Author and Scholar Reza Aslan appeared on Fox News’ Spirited Debate to discuss his new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. The host of the show Lauren Green started the interview with a rather uncivil and strange question.
Green asked, "You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Mr. Aslan seemed prepared for the general attacking nature that Fox News uses when conducting interviews with those with different positions than theirs. He was very poised and non-combative in his answer. He answered, "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 am just some Muslim writing about Jesus. I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions."
Mr. Aslan’s answer was simply disregarded by Ms. Green as she interrupted his response and asked, "But it still begs to question why you would be interested in the founder of Christianity." Did Mr. Aslan in his first response not state he was a scholar of religions? If he is a scholar of religions would he not study them all (or many of them)?
More on this embarrassing interview, including video, below the fold.
Throughout the interview it was evident that Ms. Green was not listening to Mr. Aslan’s answers or statements. In the Fox News bubble where she resides it is evident that scholarly methodologies are neither taught nor acknowledged. One wonders if Fox News has ever interviewed Christians writing about Islam. The Christian Science Monitor writer Dan Murphy answers that question in his article "Can Muslims write about Christianity":
Fox has been filled with Christian and Jewish commentators explaining Islam to their audience over the years. Daniel Pipes has been one of them. As has Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who became an atheist (an earlier version of this story incorrectly described Ms. Ali as a Christian) and who describes Islam as fundamentally violent and has written books attacking the faith. As have Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who both describe Islam as inherently violent. In the past, it's even had conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck give long expositions of the essence of Islamic law as he sees it.
None of those people are Muslims, yet as far as I'm aware their comments have never been questioned on the network as suspect since they came from non-Muslims. Yet his faith was a major talking point for Ms. Green in their interview. Her first question? "You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?"
Mr. Murphy further shows that Ms. Green has never, as a Christian, held herself to the standard she would ask of Mr. Aslan.
And Green, a Christian, doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong about expressing her own opinions about Islam.
She wrote in 2011: "My area is religion, not politics. So my queries about Islamic terrorism tend to break the question down theologically and ask the question:"Is there something in Islam itself that makes believers more susceptible to radicalization?... I believe essentially there are three things that may make Islam more prone to radicalization. One is the Koran itself. The fact that it's not a narrative makes it easier to pick and choose verses to fit your interpretation. Two, the Prophet Mohammed's own words and deeds. In Islam's early days, Mohammed spread the faith with the sword. Three, Islam was introduced into a world rife with tribalism; a shame and honor culture which revered and respected power. Much of what's going in Libya and what went on under Saddam Hussein, are extensions of that tribalism.
Green has a right to her opinions, of course. But they are ill-informed.
Near the end of the interview Ms. Green implies that Mr. Aslan was disingenuous because he "failed" to disclose he was Muslim as if any scholarly work is religion dependent. Mr. Aslan comeback was civil, smart, and to the point when he said, "Ma'am, the second page of my book says I am a Muslim. Every single interview I have ever done on TV or on print says I am a Muslim. You may not be familiar with me, but I am actually quite a prominent Muslim thinker in the United States. I have written a number of books about Islam. It just simply is incorrect to say that media isn’t saying that I am a Muslim. I would actually encourage you to actually try to find media that doesn’t mention my biography which by the way again is on the second page of the book."
How embarrassing must this interview have been for Ms. Green? She seemed completely unprepared for the interview. She should be ashamed for both herself and her staff. Mr. Aslan’s civility and patience as if he were talking to a child with limited comprehension skills was commendable.
Here is the interview.