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I think a lot of what you’re saying leads back to a fundamental question about whether Islam (or really any religion) is essentially a culture — or where the line between the two is drawn. Sure, and there are aspects of this that can be positive.

There are many of us who are atheists but retain some cultural elements of the religion.

I talked to him by phone about his book, what he hopes to accomplish, and what he meant when he wrote that the left is wrong about Islam and the right is wrong about Muslims. You’re exposing yourself to a lot of criticism on all sides. I grew up in a moderate to liberal Muslim family in three Muslim-majority countries that were culturally very different.

We also discussed what an “honest conversation” about Islam looks like and why the current political climate makes that conversation all the more difficult. I developed certain perspectives about the religion and the Muslim experience that most others didn’t have.

I don’t feel equipped to assign weights to these causes, and I’m about as far from an authority on Islam as one can get, so I struggle to say anything definitive or useful about these problems. Now, does that mean that Judaism is suddenly okay with bacon?

I'm going to paraphrase my friend Maajid Nawaz on this. This is the difference between religion and people.

They’re very comfortable with criticizing and satirizing fundamentalist Christianity.

It’s also an internal challenge to Islam as a body of doctrines.

He even says he prefers singing the religious Christmas carols like “Silent Night” to the others, like “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I think we should be able to enjoy some of these rituals without the burden of belief.

There’s a lot more to be said about this, but I want to refocus us on the political questions.

But when I saw your tweet the other day claiming that the left was wrong about Islam and the right was wrong about Muslims, that felt like a good way into this difficult debate. I think the left has a blind spot when it comes to Islam and the right has a blind spot when it comes to Muslims.

When Christian fundamentalists like Pat Robertson say something that's homophobic or misogynistic, people on the left descend on them like a ton of bricks.

Rizvi speaks directly to agnostics, atheists, and humanists living in the Muslim world, enjoining them to embrace secular culture without abandoning their Muslim identity.

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