What Reza Aslan Can Tell Us About Civil War Memory
Update: Nice to see the twittersphere having some fun with this story. Check out #FOXNewsLitCrit.
I absolutely love this FOX News interview with Reza Azlan, who is the author of a new book on the historical Jesus. The interviewer clearly did not read the book nor did she have any interest in discussing its content. Instead, she chose to focus on the fact that the author is a Muslim who chose to write a book about Jesus. That, apparently is unfathomable to this reporter. Fortunately, Azlan stood his ground and underscored the absurdity of the assumptions driving the interview.
It’s impossible not to watch this reader without thinking about the kinds of discussions we have here at Civil War Memory and elsewhere about who owns the past and under what conditions a writer can lay claim to that past by writing about it. It’s a wonderful example of the kind of anti-intellectualism that pervades certain circles of society and our Civil War community in particular. I’ve heard the same kind of nonsense regarding my book during Q&A sessions. Are you Northern or Southern? What are your politics? Where do you live? Where is your family from? In the end, all of it is entirely irrelevant.
I am convinced that Azlan would have been happy to discuss the arguments contained in the book for the full nine minutes, but for that we would have needed an interviewer with some sense of historical methodology and curiosity. Unfortunately, the interview was conducted on the assumption that Azlan’s religious beliefs are sufficient to judge the book itself.
The interview reinforces why I think it is so important to use the history classroom to teach critical thinking skills.