I like it when someone does something better than they have to, or takes stands or risks they don't have to take. RICK STEVES has a comfortable business and a comfortable place in our culture and media. He helps people learn how to make travel less stressful and more enjoyable. But in TRAVEL AS A POLITICAL ACT, he sticks his neck out. He has traveled to and written about Iran, El Salvador, Turkey, for instance, in ways that challenge what passes for conventional wisdom. Of course, conventional wisdom is often a contradiction in terms, conventional meaning parochial, provincial, small minded, with little possibility of wisdom. Not only that, STEVES serves on the board of NORML and has given keynote speeches calling for legalization of marijuana.
Though RICK STEVES received degrees at the University of Washington, his real education came in Europe - since 1973 he's spent four months a year there. Spending one third of his adult life living out of a suitcase has shaped his thinking. Today he produces Europe Through the Back Door guidebooks, a travel series in America on public television, a weekly hour-long national public radio show, and a syndicated weekly column.
REZA ASLAN is the author of "NO GOD BUT GOD" and his new book, "HOW TO WIN A COSMIC WAR: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror"
REZA ASLAN says the only way to win a cosmic war is not to engage in one.
That may seem obvious to some, but he's also saying that unless we recognize that we've been pulled into a cosmic war -- what that means and how it changes things -- we haven't got a chance of "winning" or even making the best of the situation.
"A cosmic war is a battle not between armies or nations, but between the forces of good and evil. The ultimate goal of a cosmic war is to vanquish evil itself, which ensures that a cosmic war remains an absolute, eternal, and ultimately unwinnable conflict. Cosmic wars are fought not over land or politics but over identity."
1900 - 1/2 of world's population identified as members of major religions
2000 - 2/3 of world's population identified as members of major religions
Aslan believes the days of wars between nation states are over. When globalization frees people from national identity, it's replaced by other identities - especially religion. We must strip the conflict between Islam and the West of its religious connotations, and we must address the actual grievances that fuel the Jihadist movement.
A recent Gallup poll (see below) appears to back him up. According to AP: "Joblessness and poverty are a more potent source of tension between Muslims and wider European and U.S. society than religious differences, [according to] one of the first major studies of Muslim integration since the Sept. 11 terror attacks."
REZA ASLAN has a fairly unique resume. Born in Iran, emigrated wih his family to Enid, Oklahoma as a child. Degrees in religion from UC Santa Clara, UC Santa Barbara, and Harvard Divinity School, as well as an MFA from the Iowa Writers Program. His first book, NO GOD BUT GOD: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam offers more than a history - and the guy can write.
The first time I interviewed him was just after Hamas had won the Palestinian election. We both hoped that having to actually run things would move Hamas in a positive direction. The US, Israel, and others weren't willing to find out.
We pick up the conversation this week, looking at the lessons of history, the lessons of the recent past, and hopes for the future.
AZADEH MOAVENI is a contributing writer on Iran and the Middle East for TIME magazine. She spent two years in Iran, from 2005 to 2007, and just returned from three weeks there at the first of the year. As one of the few American correspondents allowed to work continuously in Iran since 1999, she has reported widely on youth culture, women's rights, and Islamic reform for Time, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. She is author of LIPSTICK JIHAD and co-author, with Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, of IRAN AWAKENING. Her newest book is HONEYMOON IN TEHRAN: TWO YEARS OF LOVE AND DANGER IN IRAN
In his 2002 State of the Union address George W. Bush coined the term "axis of evil" to describe his vision of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. The US has a new president who has made a fairly big and controversial deal about his willingness to meet with Iran's leaders without preconditions. Iran's last presidential election in 2005 brought the world Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Another presidential election is coming soon to Iran.
AZADEH MOAVENI has spent a good deal of time in Iran since the year 2000 and written two books about Iranian society. I'll talk with her about life and politics behind the caricatures and rhetoric that so often clouds US perceptions of Iran.