Reza Aslan: "There Is A Civil War Taking Place" In Europe; France "Has Never Really Tolerated Multiculturalism"

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Religious scholar Reza Aslan addressed yesterday's terror attack in Paris on CNN Thursday night, saying France has a poor record of "multiculturalism."

"What Charlie Hebdo represents for a lot of people in Europe is precisely this clash of civilizations," Azlan said Thursday night. "They make fun of Muslims for a very specific reason to sort of show, or maybe demonstrate, that look if you maybe want to be in this country, if you want to be in France, then you have to deal with the French values, you have to rid yourself of your own values, ideals, norms, and you have to take on French values."

"There is a civil war taking place in Europe," Aslan declared. "The Europeans don't know who they are anymore. They're fighting to figure out who they are. They're looking around. The place doesn't look like it did 50 years ago."

"There are black faces, and brown faces, Asian people. And particularly in France, an aggressively secularizing country that has never really tolerated multiculturalism or the kind of cultural religious diversity that is the hallmark of the United States," he said. "You can see how that would create the kinds of tensions that would bubble up occasionally into acts of violence on both sides. We have seen a lot of anti-Muslim violence in Europe as well as Muslim violence against Europeans."

REZA ASLAN: Europe is facing nothing short of an identity crisis. Look, the fact of the matter is there have been these seismic changes on the continent, culturally, racially, religiously, politically. And that's resulted in this intense anti-immigrant and more specifically anti-Muslim backlash. In France, one of the largest parties, the party of Marine Le Pen, The National Front is a virulently anti-Muslim party and very well may win the next elections.You have the UKIP party in the UK, the Pegida party in Germany. This is a party whose sole platform seems to be let's get rid of all Muslims. They have had for the last few months every week thousands and thousands of supporters marching in Germany in this notion that Muslims are some internal enemy. In Sweden we've had three mosque attacks over the last week. So this has created this sort of, intense, tension among the Muslim population in Europe and non-Muslim population.

DON LEMON, CNN: Did Charlie Hebdo feed into that polarization?

ASLAN: Well, it's not a justification by any means at all, but what Charlie Hebdo represents for a lot of people in Europe is precisely this clash of civilizations. Look, the editors of Charlie Hebdo would unapologetically say they make fun of everybody, every religion, and they make fun of Muslims for a very specific reason to sort of show, or maybe demonstrate, that look if you maybe want to be in this country, if you want to be in France, then you have to deal with the French values, you have to rid yourself of your own values, ideals, norms, and you have to take on French values. And there have been a number of laws passed not only in France, with regard to prohibitions on Islamic dress, but throughout Europe about whether you can build mosques, about whether build minarets, et cetera. And this tension, this polarization I'm afraid has led to a lot of acts of violence. Not just the tragedy yesterday...

The fact of the matter is that there is such a thing as dominant or privileged cultures. Whether it's white people in America, or Christians, or what have you, there is just sort of an unwritten code that you can make fun of dominant cultures, you can make fun of privileged classes and that you shouldn't make fun of oppressed or minority classes. That is certainly an argument a lot of people in France are starting to make.

But, regardless there these idea that there should be limitations about what you can and cannot say. And those limitations are country specific. In France, there is no limitation, particularly with regard to religion and race. And I think Charlie Hebdo was representative of this distinctly French value and an argument that unless you agree with that value well then you are not really French. That is an argument that a lot of young Muslims, and particularly young immigrants who come from different cultures, they just don't buy into it and enough of them feel angry, perhaps, threatened, enough to actually take up violence. It's a great tragedy.

LEMON: And again, I want -- because you said in no way are you saying that violence is ever right in this particular situation, you are explaining the conditions that precipitated this.

ASLAN: Look, there is a civil war taking place in Europe. The Europeans don't know who they are anymore. They're fighting to figure out who they are. They're looking around. The place doesn't look like it did 50 years ago. There are black faces, and brown faces, Asian people. And particularly in France, an aggressively secularizing country that has never really tolerated multiculturalism or the kind of cultural religious diversity that is the hallmark of the United States, you can see how that would create the kinds of tensions that would bubble up occasionally into acts of violence on both sides. We have seen a lot of anti-Muslim violence in Europe as well as Muslim violence against Europeans.

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