Society Magazine

Is Reza Aslan, Author of Zealot, Misrepresenting His Credentials?

Posted on the 01 August 2013 by Brutallyhonest @Ricksteroni

Joe Carter is strongly suggesting the answer is yes:

For starters, he does not have a PhD in the history of religions. Aslan has four degrees: a Bachelors of Zealot_reza_aslanReligious Studies from Santa Clara University; a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School; a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa; and a PhD in sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara (his dissertation was on “Global Jihadism: a transnational social movement”).

Why would Aslan claim he has a PhD in history when his degree is in sociology? Does he not understand the difference between the two fields of study?

Aslan also claims that he has a degree in the New Testament. But is this true? Santa Clara doesn’t offer a degree in the New Testament so he can’t be talking about his Bachelors. Perhaps he is referring to the Master’s of Theological Studies degree he earned from Harvard Divinity School in 1999. That school does offer an “area of focus” in “New Testament and Early Christianity.” Is Aslan claiming this was his degree’s area of focus at Harvard? (If so, this would make his claim about having a “degree in New Testament” misleading, at best.)

While this is a possibility, it raises the question of how — armed with only a Master’s degree with a focus on the New Testament — he became the first full-time professor of Islam in the history of the state of Iowa. According to his own bio, in August of 2000, Aslan was named Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa. While there he “taught courses in Introduction to Islam, Gender and Human Rights, and Religion and Politics in the Middle East, as well as supervising theses in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Women’s Movement in Iran, and Gender Violence Laws in Pakistan.”

Why would Iowa hire someone with an MTS focused on the New Testament to teach only classes on Islam?

The same bio notes that in 2003, “Aslan left his post at the University of Iowa to concentrate full-time on writing.” From there he became a fellow at the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy and then moved to the University of California at Riverside, where he is an associate professor of creative writing. He is also a visiting professor at Drew University, where he has taught “Religion and Politics in the New Middle East” and a course “on the art of protest in the Middle East, examining protest literature, film, art and music.”

When exactly has Aslan taught classes on the New Testament? And as a scholar, has he published peer-reviewed academic articles on Jesus?

Aslan’s book should not be dismissed because it was written by a Muslim. But in making untrue claims about his credentials he raises questions about his credibility. It also raises the question of how often so-called experts and authorities with no real expertise or authority on a subject are presented by New Media outlets as representative “scholars.”

Mr. Carter is, as would be expected, taking some strong criticism in the comments of the piece but he's not backing down.

It's fascinating reading.

Read it all.

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