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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Tom Driscoll
July 29, 2013 12:11 p.m.



Reza Aslan’s interview on Fox has been receiving a lot of attention over the last few days. Sadly, it’s not because of any insightful exchange that came of it. Rather the clip has been making the rounds under such headings as “Worst Fox Interview Ever.” Azlan was on plugging his latest book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” a study on the historical figure of Jesus Christ and the times he lived in. I’d actually noticed the book on the stacks at Barnes & Noble this past week and I’d promptly ordered it from my local library. The idea of the book appealed to me on a couple of levels. I happen to be a Christian and as such thoughtful considerations of Christ’s life pique some interest. And I was also somewhat familiar with Aslan. I’d seen him appear on talk shows. I’d previously read his “Beyond Fundamentalism, confronting religious extremism in the age of globalization” and found it compelling, challenging and consoling at the same time. Historian Jon Meacham described the book and its writer well: “It is Aslan’s great gift to see things clearly, and to say them clearly, and in this important new work he offers us a way forward. He is prescriptive and passionate, and his book will make you think.”

For the Fox interviewer Lauren Green there was just one problem though, as she sat with Aslan to discuss his book on Jesus. He happens to be a Muslim.

Why would a Muslim write a book on Christ? This was the sticking point for Ms. Green. The subtext was along the line of ‘how dare a Muslim write a book on Jesus?’ She pointed out there were a number of scholars who took issue with Aslan’s thesis. There was scant mention of the substance of these differences. More attention was called to the fact that these dissenting scholars were Christians and Aslan, as Chevy Chase would say, was not.

This would be just another case study in close minded Islamaphobia but for the fact that Green kept searching for analogies as she tried to explain to Aslan why his personal religious background was such a sticking point, why his motives were simply suspect (and thereby subject to her attack). She kept asking why a Muslim would want to write such a book and Aslan kept answering, I’m a religious scholar with a PhD! This is what I do! The kicker came for me when Green came up with this analogy, “It’s like a Democrat writing a book on Reagan!” Why would anyone want to read that? (A question Sean Wilentz‘s publishers never asked thankfully.) Why would we ever want to consider scholarship that starts from some point perhaps—just possibly— outside our presets and precepts? This was the actual question that Lauren Green simply couldn’t get past.

Wow.

More than a case study in close minded Islamaphobia, the interview is a specimen of a dangerous close mindedness in general. We need to be able to understand our world and others in this “age of globilization.” Pluralism is an American ideal, we get there by allowing ourselves differing perspectives, seeing and being seen. There may be some fun in holding Fox News up for ridicule here, but we should also take it as a cautionary. There’s something very sobering to this scene, where the very notion of an outside perspective becomes so foreign we can’t even conceive of it useful. We have a problem right here at home.

Meanwhile, I’ll await my notice from the library.

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