Dear North America, You’re Not As Great As You Think

Last week, Iranian-American scholar Reza Aslan taught all North Americans a lesson: don’t generalize when it comes to regions of the world you know nothing about. In an interview with CNN, Aslan destroyed Bill Maher’s two cents that the Muslim world “has too much in common with ISIS.” His message? Not all Muslim countries are the same. While women are brutally repressed in Saudi Arabia and Iran, they have equal rights in Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

“Do you know that Muslims have elected seven women as their heads of state in those Muslim-majority countries?” Aslan asked the befuddled anchors. “How many women do we have as heads of state in the United States?”

Burn. As a colleague wrote on Facebook: “CNN, Bill Maher: You’ll find the aloe in aisle four.” And the criticism didn’t end there.

On Friday, Ben Affleck called Maher’s views on Islam “gross” and “racist” on the host’s show Real Time.

Though it’s tempting to dismiss the American broadcasters as bigots, the truth is, most of us don’t associate “women’s rights” with Muslim culture. North Americans tend to see the rest of the world through the lens of outdated stereotypes or extremist violence that makes the news. If we started to think more like Aslan, we’d realize some countries without indoor plumbing are actually surpassing us on policy…