Aslan at Texas Book Festival, 2013
May 3, 1972 |
|Residence||Los Angeles, California|
|Alma mater||Santa Clara University
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of Iowa
|Occupation||Academic, writer, producer, TV host|
|Organization||Aslan Media Inc., BoomGen Studios|
|Notable work||No god but God
|Relatives||Leila Forouhar (Aunt)|
Reza Aslan (Persian: رضا اصلان, IPA: [ˈɾezɒː æsˈlɒːn]; born May 3, 1972) is an Iranian-American author, public intellectual, religious studies scholar, producer and TV host. He has written three books on religion: No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Aslan is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association. He is also a professor of creative writing at University of California, Riverside.
- 1 Background
- 2 Career
- 2.1 Writing
- 2.2 Business ventures
- 2.3 Other media appearances
- 2.4 Political analysis
- 2.5 Protection of religious freedom
- 2.6 Religious views
- 2.7 Academic credentials
- 2.8 Personal life
- 2.9 Awards
- 2.10 Publications
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Aslan's family came to the United States from Tehran in 1979, fleeing the Iranian Revolution. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the age of 15 he converted to evangelical Christianity. He converted back to Islam the summer before attending Harvard. In the early 1990s, Aslan taught courses at De La Salle High School in Concord, California.
Aslan holds a BA in religious studies from Santa Clara University, an Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Harvard Divinity School, an Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, and a PhD in sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His dissertation, titled "Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework", discussed contemporary Muslim political activism.
In 1998, he was elected President of Harvard's Chapter of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. In 1999, he served as Legislative Assistant for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C.
An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2012-2013, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues, PEN center USA, a writer's advocacy group, and he serves on the national advisory board of the Levantine Cultural Center, a program to promote peace between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world.
Aslan has published three books, edited two anthologies and writes frequently for different media outlets.
No god but God
No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam is a non-fiction book published in 2005. The book describes the history of Islam and argues for a liberal interpretation of the religion. It blames Western imperialism and self-serving misinterpretations of Islamic law by past scholars for the current controversies within Islam, challenging the "clash of civilizations" thesis.
In 2009, Aslan published his second book, How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of Terror. The following year, it was re-released in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization. The book is both an in-depth study of the idealology fueling al-Qaue’ida, the Taliban, and the like-minded militants throughout the Muslim world and an exploration of religious violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The author argues that the United States, by infusing the War on Terror with its own religiously polarizing rhetoric, is fighting a similar war - a war that he asserts can’t be won.
In 2013, Aslan published Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, an historical account of the life of Jesus, which analyzes the various religious perspectives on Jesus, as well as the creation of Christianity. In the book, Aslan argues that Jesus was a political, rebellious and eschatological (end times) Jew whose proclamation of the coming kingdom of God was a call for regime change that would end Roman hegemony over Judea and end a corrupt and oppressive aristocratic priesthood.
In 2011, Aslan edited and published Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. The anthology was a collaboration with Words without Borders, in which Aslan worked with a team of three regional editors and seventy-seven translators, amassing a collection of nearly 200 pieces originally written in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Turkish – many of which were presented in English for the first time.
That same year, Aslan released Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities, which he co-edited with Abraham’s Vision founder Aaron J. Hahn Tapper. The book is a collection of essays exploring contemporary Jewish-Muslim relations in the United States and the distinct ways in which these two communities interact with one another in the American context.
Aslan has written articles for The Daily Beast as a contributing editor. He has also written for various newspapers and periodicals, including the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post, Slate, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The Nation, and The Christian Science Monitor.
Aslan founded Aslan Media, a media platform offering alternative coverage of the Middle East and its global diaspora communities.
In 2006, Aslan teamed up with Iranian American cinematographer and producer Mahyad Tousi to create BoomGen Studios, a studio and production company focused to bring stories from and about the Middle East to American audiences. Projects that they consulted on include National Geographic’s Amreeka; Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Broadway adaptation of Aladdin; the Weinstein Company’s Miral; Relativity Media’s Desert Dancer; Fork Films’ The Trials of Spring; Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater; and 2014 Oscar-nominated documentary The Square.
Of Kings and Prophets
In January 2015, BoomGen announced that ABC picked up its biblical epic, Of Kings and Prophets, a dramatic retelling of the central story in the Hebrew Bible: the story of King David from shepherd to king. The series followed an ensemble of characters including Saul and David, the successive Kings of Israel, their families, and their political rivals. Of Kings and Prophets was set in the Kingdom of Israel, but filmed in Cape Town, South Africa. Aslan, Tousi and Jason Reed served as executive producers on the show.
In 2015, Aslan joined popular HBO series The Leftovers as a consulting producer for both its second and third seasons. In addition to helping to craft the foundation of the show, Aslan was integral in protagonist Kevin Garvey’s season two character arc.
In March 2016, cable network Ovation premiered Rough Draft with Reza, a fast-paced and timely talk show featuring Aslan in conversation with critically acclaimed authors and writers in film, TV and journalism.
In 2015, Aslan began production for “spiritual travel series” Believer, a documentary series that follows Aslan as he immerses himself and experiences various religious traditions all over the world. The program is part of CNN’s original programming lineup and is scheduled to premiere some time in 2017.
Other media appearances
Aslan has made numerous appearances on TV and radio, including National Public Radio (NPR), Spirited Debate on Fox News, PBS, The Rachel Maddow Show, Meet the Press, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Anderson Cooper 360°, Hardball, Nightline, Real Time with Bill Maher, Fareed Zakaria GPS, and ABC Australia's Big Ideas.
Fox News interview controversy
On 26 July 2013, Aslan was interviewed on Spirited Debate, a Fox News webcast by Chief Religion Correspondent Lauren Green about his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Green was "unsatisfied with Aslan's credentials," and she pressed Aslan, questioning why a Muslim would write about Jesus. Aslan answered, “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” The interview lasted about ten minutes and focused "on Aslan's background more than the actual contents of the book." The video clip of the interview went viral within days and the book, which was up to that point selling "steadily", appeared at the 4th place on the New York Times print hardcover best-seller list. By late July 2013, it was topping the U.S. best-seller list on Amazon.
Following Aslan's interview with Fox News, Elizabeth Castelli, the professor of religion at Barnard College, Columbia University, reported an outrage in the academics, writing "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. The Fox News interview was not just embarrassing but downright offensive. The anti-Muslim bias of Fox is well-documented and is bad enough, whatever the specific context. For scholars of religion, Green’s conflation of the academic study of religion with personal religious identification is a familiar misunderstanding."
Despite Elizabeth Castelli's dismissal of Fox News for questioning Aslan as a religious scholar as she acknowledged Aslan could claim as a scholar of history-of-religions, she dismissed him of claiming himself as a historian. She wrote "History of religions is [...] a particular disciplinary approach[...] often associated in the United States with the University of Chicago and the University of California at Santa Barbara, where Aslan earned his PhD in sociology. To the extent that he did coursework in the UCSB Religious Studies department, he can certainly lay claim... But his claims are more grandiose than that and are based on his repeated public statements that he speaks with authority as a historian. He has therefore reasonably opened himself to criticism." The Atlantic concurred with Prof. Castelli's acknowledgment on Aslan's religious credentials.
In The Washington Post, the journalist Manuel Roig-Franzia concurred Prof. Castelli's critique on Aslan's historian credentials, yet the article also quoted Aslan's dissertation adviser, Mark Juergensmeyer, who despite acknowledging their departments "don’t have a degree in sociology of religions as such" but he "doesn’t have a problem with Aslan’s characterization of his doctorate, noting... [Aslan] did most of his course work in religion" and his arrangement of getting Aslan out of the religious studies department into sociology department "was undertaken to get Aslan out of time-consuming required language courses". The Philadelphia Inquirer also noted UCSB "is famous for its interdisciplinary program—students tailor their studies around a topic, not a department. They choose a department only for the diploma."
Analysis of War on Terrorism
Aslan refers to Al Qaeda's jihad against the west as "a cosmic war", distinct from holy war, in which rival religious groups are engaged in an earthly battle for material goals. "A cosmic war is like a ritual drama in which participants act out on earth a battle they believe is actually taking place in the heavens." American rhetoric of "war on terrorism", Aslan says, is in precise "cosmic dualism" to Al Qaeda's jihad. Aslan draws a distinction between Islamism and Jihadism. Islamists have legitimate goals and can be negotiated with, unlike Jihadists, who dream of an idealized past of a pan-Islamic, borderless "religious communalism". Aslan's prescription for winning the cosmic war is not to fight, but rather to engage moderate Islamic political forces in the democratic process. "Throughout the Middle East, whenever moderate Islamist parties have been allowed to participate in the political process, popular support for more extremist groups has diminished."
Protection of religious freedom
Aslan has argued for religious freedom and protection for religious minorities throughout the Middle East. He has called for Iran to protect and stop the "horrific human rights abuses" against its Baha'i community. Aslan has also said that the persecution and displacement of Middle Eastern Christian communities "is nothing less than a regional religious cleansing that will soon prove to be a historic disaster for Christians and Muslims alike."
Criticism of New Atheists
In 2014, Aslan was interviewed by New York's Jesse Singal on his response to the recent intense criticism of Islam by the New Atheists. In the interview Aslan criticizes the "armchair atheism" of atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, who have no background in the study of religion and are unable to effectively comment on how it shapes human behavior. He contrasted them to the "philosophical atheism" of earlier thinkers who "were experts in religion, and so they were able to offer critiques of it that came from a place of knowledge, from a sophistication of education, of research."
Criticism of media coverage of Islam
On 29 September 2014, Antonia Blumberg in The Huffington Post stated that Reza Aslan, on CNN, "criticized comedian Bill Maher for characterizing female genital mutilation as an 'Islamic problem,' in addition to making several other sweeping generalizations about the faith." Aslan was reported as saying that "To say "Muslim countries", as though Pakistan and Turkey are the same... it’s frankly, and I use this word seriously, stupid!" Prachi Gupta, in Salon, wrote that Reza Aslan believed that the United States was partnering with Saudi Arabia while simultaneously condemning ISIS. The television and radio host David Pakman cast doubt on some of Aslan's claims from the CNN interview.
On 8 October 2014, Aslan published a New York Times article titled, "Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion" writing that, "Bill Maher is right to condemn religious practices that violate fundamental human rights. Religious communities must do more to counter extremist interpretations of their faith. But failing to recognize that religion is embedded in culture—and making a blanket judgment about the world’s second largest religion—is simply bigotry."
In a 2013 interview with WNYC host Brian Lehrer, Aslan said: "... I'm definitely a Muslim and Sufism is the tradition within Islam that I most closely adhere to." He also proclaims himself a 'genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.'
In a 2013 article in the Washington Post, Aslan states: "It’s not [that] I think Islam is correct and Christianity is incorrect. It's that all religions are nothing more than a language made up of symbols and metaphors to help an individual explain faith."
In 2014, in an interview with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, Aslan described Islam as "a man-made institution. It’s a set of symbols and metaphors that provides a language for which to express what is inexpressible, and that is faith. It’s symbols and metaphors that I prefer, but it’s not more right or more wrong than any other symbols and metaphors. It’s a language, that’s all it is."
Reza Aslan has been awarded 4 academic degrees:
- B.A in religion, Santa Clara University
- M.T.S in theology, Harvard
- M.F.A in fiction, University of Iowa
- Ph.D in sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara
- 2014 Intersections Honoree, Intersections International
- 2013 Media Bridge-Builder Award, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding
- 2013 Peter J. Gomes Memorial Honor, Harvard Divinity School
- 2012 East-West Media Award, The Levantine Center
- "The Struggle for Islam's Soul", in Will Marshall (ed.), With All Our Might: A Progressive Strategy for Defeating Jihadism and Defending Liberty, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006.
- "From Here to Mullahcracy", in Lila Azam Zanganeh (ed.), My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices, Beacon Press, 2006.
- "Losing the War", in Gilbert H. Muller (ed.), The New World Reader, CUNY Press, 2010.
- How to Win a Cosmic War, published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age, Random House, 2010.
- Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East (editor), W. W. Norton, 2011.
- Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities (co-editor), Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
- Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Random House, 2013.
- No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012.
- "ABOUT — Reza Aslan". Rezaaslan.com. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
- Ali, Syed Hamad (July 15, 2011). "Islam's pulse in the US". GulfNews.com. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- "Review: Beyond Fundamentalism – Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization". foreignpolicyjournal.com. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2016-07-13.
- http://creativewriting.ucr.edu/people/aslan/index.html UCR: Department of Creative Writing, Faculty
- Reza Aslan — Islam's Reformation. Interview with Krista Tippett. 20 November 2014.
- "The life of Jesus: No angel". The Economist. July 27, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- "Exclusive Loonwatch Interview with Reza Aslan". Loonwatch.com. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Is Muslim Academic Reza Aslan More Biased Than a Christian Scholar?". patheos.com. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Stop calling Reza Aslan a fraud and learn how academia works". patheos.com. 2015-08-14. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- Gottschalk, Keith (April 8, 2005). "Interview: Reza Aslan, Author "No god but God"". Blogcritics. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- "Dr. Reza Aslan". Drew University. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- "Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework". Reza Aslan. Retrieved 2016-07-11.
- "Reza Aslan—Historian?". Thenation.com. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "About the Author". parstimes.com. Retrieved 2016-07-11.
- "Middle East and Islamic expert Reza Aslan to speak at UI April 12". University of Iowa News Services. April 5, 2010. Retrieved 2015-05-05.
- Hochman, Louis C. (September 25, 2013). "Author Reza Aslan, who sees Jesus as a rebel, to speak at Drew tonight". NJ.com. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- Price, Barbara. "(Middle) East Meets Forest". Drew University. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- "List of LAIH Fellows". usc.edu. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
- "Dr. Reza Aslan profile". sunstonemagazine.com. Retrieved 2016-07-13.
- "Board of Trustees". ctschicago.edu. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Board of Trustees". yalehumanists.com. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- Keddie, Nikki R. (2005-04-07). "Taking History on Faith". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-13.
- "Author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam to speak on campus". stanford.edu. 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Still a Firebrand, 2,000 Years Later". nytimes.com. 2013-08-05. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Reza Aslan: "Tablet and Pen"". Talari.com. 2010-11-16. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Muslims and Jews in America: A Valuable New Resource". rrc.edu. 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Reza Aslan". thedailybeast.com. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Reza Aslan". clintonschoolspeakers.com. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Those defending US Constitution from sharia must have failed high school civics". clintonschoolspeakers.com. 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Kiva Founder to Speak at Georgia Southern University". eagle-entrepreneur.com. 2012-01-18. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "About". rezaaslan.com. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "ABC Picks Up TV Series Developed by UCR Scholars". ucr.edu. 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Is The Leftovers' Kevin Garvey a Shaman Ushering People Into the Next World?". pajiba.com. 2015-10-14. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "‘Leftovers’ Producer Reza Aslan on His New Ovation Talk Show: ‘It’s A Little Bit Raunchy’". Variety.com. 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2016-07-13.
- "CNN Greenlights Three New Original Series For The 2017 Programming Slate". CNN.com. 2016-05-18. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "In CNN's 'Believer,' Reza Aslan to aim for a window on world religions". chicagotribune.com. 2015-03-21. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
- "Reza Aslan: Terrorism and How to Win a Cosmic War - Politics - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Odd Fox News Interview Lifts Reza Aslan's Biography on Jesus". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Fox News: "'Zealot' author Reza Aslan responds to critics" Lauren Green interview of Reza Aslan on July 26, 2013
- "Fox News interview with religion scholar Reza Aslan goes viral", Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2013
- "Amazon Best Sellers: Best Books". amazon.com.
- Graham, David A. (July 29, 2013). "Is Muslim Academic Reza Aslan More Biased Than a Christian Scholar?". The Atlantic (The Atlantic Monthly Group). Retrieved 20 May 2015.
Aslan may not have a graduate degree in history, but he does have a Ph.D. and an M.T.S. that bear on the topic at hand. He has also published extensively on religion. Arguing he's somehow not a scholar, as John S. Dickerson did, isn't really credible.
- "Reza Aslan: A Jesus scholar who’s hard to pin down". Washington Post.
- Derakhshani, Tirdad (July 29, 2013). "Reza Aslan's 'Zealot': Muslim's book about Jesus stirs things up". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
- "Book Review: 'How to Win a Cosmic War' by Reza Aslan". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Reza Aslan and Michael Brooks (September 25, 2013). "For Iran's Rouhani, the human rights of Baha'is are the ultimate test of reform". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
- Aslan, Reza (September 11, 2013). "The Christian Exodus". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
- Singal, Jesse (October 14, 2014). "Reza Aslan on What the New Atheists Get Wrong About Islam". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
- Blumberg, Antonia (30 September 2014). "Reza Aslan Blasts Bill Maher, Media For 'Unsophisticated' Reporting On Islam". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
Reza Aslan has a thing or two to say about media coverage of Islam. Speaking with CNN on Monday Aslan criticized comedian Bill Maher for characterizing female genital mutilation as an "Islamic problem," in addition to making several other sweeping generalizations about the faith. "When it comes to the topic of religion he's not very sophisticated in the way that he thinks," Aslan said.
- "Reza Aslan Slams 'Bigoted' Media For Generalisation That Muslims Are Misogynistic And Violent". The Huffington Post. 1 October 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- Gupta, Prachi (30 September 2014). "Reza Aslan takes down Bill Maher’s "facile arguments" on Islam in just 5 minutes". Salon. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
He also pointed out the U.S.’s own hypocrisy in calling out ISIS for its brutality while partnering with Saudi Arabia: "Look, Saudi Arabia is one of the most, if not the most, extremist countries in the world. In the month that we’ve been talking about ISIS and their terrible actions in Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia, our closest ally, has beheaded 19 people."
- "Reza Aslan cannot be trusted". David Pakman. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
- Aslan, Reza. "Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- "Muslim author's book about Jesus goes top of Amazon's sales charts after TV interview challenging his credentials goes viral". The Daily Mail. 31 July 2013. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
- "Waiting for an Islamic Enlightenment". The Guardian. 22 October 2005. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
- Murphy, Dan (July 28, 2013). "Can Muslims write about Christianity?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
- Roig, Manuel (2013-08-08). "Reza Aslan: A Jesus scholar who’s hard to pin down". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Aslan, Reza (October 13, 2014). Reza Aslan - Bigotry, Fundamentalism and Neo-Atheism in the Media. Interview with Cenk Uygur. The Young Turks. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
- Nazaryan, Alexander (August 29, 2013). "Bad News: When Journalism and Business Collide". The Wire. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
- Katz Miller, Susan (September 28, 2013). "Reza Aslan and Jessica Jackley: A Muslim and Christian Interfaith Family". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
- Hamad Ali, Syed (July 15, 2011). "Islam's pulse in the US". Gulf News. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
- "2014 Awards Celebration". Intersections International. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
- "Annual Award Ceremony 2013". Tenanbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- "HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council Announces Inaugural Gomes Honors Recipients". Harvard Divinity School. March 6, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- "2012 East-West Awards Celebrate Visions of Cultural Diplomacy". Levantine Cultural Center. November 1, 2012. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
Find more about
at Wikipedia's sister projects
|Media from Commons|
|Data from Wikidata|