Mar 092010
Authors: Ryan Sheine

In 1979, the year “Bomb Iran” by rock satirists Vince Vance and the Valients became the most requested song on the radio and the Iranian Hostage Crisis was reaching its peak, 7-year-old Reza Aslan moved from Tehran to California.

Since, he has become a prominent advocate for democracy in Iran, traveling between the United States and the Middle East to propagate his message.

During his first night in Fort Collins Tuesday, Aslan spoke to a crowd of about 200 people in the Lory Student Center Theatre to discuss his book, “How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the end of the War on Terror.”

“I wanted to write a book about how to properly deal with the rise of religious extremism both at home and abroad,” Aslan said.

His lecture covered Middle East and Western political topics ranging from former Vice President Dick Cheney’s narrow interpretation of federal arrest laws to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The author said he wrote his book because he thought the United States has adopted the same kind of rhetoric and the same framework for understanding global conflicts as groups like Al-Qaeda.

“I mean, the language is the same, the mentality is the same, and the argument is as long as we can continue to legitimize the world view of these religious fanatics with our own religious fanaticism we’re going to be locked in a war that will never end,” he said.

His criticism of Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was met with applause from the audience when he described it as “horrific” and “catastrophic.”

“Not much has actually changed on the war on terror,” Aslan said, adding that the only real difference between the two presidents is a rhetorical one, citing Bush’s infamous characterization of America as right and Islamic fundamentalists as wrong, which partially defined his presidency.

Stopping short of criticizing Obama to the same degree as Bush, he said, “If I had to give him a grade I’d give him an incomplete.”

The war on terror has been both good and bad under the Obama administration with more successes under Obama than Bush, Aslan said.

“Obama’s administration has done a really good job at taking away the appeal of radical movements by lessening the impression around the world that this isn’t a war on terrorism but actually a war on Islam,” Aslan said.

He said democracy is still the answer for progress in the Middle East.

Emmie Miller, a sophomore history and biology double major, was impressed by what Aslan had to say.

“While he didn’t underestimate the gravity of the situation, he was able to put it into words we can understand as ignorant Americans.”

Aslan was scheduled for an open forum lunch in Academic Village Dining Hall today at noon, but the event has been changed to a private lunch in Braiden Hall with select students from various organizations, said ASAP Contemporary Issues coordinator Emily Burnett.

Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at

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