News & Events

Reza Aslan defends right to be a scholar on Jesus

A well-known news network recently interviewed Reza Aslan about his new book on Jesus, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. The interview has gone viral and is well worth a look (there’s a link at the bottom of this post).

There is much we could say about the interaction between Reza and the correspondent, Lauren Green. Two thoughts stand out:

  • Reza demonstrates an ideal that is at the foundation of Tanenbaum’s philosophy: respectful curiosity. We’d like to say to Reza, "Thank you for answering the questions directly, speaking respectfully and for being open to those who have academic beliefs that are different from your own."
  • Green is primarily interested in Reza’s religion, Islam, rather than the merits of his work. It is reasonable to ask about an interviewee’s background in order to frame a story, but Green’s incessant line of questioning communicated the notion that a Muslim is not capable of writing a book about Jesus.

Scholars from every tradition (and none) have the right to share perspectives about their areas of expertise and to be questioned vigorously about their findings –  not their background or religion.

Full disclosure: Reza Aslan is on Tanenbaum’s Advisory Board and was recognized at our 2013 annual gala.