What does Reza Aslan see in a certain ultra-Orthodox clan?
In the last episode of his new CNN series, “Believer,” Reza Aslan goes dancing with the Na Nachs, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group known for its impromptu techno street parties.It's not hard to guess the clan he's been writing about could be anti-Zionist, thus, a perfect focus for his propaganda program. Why else might they be welcoming him as a guest of honor?
Aslan, a scholar of religion and an Iranian-born American Muslim, finds a lot to admire in this marginal Jewish sect that seem to accept him as their own — at least for an afternoon. The Na Nach’s message of happiness as a spiritual mandate is a takeaway that seduces even some skeptics of Orthodox religion.
[...] In Jerusalem, Aslan sees parallels to his native Iran as the ultra-Orthodox in government seek to transform the secular state into a religious one.
The Forward’s Naomi Zeveloff spoke with Aslan by phone about his inspiration for “Believer,” what he learned from embedding himself with the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Trump’s America — and his Hebrew tattoo.Just as I figured; it's all an excuse for the Foward to run anti-Trump rhetoric.
Naomi Zeveloff: Some of the groups that you profile in “Believer” are extreme. Why focus on these groups instead of more mainstream religions?What kind of people does he want believing they may not be what we're concerned they are? I would guess leftists. After all, Hillary Clinton saw the Satmar as allies during the election, and Azlan must want ultra-leftists to see the Haredi insularists as a community to uphold, just like the Islamists.
Reza Aslan: I would not describe these groups as extreme or radical, but I would describe them as faith communities that are on the fringe of society. Whether you are talking about the ultra-Orthodox in Israel or Scientologists in the United States or Santa Muerte adherents in Mexico, these are people who face an enormous amount of misunderstanding and even fear, and in some cases even violence. I did that on purpose. Most people who watch the show are going to feel, at least at first, that they have nothing in common with the religious groups that are profiled. But my hope, my goal, is that as you watch me immerse myself in these communities to become part of them, you start to recognize that they aren’t as weird or as scary as you thought they were.
Predictably, more Trump-bashing comes up:
Let’s talk about American Jewry. Trump counts right-wing Zionists in his inner circle, but we’ve also seen an uptick in anti-Semitism since Trump took office. How do you explain this?Keep going, please. Keep telling us in basic terms that there's absolutely no way the Obama administration could possibly have had any anti-Israelists in it. Naturally, he can't even bring himself to thank Mike Pence for helping clean up a Jewish cemetery that was vandalized. And, there's more, proving he's no supporter of Israel any more than Zionism:
Because these are the people who are in power right now. What we have is a White House full of anti-Semites, of open, confident, explicit anti-Semites, and that includes the president. You can’t just keep saying, “I can’t be an anti-Semite because my daughter is a Jew.” That’s not how it works. Let me be clear about this: This isn’t just random anti-Semitism. This is anti-Semitism emboldened by and in the name of the president of the United States, and his milquetoast response is as good as condoning these acts.
This is a White House that believes that it is engaged in some kind of grand existential cosmic battle with Islam. So what this has done is create this incredible unified response between Muslims and Jews in the United States. These two groups have faced almost identical levels of marginalization, of hatred and violence in this country… and yet over the last few decades they have not managed to figure out a way to come together to unify in common cause precisely because of issues of foreign policy and Israel and all of that stuff. What has happened now is that those ideological policy disputes seem no longer to matter when faced with an existential crisis of this magnitude.
When you have my good friend Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, saying that if there is a Muslim registry he will be the first to sign up for it, when you have American Muslims raising more than $100,000 to fix damage and desecration to a Jewish cemetery, what you are seeing is precisely what I am most excited about in Trump’s America, and that is the way in which his bigotry, his xenophobia and his misogyny has activated citizens, has forced them to put aside their petty differences and unite in a common cause to define the very meaning of this country in the 21st century.
How do you square the anti-Semitism in America with Trump’s full-throated support of Israel?It's just like the loser to resort to Netanyahu-bashing as well, never being critical for any valid reasons, and ultimately sending more telling hints at the reasons why he's giving the Na Nachs positive coverage on CNN. It's just like somebody who's rather insular himself to find common ground with a community of that sort. As a result, his bias doesn't surprise me at all.
What you call “full-throated support of Israel” for the president is nothing more than his own cynical ploy. This is a man who doesn’t know anything about what is happening in Israel. This is a man who throws out words like “two states, one state, whatever,” like an absolute ignoramus not realizing that he is playing fast and loose with what has been a violent, bloody even existential conflict over the meaning of Israel and the identity of Palestinians. He talks about it like he is ordering dinner. “Ah, salad, soup whatever.” This is a man who has no formed opinions of his own and who is easily manipulated by the last person who talks to him.
Unfortunately I think that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] is going to win the day because Bibi offers Trump something that the sober-minded and moderate voices do not, and that is an easy defense against the charges of anti-Semitism. “How could I be anti-Semitic when Bibi loves me?” Bibi is going to force Trump into giving him everything he wants to the detriment of Israel and America and in return he is going to give him cover for these charges against anti-Semitism. It is a disastrous combination.