Reza Aslan—Historian?

Elizabeth Castelli in The Nation:

Reza-aslan2_cc_imgThe “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done,” in which anchor Lauren Green challenged the legitimacy of author Reza Aslan for writing Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, seemed to be popping up everywhere on social media last week. The absurdity of the spectacle was multifold: Why—why?!—would a Muslim want to write about Jesus, Green kept asking, as though a nefarious plot to undermine Christianity were somehow afoot. Meanwhile, Aslan made a show of insisting that he possesses not only the academic credentials and but also the professional duty to do so (“My job as a scholar of religions with a PhD in the subject is to write about religions”). The story was quickly framed as a battle between the right-wing Islamophobes of Fox News and Aslan, the defender of intellectual life and scholarship.

Then an article in the right-wing Catholic publication, First Things, challenged Aslan’s claims about his academic credentials (his 2009 PhD is in sociology and was awarded on the basis of a 140-page dissertation on contemporary Muslim political activism) and his academic position (he is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside and does not hold either a doctorate nor a teaching position in the academic study of religion).

Those of us in the academic field of religious studies, especially biblical scholars and historians of early Christianity, found the whole business deeply cringe-worthy.

More here.