Anthony Weiner definitely has some problems. But his wife Huma Abedin came under fire this week as commentators speculated on why she had stuck by her sext-addict husband.
Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times this week started off with this explanation:
"When you puzzle over why the elegant Huma Abedin is propping up the eel-like Anthony Weiner, you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet. Comparatively speaking, the pol from Queens probably seems like a prince. Even though he's a punk."
That reasoning puts Dowd in unusual company: Rush Limbaugh made the same argument when discussing why Abedin was sticking by Weiner. As he said with his characteristic charm, "Muslim women don't have any power, right? Muslim women are beheaded, stoned, whatever, if they drive, have affairs."
Both commentators are saying essentially the same thing: Abedin's actions must derive from the fact that she is Muslim. Numerous people were quick to point out the major problems with this thinking. As New York University Islamic Center Chaplain Imam Khalid Latif noted in a Huffington Post column:
"Somehow every Muslim represents all Muslims, and every time a Muslim does anything, it's because they are Muslim. The extremely reductionist approach that many journalists and media outlets have comfortably taken when dealing with Islam and Muslims is getting pretty ridiculous at this point."
Abedin is clearly a smart woman who is fully capable of thinking for herself—she certainly had to make a lot of tough decisions as Hillary Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff in the State Department. Instead of arguing that Weiner duped a naïve woman with little worldly experience into thinking he's a "prince," it's likely that Abedin thought through her relationship with Weiner and stuck with him (so far) for deeply personal reasons. Like maybe she loves him. People, regardless of whether or not they're from Saudi Arabia, do that in marriage sometimes.
This isn't just people piling on Abedin. It's the same line of thinking that cropped up in the Fox News interview with religious scholar Reza Aslan that went viral this week. The questions of host Lauren Green see Islam as the motivator behind all of Aslan's actions. Here's the video and a transcript of the key part.
This is an interesting book. Now, I want to clarify: You are a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?
Reza Aslan: Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it's not that I'm just some Muslim writing about Jesus. I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions. I have been obsessed with Jesus…
But it still begs the question: Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?
Because it's my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That's what I do for a living, actually. It would be like asking a Christian why they would write a book about Islam.
It shouldn't be news that Muslim people—like people of any religion—have varied interests and lead complex lives. But it's easier for people looking for a soundbite to do the douchey thing and reduce people like Abedin and Aslan to being solely defined by their religion.
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