A scholar, a comedian, and two CNN anchors. While they contrasted their assertions vehemently, were they really so different? Reza Aslan’s take down of Bill Maher on CNN Tonight on Monday focused on Maher’s “unsophisticated” oversimplification of Muslims (which CNN anchors Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota continued in their repeated generalization of “Muslim countries”). But, to attack them for oversimplifying, Aslan used his own problematic oversimplifications. Continue reading “Bill Maher and Reza Aslan, Two Peas in a Pod”
The recent round of criticism of FOX News’s online interview of Reza Aslan has got me thinking a little more about this charge of Islamophobia that you often hear leveled by those on the political left — as in those who criticized any analysis of this episode that failed to out the FOX network (or other media personalities) as stirring the embers of hatred among some segments of the U.S. population of Muslims, either at home or abroad. While the bizarre questions posed to Aslan about not disclosing an identity that he in fact routinely discusses in the media — insinuating, it would seem, that some worldwide conspiracy would finally be evident if the American public knew that a Muslim author had written a book on Jesus?! — or the breath-taking conspiracy theories of some commentators on the political right (such as Glenn Beck, in action above) are quite troubling to me in a number of ways, I’m not so sure about this label of Islamophobia. Continue reading “Islamophobia”
In the initial post responding to the Reza Aslan/Fox News interview, Craig Martin brought our attention to the ways in which similar logic can be used to launch competing identity claims. Particularly resonant for me is a quick anecdotal move in his post that contains much when considered carefully. He notes, “When I go to the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, I see lots of scholarship production tied to scholars’ identities, and much of it is very political.” I know exactly what he means. Continue reading “Look Who’s Talking!”
The assumptions within the assertions of identification in the Reza Aslan/Fox News interview have received some attention this week, including Craig Martin’s “Identity Claims Play out on Fox” and Russell McCutcheon‘s “Are You Buying It?” both on this blog. A different comment from Aslan, though, grabbed my attention (unfortunately not for its uniqueness). In addition to emphasizing his academic credentials to defend his study of the historical Jesus, published as Zealot, he argues that his identification as Muslim is irrelevant because his book “overturns pretty much everything that Islam also thinks about Jesus.” Since his work is not trying to promote Islamic orthodoxy, it seems that his religious identification is irrelevant.
In the post-game commentary about how terribly author Reza Aslan was treated in that online FOX News interview, in the rush by scholars of religion on Facebook to identify with a misunderstood scholar just trying to do his job, and in the backlash now coming out against the way that he authorized himself by trotting out his degrees, one thing seems to be lost: this was a great moment for global capitalism. After all, a book tour (not the thing most scholars ever set out upon, by the way) is designed to do nothing else but sell, and so the interview was just one more moment in a marketing plan. I’m not criticizing it, since many of us have books we hope to sell, but suggesting that we’ve missed the point if we fail to remember that publicity is all both sides in that dance are going for (either to sell more ads on TV or the web or more books on amazon.com). Continue reading “Are You Buying It?”
The interview with Reza Aslan on FOX News is already internet famous. (You can watch it here if you haven’t already seen it.) Continue reading “Identity Claims Play Out on FOX”