“I think Muslims, particularly young Muslims in the Middle East, are growing more and more comfortable in defining themselves in nationalistic terms.”
Reza Aslan: I think Muslims, particularly young Muslims in the Middle East, are growing more and more comfortable in defining themselves in nationalistic terms. And again it depends what country you’re referring to, of course. But many Egyptians, many Turks, have no problems referring to themselves as Egyptians first, or as Turks first. And I think that sense . . . that rising sense of national identity, in particular this sort of overwhelming movement of individualism that is taking place within the Muslim world with the rise of the Internet and the widespread access to new ideas and novel theories; and the way in which these notions are being passed around in a new kind of community, a virtual community being created online. I think you’re seeing a sort of response to that geopolitical fragmentation that I spoke of; one that is at once comfortable with certain nationalistic identities, and yet also striving to create new identifies beyond borders, and beyond ethnicities, in an attempt to recreate the umma, the world wide Muslim community, and yet to recreate it not in the real world, but in a virtual world. And so we’re gonna see, I think, a lot more of that. As the region of the Middle East becomes even more fragmented and more fractured, I think people are going to go increasingly online to find new ways of creating collective identities that are simply not applicable anymore in the real world.
Recorded On: 7/5/07