Surreal Reza Aslan Fox News Interview: “I Am a Professor of Religions”

A controversial Fox News interview with religions speaker Reza Aslan has gone viral. One article, at Buzzfeed, asked “Is this the Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?” Emily Nussbaum, of the New Yorker, called it “demented,” adding that Aslan “handled it with remarkable calm.” The ostensible subject of the interview was Aslan’s new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which debuted at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list this week. But the actual topic—in the eyes of Fox News—was why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus. Aslan is a noted religions scholar with a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Doctor of Philosophy in the sociology of religion from UC Santa Barbara. He was asked, bluntly: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” To which he calmly replied, “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions, with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in Biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.” The interview went on in this vein, with Aslan answering every question. Watch for yourself above. For a more thoughtful discussion of Reza Aslan’s new book, try Terry Gross’ interview with him, “Christ in Context: “’Zealot’ Explores the Life of Jesus.”

By the way, after the interview aired, Zealot hit #1 on Amazon.

Reza Aslan’s Zealot Is A “Fantastic Read:” John Oliver, The Daily Show

Religion speaker Reza Aslan recently stopped by The Daily Show to give an exclusive interview about his new book, Zealot. Host John Oliver conducted the in-depth discussion (check out Part One embedded above; Part Two here; and Part Three here).In Zealot, Aslan examines the life of Jesus the man through the lens of the historical context and tumultuous time period in which he lived. Oliver says that he “loved the book,” “cannot recommend it highly enough,” and that it was “a fantastic read that you have to get.”

In the interview, Aslan stresses that writing this book was not about “attacking Christianity.” Rather, it was about exploring the life of a man in history and offering historically based answers to questions about the life this renowned figure lived.  “Why has Christianity taken hold and flourished?” Kirkus writes in their starred review of Zealot. “This book will give you the answers in the simplest, most straightforward, comprehensible manner.” Publishers Weekly also “highly recommends,” Aslan's new work. They call it “compulsively readable” and say it “offers a compelling argument for a fresh look at the Nazarene.”

Aslan, a bestselling author and President and CEO of Aslan Media Inc, is an in-demand public speaker who combines his wealth of study on religion to offer audiences a fresh take on the complex relationship between religion, people, and politics in his highly sought after keynotes. Aslan is among the best keynote speakers on bridging gaps of understanding to explore our commonalities as human beings, often advocating for the positive role that digital technology has in this process.To book Reza Aslan as a speaker, contact the Lavin Agency.

I Am Reza Aslan, Ask Me Anything: A Discussion Of East-West Relations

The online Reddit community broke into an in-depth, but respectful, conversation about the Middle East when Reza Aslan conducted an Ask Me Anything forum earlier this week. The professor and bestselling author opened the floor for anyone on the social media site to ask him questions about, literally, anything. However, the conversation mainly centered around issues of religion, East-West relations, and foreign policy. The forum was particularly in line with Aslan's area of expertise since he often speaks to a younger generation of socially conscious, politically active, and technologically savvy individuals in his keynotes and lectures. He also answered a few lighthearted questions about his food preferences, stating emphatically that: “I could live on Tadigh alone for the rest of my life!”

Here are a few of the most provocative responses that Dr. Aslan gave during the event:

  • On the next generation of political movements: “I expect that with the next generation we are going to see a lot more politically active Muslims in the US demanding a seat at the table.”                                                    

  • On having a hybrid identity in The United States: “This is one of the few countries in the world where being hyphenated is celebrated. So revel in BOTH cultures.”

  • On a new ideology for the Arab world: “What I'm actually starting to see is a revival, not of Pan-Islamism, but of Pan-Arabism, thanks to the Arab Spring. There is a sense of “we are all in this together” about the revolutions and post-revolutionary experiences that is fascinating.”

  • On the balance of power in the Middle East: “A safe, secure, [economically] prosperous, democratic Egypt could change the face of the Middle East forever.”                                 

Combating Misconceptions: Reza Aslan On Understanding Islam [VIDEO]

When religion speaker Reza Aslan talks about the Middle East, he doesn't pull any punches. In a video interview with Stand Alone Media, he combats current misconceptions about Muslims and Islam head on—offering a blunt, but valid and thoroughly researched, rebuttal on some of the most commonly held beliefs about Islam as a religion. As he has argued in his books, the global Islamic population is not a homogeneous group of fundamentalists. That belief, he argues, is as “ridiculous,” as saying that all Christians, Hindus, or Buddhists share the same thoughts act the same way. These types of stereotypes and misinformation are often blamed on ignorance, and many argue that education is the best way to dispell these misconceptions. However, when it comes to outright bigotry, Aslan argues that the problem isn't ignorance. Bigotry stems from fear, he says—and fear cannot be quelled through education.

“The only way that you can battle fear is through relationships,” he explains. “Polls show that if you just know one Muslim that it cuts in half your negativity rating of Islam…because if you know a person…then you can't see him as just a symbol.” Further, he says that the simple act of “opening up [your] eyes and looking around,” can change many of the outlandish beliefs about the Eastern world—simply by taking the time to understand how nonsensical most of them are.

The author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (an international bestseller and named by Blackwell Publishers as one of the 100 most important books of the last decade), Aslan holds three separate degrees in Religion. He has extensively studied the way that culture and religion intersect. He often speaks about the important role that social media and new technologies (something he is extensively involved with in his company Aslan Media) can play in altering perceptions, and eleminating bigotry. By understanding the complex cultural, social, and political forces in the Muslim world, we can move beyond irrational fear—and focus on peaceful understanding.