A recent Pew Center poll reports that 18 percent of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim, thanks largely to a politicized misinformation campaign. The attitude behind the numbers—the notion that Obama's purported Islamic faith makes him untrustworthy and a threat to our national security—underlies a troubling pattern. Consider Pastor Terry Jones' aborted "Bonfire of Korans," Newt Gingrich's remarks comparing organizers of lower Manhattan's Islamic cultural center to Nazis, and Oklahoma's pre-emptive strike against Shariah law and you can see why the term "Islamophobia," so in vogue after 9/11, has re-entered the national lexicon.
For insight on this, Miller-McCune.com spoke with Reza Aslan. He's the 38-year-old religious scholar, born in Iran but raised in places like Oklahoma and California, who has been educating westerners on Islam's place in the world ever since the release of his 2005 bestseller, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.
And this month, Aslan's latest book, Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, appears. The anthology of poetry and essays is another of his attempts to reframe misguided perceptions of the Middle East.
The first segment of this two-part interview with Aslan focuses on the United States. The second installment will highlight issues in Europe.