Reza Aslan's "Zealot" Draws Controversy And Comedy

Jul 29, 2013

The book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” has been out for less than two weeks, but it’s already created a firestorm for its author, religions scholar Reza Aslan.

Most recently, Aslan was interviewed by Fox News’ Lauren Greene last Friday who started off with the following question: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about Christianity?”

Aslan’s position, which he reiterated at several points over the course of the interview was, “I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim."

NPR’s The Two-Way reports that the interview has been making the rounds on the wilds of the Internet, including some humorous responses and parodies. 

A post at Buzzfeed asked "Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?" and The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum called it "demented." The Twitter hashtag #foxnewslitcrit was spawned, full of mock interview questions such as, "Ms. Rowling, what gives you, a muggle, the right to write a book about wizards?"

Aslan appeared on KUOW’s The Conversation with Ross Reynolds, July 29, to discuss his academic claims and the swirl around his book. He said that he was embarrassed about the Fox interview. "Look, as a scholar, the last thing you want to do is to have to constantly defend your scholarly credentials," he said. "You come off as kind of a putz doing that."

Aslan said he understood why his critics may be upset. "Jesus is a touchy subject, and I understand that there are people of faith who feel worried, threatened that perhaps, somehow that I am attacking them, but nothing could be further from the truth.” Aslan defended that his book is merely a historically-based account of the life of Jesus.

Despite any controversy in its content, “Zealot” reached number one on Amazon after the Fox interview.