Thursday, June 13, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Why so embarrassed?

Update : 28 Jul 2017, 11:26 PM

I do not completely agree with the op-ed piece published on Tuesday, July 31, titled “Reza Aslan is angered by ignorance” by Mohammad Miraly. I do acknowledge its excellent content and the way it’s written.

The piece talks about the recent interview of the Iranian-American author Reza Aslan, who was interviewed by Fox News’s Lauren Green. He was interviewed to talk about his book, Zealot, which was recently published on July 16.

The book, according to the author, is about Jesus “a historical man who walked the earth 2000 years ago in a land that the Romans called Palestine.”

From the beginning of the interview, Ms. Green insists on finding why “a Muslim” would write a book on the founder of Christianity- Reza from the start, too, insists that he should be regarded as “a historian with a PhD in the history of religions,” a scholar, who has all the rights to write about a topic he had been working and studying for years.

What I do not agree with Mohammad’s op-ed piece is that he suggests that it would have been “not embarrassing” if Reza would actually answer Ms. Green’s pressing question, “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”

My question to Mohammad is that, how is confirming Reza’s background and his obsession with Jesus not a sound answer to Ms. Green’s question?

I think we should rather respect the author for not getting offended by the pseudo-tough questions thrown his way, repeatedly. Not to forget the accusation by Ms. Green which I believe is, indeed, “embarrassing” that Reza had not disclose his identity as a Muslim to media (which he clearly did and which is very much there on his biography inside his book).

I agree with Mohammad when he says “there’s a certain dignity in refusing to be offended by offensive people” however, I am afraid Mohammad fails to acknowledge that Reza did exactly that during the interview and was focused on his book and not anything that would take the debate to another tangent.

I believe everyone who wants to write has the right to write on whatever he/she feels like – as Mohammad also complies. One can question the arguments within the author’s book, its content and the author’s skills of writing.

It is as simple as that and that is why I think Reza insisted on getting that through to the interviewer who most certainly did not read his book.

I understand why Mohammad might have resorted to saying that Reza should have taken the opportunity “to educate the public about why a Muslim would be interested in Christianity” as that debate has been unresolved for many years and many don’t understand that Jesus was a very important man for the Muslims too.

We have to understand Reza’s stance as well, he only had around 10 minutes time to talk, obviously he would decide not to bring up his religion (why should he?) and only talk about his work which reflects his academic expertise on history of religions that guarantees his position to take up the pen and write a book on Jesus.

When I consider this viral clip that has become the topic of debate these days, I get the stench of Islamophobia.

I have gone through many articles on Aslan and came across a few which affirms my assumption.

On a recent interview to Al Jazeera, Reza remarked on the apparent nature of Islamophobia that he has faced for years: “The negativity is almost exclusively from the same folks attacking me for ten years, the denizens of the Islamophobia industry.

To be honest, I felt I had to defend academia more than defend the right of Muslims to study Jesus. I work in a field that where Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others all study religions without their own faith being an issue.”

On a lighter note, we should acknowledge that the interview, itself, did Reza some good – according to the New York Times, Random House, the publisher, is sweating over how to meet the demand for the book which is running out of copies—the sales have increased 35% after two days of the interview.

Reza also confirmed that the book has gotten an “overwhelmingly positive” response in a phone interview conducted by the New York Times.

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