Reza Aslan’s ‘70% of ISIS’ Argument has Nothing to do with Islam

Reza Aslan’s ‘70% of ISIS’ Argument has Nothing to do with Islam

The fraudulent “scholar of Islam”, Reza Aslan, may have finally hit rock bottom. In a recent tweet, Aslan attempted to imply that ISIS cannot be representative of Islam in any way because, according to a recent finding, 70% of that band of insane Islamists are unfamiliar with many of the basic tenents of Islam.



There are four primary problems with this piece of Regressive Left apologia:


  1. It sets the bar too high for any religious demographic
  2. It impliedly makes use of an overly simplistic and inaccurate stereotype regarding the average Muslim’s familiarity with the Qur’an and Hadith
  3. Logically speaking, it constitutes a ‘No True Scotsman (Muslim) Fallacy’
  4. Reza’s argument has nothing to do with Islam


Aslan’s source for this claim comes from 22,000 leaked documents from within ISIS, which were shared with Associated Press, who allegedly analysed the material shared with them by the Syrian opposition website ‘Zaman al-Wasl’. Associated Press found that:

‘…most of its [ISIS’] recruits from its earliest days came with only the most basic knowledge of Islam. A little more than 3,000 of these documents included the recruits’ knowledge of Shariah, the system that interprets into law verses from the Quran and “hadith” — the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad…70 percent of recruits were listed as having just “basic” knowledge of Shariah — the lowest possible choice. Around 24 percent were categorized as having an “intermediate” knowledge, with just 5 percent considered advanced students of Islam. Five recruits were listed as having memorized the Quran’.

I’ll now run through the four primary problems with Aslan’s asinine attempt at an implied argument.


  1. It sets the bar too high for any religious demographic

Just imagine if a comprehensive knowledge of a person’s religion was a requirement for identifying as a member of that religion. There would be about 10 Christians, 7 Muslims, 20 Hindus and 12 Buddhists on earth. Okay, I may have taken some comedic-liberty with the numbers, but the point is, the number of identifiable religious people would be severely reduced by such a standard. In a recent survey conducted by the Christian research organization, LifeWay, the group found that more than 80% of the churchgoing Christians it polled have actually never read the Bible. Further, in a 2014 (US) nation-wide study conducted by Barna, it was revealed that:

‘Only 37% of Americans report reading the Bible once a week or more….Even as Bible ownership remains strong, readership and engagement are weak’.

I am quite certain that the majority of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and members of all of the world’s faiths have a poor knowledge of many if not most of the tenents of their religions. This is probably due to the fact that they are not, generally speaking, brought to their faiths through rigorous study and intellectual inquiry, but through mindless indoctrination. Thus, most believers automatically acquire the religion they’ve been brainwashed to accept through the medium of ignorance, and so it is natural that such ignorance underscores the relationship between the majority of believers and their religions.


  1. It impliedly makes use of an overly simplistic and inaccurate stereotype regarding the average Muslim’s familiarity with the Qur’an and Hadith


Most people employ stereotypes as a means of simplifying a very complex reality. Stereotypes are classified as heuristic thought processes and they can be useful for helping us go about our day without having to pause every two seconds to contemplate the complex nature of every single thing we encounter each day.  They can, however, be a source of bigotry and severe miscalculation. The impeccably pious, devout and supremely knowledgeable Muslim is one such miscalculation.

I remember when conspiracy theorists and proto-Regressive Leftists sang with adulation over the 9/11 terrorists having left a Qur’an in a strip club, claiming that this was proof that Muslims were not behind the World Trade Center attack, because what Muslim would ever visit a strip club, right? Aslan’s attempt here is similar, because all “true” Muslims are familiar with the basic tenents of Islam, right? Wrong. If one needed to know the basic teachings of Islam before they could be called a Muslim, this would subtract from the 1.6 billion Muslims all children under the age of 6 (at least), illiterate and scripturally-illiterate Muslims living in impoverished nations, as well as vast numbers of teenage Muslims living in the west who are probably more familiar with the words of Kanye West than those of the “Prophet”. I would be very interested in the results of a global survey that examined the extent of knowledge members of the Ummah have in relation to the Qur’an, the Sira and Sunnah of Muhammad, as well as the various hadith and Islamic jurisprudence (Shari’ah).

Aslan’s stereotyping of the “true” Muslim, notwithstanding its bigotry, fails to account for the immense spectrum of belief and knowledge among Muslims on earth, and it is his reliance on such base stereotypes that adds to the overwhelming probability that he is little more than an ill-informed regressive with a platform thoroughly infused with similarly ill-informed regressives.


  1. Logically speaking, it constitutes a ‘No True Scotsman (Muslim) Fallacy’


The No True Scotsman Fallacy was first introduced by British philosopher Antony Flew, who described this fallacy in the following words:

‘Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again”. Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing”. The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion, but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says: “No true Scotsman would do such a thing”’.


Similarly, Aslan attempts to imply that no true Muslim would lack knowledge of the basic doctrines of Islam, which is not only factually and theologically incorrect, but it is logically absurd.


  1. Reza’s argument has nothing to do with Islam

One would think that this esteemed “scholar of Islam” would know exactly what is required to be considered a “true” Muslim. Has he not read the five pillars of the Islamic faith? To be a true Muslim one must (but not necessarily) fulfill the following five requirements, and nothing more:

  1. Shahadah: Openly declare belief in the oneness of God/Allah (tawhid) and the acceptance of the belief that Muhammad is his prophet.
  2. Salat: Pray 5 times a day facing Mecca (Not necessarily a deal-breaker if you don’t)
  3. Zakat: Paying of alms (Again, not necessarily a deal-breaker if you don’t)
  4. Sawm: Fasting during Ramadan (I have Muslim friends who drink alcohol and eat bacon through this period yet still identify as Muslim and are identified by others as Muslim)
  5. Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca (if you can afford it and are able)

Over and above the flexibility of at least four of these pillars, you’ll notice that nowhere within these five pillars is it a requirement that one must have a comprehensive, nor even intermediate knowledge of the Qur’an and/or hadith, nor even the Shari’ah – thus, Aslan’s implied argument has absolutely nothing to do with Islam, as is also the case with his expertise and credentials.







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