Skip to comments.Reza Aslan Misrepresents His Scholarly Credentials (Not a PhD in "History of Religion")
Posted on 07/30/2013 11:59:29 AM PDT by xzins
There is a bit of a hubbub in the interwebs about an interview conducted by Lauren Green, religion correspondent for Fox News Channel, with Reza Aslan, author of a new book on Jesus titled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Our friend Joe Carter, over at GetReligion, has the basic story. Green launched the interview (available here in full) with a question about why a Muslim should want to write a book about Jesus. A reasonable question, and not a hostile one on its facebut by the end of the interview Green has returned to it in a somewhat more accusatory fashion. As Joe says, the interview is a mess. But as he also points out, Greens critics are passing right by something far more interesting: that Aslan has misrepresented his scholarly credentials.
In fact, it is Aslan who immediately turns the interview into a cage match by reacting very defensively to Greens first question. And here is where the misrepresentations begin. For roughly the first half of the interview Aslan dominates the exchange with assertions about himself that seem intended to delay the substance of the discussion:
I am a scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament . . . I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions . . . I am a professor of religions, including the New Testamentthats what I do for a living, actually . . . To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions.
Later he complains that they are debating the right of the scholar to write the book rather than discussing the book. But the conversation took that turn thanks to Aslan, not Green! By the final minute he is saying of himself (and who really talks this way!?) that Im actually quite a prominent Muslim thinker in the United States.
Aslan does have four degrees, as Joe Carter has noted: a 1995 B.A. in religion from Santa Clara University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and wrote his senior thesis on The Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark; a 1999 Master of Theological Studies from Harvard; a 2002 Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa; and a 2009 Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
None of these degrees is in history, so Aslans repeated claims that he has a Ph.D. in the history of religions and that he is a historian are false. Nor is professor of religions what he does for a living. He is an associate professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of California, Riverside, where his terminal MFA in fiction from Iowa is his relevant academic credential. It appears he has taught some courses on Islam in the past, and he may do so now, moonlighting from his creative writing duties at Riverside. Aslan has been a busy popular writer, and he is certainly a tireless self-promoter, but he is nowhere known in the academic world as a scholar of the history of religion. And a scholarly historian of early Christianity? Nope.
What about that Ph.D.? As already noted, it was in sociology. I have his dissertation in front of me. It is a 140-page work titled Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework. If Aslans Ph.D. is the basis of a claim to scholarly credentials, he could plausibly claim to be an expert on social movements in twentieth-century Islam. He cannot plausibly claim, as he did to Lauren Green, that he is a historian, or is a professor of religions for a living.
It may be that Aslan sensed a tougher interview from Lauren Green than he is accustomed to. Hence he immediately went into high-dudgeon mode, and made the ten minutes all about her alleged disrespect of him and his alleged scholarly credentials. But in order to change the subject he told a string of gratuitous falsehoods about himself. Perhaps that masters in fiction writing came in handy.
Is Aslans book worth reading? I have no idea. But he has earned enough distrust from me that I havent any interest in finding out.
Lauren Green has been take to task over this interview, and now it appears the guest was misrepresenting himself, and that makes her questioning all the more relevant.
See Free Republic Thread: Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done? (video)
I knew there had to be reasons why he protested so fiercely. This guy is the typical muslim liar
This Aslan (by Lewis) is the great and mighty Lion of God
Yes He is. < wink >
This article says his PhD is in sociology, and even if his specialty is the sociology of religion, that is not the study of the content of religion, but is instead the study of religion’s interaction with society. And the point of sociology is thinking sociologically, not theologically. For example, a guy named Dillingham studied the recidivism from fundamental religion of females raised in fundamental religions. It was high. The focus is on the social.
It says absolutely nothing about the virgin birth, the resurrection, the changing of water to wine, or the great commission. It would have nothing to say about those subjects.
It might do a survey study of the percent who believe those teachings.
He is not who he portrays himself to be....hence I trust nothing he presents
Wow, when did muzzies start lying? When did the media shills start lying? I’m out of the loop. /s
You can read it for yourself here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/156747924/Reza-Aslan-Dissertation . Let the freeper something storm begin.
Explaining how global jihad is similar to other social movements hardly qualifies one as an expert in the virgin birth.
Methinks, Mr. Reza misrepresented himself to Lauren Green....and perhaps she was astute enough to catch it, and her detractors were not.
That’s not what’s interesting. If fox had had any fact checkers they would have asked him how his book related to his research in global jihad. They tried to pigeonhole a more or less secular/pantheistic liberal as a Muslim and he burned them.
If they had asked him more detailed questions about his beliefs, regarding one state Palestine, jihad or khatami they would have had far more to work with.