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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Extreme Challenges ... and Reza Aslan

There will be another program in the "Extreme Challenges" series airing tonight at 11pmET. This looks like another terrific hour of intelligent, thought-provoking viewing:
AC360 is running a special hour, “Extreme Challenges: The Next 100 Days”, on Thursday night. Anderson is the host of a compelling hour of panel discussion with some of the brightest minds at CNN who examine the crucial issues facing President Obama over his next 100 days in office. Topics include The Wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), Foreign Policy (mainly Iran and the Middle East), The Economy, America’s Health (Reforming Healthcare), The Supreme Court, and Change in America (governance). The panelists are David Gergen, Christiane Amanpour, Michael Ware, Fareed Zakaria, Candy Crowley, Ali Velshi, Sanjay Gupta, Jeffrey Toobin and Joe Johns.
(Guess which part of that paragraph makes me very, very happy? Hint: check the photo I chose for the top of the post!)

Another preview clip is available on

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Monday, Fareed Zakaria was a guest on The Situation Room, where he discussed the meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Resolving the Palestinian crisis will be a major challenge but is crucial in resolving so many issues in the Middle East:

Also on Monday, Tony Harris had a very interesting three-way discussion with Ivan Watson (in Islamabad) and Stan Grant (in Kabul) regarding the Pakistan/Afghanistan border issue:

Tuesday, Anderson Cooper focused on the fight against the Taliban and the refugee crisis -- now the largest mass-movement of people since the one that occurred during the genocide in Rwanda. First he spoke with Ivan Watson:

That was immediately followed by a discussion with Fareed Zakaria and Peter Bergen:

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Tuesday night, I was fortunate enough to be able attend a book-signing event with Reza Aslan. As you know from his appearances on CNN, he is absolutely brilliant at explaining the complexities of how the Muslim world views the West and our actions (especially of late!). His first book, No god but God, is essential reading for anyone who is looking for a primer on Islam, and his new book, How to Win a Cosmic War, details the thought processes of those who are fighting not for land or freedom, but for other-worldly objectives. It's one thing to someday be able to sit down with Hamas and talk about negotiating land boundaries and peace treaties, but how do you ever sit down with al Qaeda and discuss the removal of all borders in order to create a Muslim caliphate? "Cosmic" warriors are not interested in events in this world, they are focused on the world to come, which is why they find it easy to martyr themselves and anyone who gets in their way.

(One of the things that I find extremely interesting is the concept of apostasy, which is what allows Islamic extremists to slaughter so indiscriminately, despite Mohammed's explicit teachings that to kill innocents is a violation of Islamic law. But if you decide your neighbor is misguided in how he worships, if you declare him an apostate, then you rationalize a way to excuse it; in fact, it is now essential that you kill him, he is worse than an unbeliever because he sullies your one true religion. This is why Sunnis kill Shias, as we have witnessed for so many tragic years in Iraq. But in his book, Reza lays out the concept as it is used by Jewish and Christian "warriors" as well. It is an easy and effective tool whenever a cosmic war is waged.)

At any rate, yesterday Ms. Sapphire listed the remaining dates from this month's book tour; next month he spends a week in the UK and then is back here for a few more dates... keep an eye on his schedule and by all means go see him speak if you can. He has a wonderful way of cutting through the fog and of puncturing so many of the misguided precepts that were applied to this "war on terror." (Unfortunately, we usually only get to see the very serious, buttoned-down Reza when he appears on CNN; in person he is very, very funny and mocks what so desperately needs to be mocked. We have given more power to these groups by acting as if we are all cowering under our beds because of them.)

Also, for what it's worth, he's a really nice guy. He appreciates "the greatest book store in America." (It really is.) And he started his talk with a swine flu joke ... you gotta love that!

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Anonymous said...

Let;s hope this gets 360 back on track. CNN
has managed to even ruin it's best show with
overkill from the talking heads. Where is the
cool bump music? That has completely gone

Lynda the Guppy said...

I just got back from seeing Reza Aslan tonight here in Los Angeles and Cyn is absolutely right. He's an amazing, engaging, and entertaining speaker who has a way of putting things that helps you make sense of what can be so confusing.

No swine flu jokes tonight, but he did start by asking who here was sick of him. LOL Not surprising, no one raised their hands.

MWmcFan said...

Cyn, thank you for your excellent post. Very informative discussions.

Delie said...

Thanks for the uploads, Cyn! So interesting... I have to buy Reza's new book!