Fox News and that embarrassing interview with the (Muslim) scholar
It’s almost pointless to say that identity politics are not really an issue for some authorities on Islam such as the former Catholic nun Karen Armstrong or Dublin-born Malise Ruthven.
But Reza Aslan, a respected American academic hasn’t been spared the indignity of being probed for possible biases simply because he is a Muslim.
In a toe-curling interview on FoxNews.com, religion correspondent Lauren Green asks Aslan, author of newly published Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, “You are a Muslim why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”
Aslan responds: “I’m a scholar of religion with four degrees including one in the New Testament and fluent in biblical Greek who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades who also just happens to be a Muslim.”
That might have be the end of it but Green isn’t satisfied and returns for an attack. But why write about the founder of Christianity? she wants to know.
The rest of the 10-minute long interview descends into an embarrassing inquisition – Aslan is an Iranian-born Muslim who converted to Christianity then returned to his original faith.
His answers are calm and measured but slow, as if he is speaking to a child.
At one point the scholar, who studied at Harvard Divinity School starts to explain how Jesus was crucified – a punishment the Romans reserved for acts of sedition – and that he was a “political revolutionary who took up the cause of the poor and meek” and launched the “greatest religion” but Green cuts him off.
And the interview truly descends into farce. Isn’t this like a Democrat writing about why Ronald Reagan wasn’t a good Republican? Green asks.
Reslan replies, wide-eyed: “It would be like a Democrat with a Ph.D in Reagan who has been writing about his life and history for two decades writing about Reagan.”
The anchor, at this stage appears frazzled but persists: “But why would he want to promote democracy by writing about a Republican?”
This is a good moment to stop. Her question reveals a lot more about the polarized state of American politics and Fox News, than anything Aslan has to say about Jesus.
Keeping in mind the cliché about clouds and silver linings, Zealot is the number one best selling book on Amazon.
Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour