The Fox News channel launched another interview attack on reason, logic, and scholarship over the weekend. Their chosen target was renowned religious scholar Dr. Reza Aslan, in regards to his new book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”
The book focuses on the life and works of Jesus Christ from a scholarly and historical standpoint. So why the fuss? Aslan is a Muslim.
Since the book’s release, Aslan has been met with praise, as well as harsh criticism. Sadly, though, the negative criticism that Aslan has seen has been not from fellow scholars interjecting with their opinions, criticising the work, but rather from conservative blogging hacks and hardcore religious-right-wingers who attack Aslan’s reasons behind writing the book.
The right-wingers are using Aslan’s book to promote their bigoted, anti-Islam beliefs. John Dickerson, not to be confused with the John Dickerson of Slate and CBS News, is a Christian, conservative author who has penned books about Christianity. In an op-ed piece published by Fox News, Dickerson somehow tries to make relevant the fact that “Media reports have introduced Aslan as a ‘religion scholar’ but have failed to mention that he is a devout Muslim.” There are many things outrageously wrong with Dickerson’s statement.
First, the media introduced Aslan as a religion scholar because that’s what he is. He studies religion for the sake of scholarship and learning. Also, much like the host of the Fox News interview with Aslan, Dickerson focuses too much on Aslan’s religion, rather than his scholarship.
Rather than take on Aslan’s claims on the platform of academic debate, the right-wing zeroes in on Aslan’s faith in attempt to punch holes in Aslan’s credibility and validity. Dickerson says that Aslan’s “book is not a historian’s report on Jesus. It is an educated Muslim’s opinion about Jesus.” If one just reads that superficially, in essence, it’s correct. Aslan is educated, Muslim, and wrote an opinionated book about Jesus.
To accuse Aslan of pushing a Muslim agenda by way of his book is unfair, and actually, an insult to his life’s work and intelligence. Dickerson and the religious-right overlook the purpose of academic scholarship. It is the duty of historical scholars and academics to discuss and debate the implication. But the religious-right is letting their implicit fear of Islam override logic and reason.