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August 11, 2013 9:26 pm

Reza Aslan: Why Aren’t You a Jew?

avatar by Bernard Starr

Email a copy of "Reza Aslan: Why Aren’t You a Jew?" to a friend
Reza Aslan on Fox News, being interviewed by Lauren Green. Photo: Screenshot.

Reza Aslan on Fox News, being interviewed by Lauren Green. Photo: Screenshot.

Muslim Author Reza Aslan was subjected to an absurd and brutally ridiculous  interview by Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green.

Aslan who is a Muslim wrote a book about Jesus, called “Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” and Green questioned his qualifications on the matter, and insisted that he may be biased because of his current religion.

Aslan actually has additional bonafides because he tried converting to Christianity in high school, and then at a Jesuit University, but has long since returned to Islam.

In the interview, Aslan defended himself: he had written a book about Islam, was a scholar of biblical history, who writes about many topics, including other religions, but Green insisted on hammering him with various versions of the same question.

The controversial interview went viral, so good is coming from it for the author as the interview really helped get his story out there.

But the question, remains: Why did Green insist with the view that as a Muslim, Aslan would be hopelessly biased about Jesus’ life? Wasn’t that, itself, bias?

What a strange accusation coming from the news organization widely regarded as king of doctrinaire spin and bias.

Scholars have the right and skills to explore whatever issues they choose, regardless of their religions or theoretical preferences or beliefs. If that weren’t the case almost all scholarship would have to be discarded.

Just as in psychology, behaviorists are biased in their criticisms of Freudian psychologists and other clinical theorists, and vise-versa. Everyone always sees their own side as brighter.

Aside from that, the charge of Muslim bias against Aslan is particularly unwarranted in view of Aslan’s forthright statements in a note at the very beginning of his book, which Green either ignored or didn’t get to.

Aslan wrote that he was raised in a family of “lukewarm Muslims and atheists.”

“After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home [they emigrated to the U.S in 1979 when Aslan was seven years old]… religion in general and Islam in particular became taboo in our household.”

As a teenager, Aslan embraced Jesus while attending an evangelical Christian youth camp: “I burned with absolute devotion to my new found faith.”

“I began to eagerly share the good news about Jesus Christ with my friends and family, my neighbors and classmates, with people I’d just met and with strangers on the street.”

Later he attended Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school, where he deepened his study of Christianity.

That’s when he began to question the historicity or factual accuracy of the stories about Jesus. He concluded that Jesus was not the divine savior. Aslan then revisited Islam, “and began to rethink the faith of my forefathers.”

Nevertheless, his continued scholarly study of Christianity “… made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.”

In Terry Gross’s NPR interview on July 15, Reza Aslan says explicitly that Jesus was a thoroughly committed practicing Jew — that he was immersed in a Jewish context, was devoted to the Jewish God, and had no intention of creating a new religion.

“You have to place every word that comes out of his mouth, every action that he performs in a Jewish context,” he said.

Well, if you reject the virgin birth, Jesus’ divinity, and the resurrection — as Aslan does — what remains is something that looks a lot like Judaism.

So I can only say to Aslan: If you’re a scholar, and you’ve tried Christianity, and you’ve tried Islam, and you profess to be a spiritual disciple of Jesus the man, a human, a non-divine Jew with a generous spirit, what are you waiting for, why aren’t you a Jew?

Click here to watch Lauren Green of Fox News interview Reza Aslan, Muslim author of “Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Bernard Starr is a psychologist, college professor and journalist. He is the author of “Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew.” Website: click here.

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  • Noevil9

    Sadly, most of you are lost in this fairy tales maze about all this religions combined. Who some people or another s under different names and times attempted to fool ,deceive, and confuse all others in believing their made up fabricated stories, about certain prophets or other Gods. You are doing exactly what those fabricators have intended for you to be and do, and that is to occupy yourselves, and many like you for thousands of years, trying to figure out something that could not be figured out, because ,one: it does not all make sense. Two: If some does make sense, then the other part does not. And so on and so forth. Good luck to all, in confusing yourselves while you think ,you are confusing others, because your fairy tale is smarter , or better written, or maybe more fools will be accepting of it. Your Lovely Fairy Tales, which basically, they are really the same story with some lame twists. So,please go and find better writers, as people are waking up to your dying trade. That is of course with all due respect to all of you religious Zealots. please don’t take offense, as the Mighty is still on your sides. Who ever each one of you thinks his ,or her Mighty is. Just dont forget to be human and humane mean while.

  • Greunewald

    The reason that, as a Muslim, Aslan is not qualified to talk about Christ, is because the very basis of Islam is to prejudiciously reject what Christ said about himself, and what all of his disciples said and believed about him, to the extent they even PEACEFULLY died for him.

    If you were one Jesus’ contemporary followers, and you all knew that Jesus was never raised from the dead, if you knew his body was stolen, or had any other proof that he never rose, then when the persecution and death came your way, why would you die for something you knew was a lie?

    Simon (below) talked about how many Jews through history may have changed, hidden, or given up their faith to avoid death or persecution. How many people changed whatever their faith was to Islam, solely because of fear of the sword, of torture, torment, and death?

    But the first and early Christians peacefully and willingly gave their lives for their belief in Christ being the son of God and dying for their sins. They did not threaten other nor suicide (homicide) bomb others.

    They experienced first hand God’s love, salvation, and forgiveness. They experienced the “deposit of the Holy Spirit (the very mind of God) guaranteeing the things to come (eternal life in paradise)”

    They did not spread by the sword, by fear, and by threat of death. How different from Islam! How can one compare it to Islam? They do not even share the same God, nor do they share the same ancestor of their faith (Isaac, the child of God’s promise to bring the savior to the world through). But all true Christians know their faith and savior came through Abraham, through ISAAC. True Christians know that Jesus said “Salvation of from the Jews”. Christianity without the Jews, their books (torah and the new testament, both written by Jews) and their history, is impossible. But Islam stands on it’s own with only one man as it’s foundation, who was a butcher. Whom did Christ or Christ’s followers butcher? Whom did they threaten or kill? Read the Jewish books of the N.T. yourself.. they killed NO ONE.

    The Jews are God’s beloved people, whom God has chosen from all the peoples of the earth “because he loved them”, and because it was His plan to bring the savior of all mankind to the world through them. God bless them, the time will come when they will be fully restored.

    • Simone

      Dear Greunewald,
      It was difficult to read what you wrote because of your aggressive defensive attitude. You see…apparently you AUTOMATICALLY assumed that I am holding one spiritual path over another. Did you read anything in what I said indicating that I believe no Islamic persons, leaders, have ever done terrible things? Not only is this the fact but not unlike the behavior of Christian crusaders. PEOPLE, individuals of all kinds and stripes – identifying themselves as followers of divinity, indeed often believing themselves to be among the most passionately devoted therefore right and good – have been terribly mistaken and/or simply animalistic in the name of a divine truth they claim to serve. It might be good to independently study (beyond, besides whom ever you have heard and listened to) all of the books of the Abrahamic faiths. I suggest you will find that the will of God’s/Allah’s wish for mankind, his guidance in all three paths in BY FAR more in common than not and in essence not contradictory. You do God, Jesus and the world in general a big favor if both you come to realize this and also cease promoting or defending emotionally and aggressively when there is little to be gained in this(people tend to shut down in the face of emotionalism)and much to lose (the all precious Peace and Good will among men).

    • GRUENEWALD: do you write the spiderman movies also?
      Take the direct route.
      Avoid any middle man.

      I said ””ALL”’.

      If the followers of jesux did not kill JEWS,,,
      JEWISH population would be similar to muslims a billion and half not a mere 14 million.

  • DAVID CHEKIAN: jesux is NOT in TORAH,no where whatsover.
    Mr starr tell aslan that jesux was NOT good JEW, he said not to listen to the rabbis and to not observe sabbath amonst other things, that makes him a heretic.

    SHIMON: THE AUTHOr has a defective gene and the link publisher.They feel they need to juda-iz a mangod.

    R: he does nothing meaningful for any JEWISH CAUSE except to write a story and ”TEST” JEWS if they will believe any of the rubbish in trying to make him a good JEW.THE TEST IS FROM THE HEAVENS.

    ROBERTA: THESE PEOPLE because they say something ‘JEWISH’ doesnt make them a soul looking for its makes them a missionary looking to see who to deceive.

    SIMONE: learn to write with paragraphs, you think to much amounting to nonsense anyway.

    GREG: dont buy the book, donate to charity instead.





    • Jesus said about the Rabbis, do all what they say, but not what they do…, this is consistent wis his previous saying that” Heaven and earth shall pass before a yud is dropped from the Torah”, Apparently he was an orthodox jew tired of the behaviour of the Rabbis.

      • Linda Wilson

        My impression has also been that Jesus may have been trying to prevent what eventually happened when the Jews tried to revolt against the Romans. This was just a couple hundred years after the successful Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid empire, so Jews might have felt that a successful revolt against Rome was also possible. It seems like his messages of non-violence and helping one another were meant to strengthen Jewish society from within to cope with the oppression, rather than trying to overthrow it. Instead, his followers were rejected by the mainstream, formed their own sect, and subsequent revolts led to the Diaspora. It seems like the formation of a separate religion was just an unintended consequence.

  • Jennifer

    >>”…you’ve tried Islam, and you profess to be a spiritual disciple of Jesus the man, a human, a non-divine Jew with a generous spirit…”

    Jesus claimed to be God, so if you reject that He is God, you are calling Him a liar. Does a liar have a “generous spirit”?

  • S. Barger

    I’m of the understanding that his credentials are exaggerated.

  • Jeffrey Justin

    Pinochio also had a nose

  • Joy

    I, too, saw the interview by Lauren Green (for whom I normally have great respect)via YouTube, but actually found Aslan’s whining self-defense of his Great Scholarship (with 4 PhDs to prove it! Or, as my late husband referred to PhDs: “Piled high & deep!”) rather childish and definitely annoying!

    Then I read Pam Geller’s “report” on this minor dust-up (and I absolutely DO have enormous respect for Ms. Geller!). She enlightened her readers (and I’m wondering how many Algemeiner readers may be aware of this) that Aslan is a foul-mouth and often childish loud-mouth in many of his tweets and blog postings (and she quoted generously – and nauseatingly – from his rantings!). His over-use of the “F” bomb is certainly NOT the usual profile of a “scholar!”

    • Bernard Starr

      He also bounces around with his beliefs. First he is a Muslim, then a passionate Christian. He drops Christian but confirms that Jesus was a dedicated Jew and says he is a disciple of Jesus the man and Jew. But he has also now revisited the faith of his forefathers—Islam. So what does he believe?

      Also,, he cherry picks his “facts” and ignores other information. Read Stuart Kelly’s scathing August 7th London Guardian review of Zealot.

      • Lynne T

        Aslan was recently interviewed on CBC Radio’s Day Six and referred to Jesus of Nazareth as a Palestinian, a rather curious way of putting it, given that the Romans didn’t rename the Jewish kingdoms Palestine until well after the Nazarine’s death.

  • Common Sense

    This is the worst article on this site I have ever read, the author should be let go.

    Aslan lobbies for the iranian regime and apologizes for them, he insults his conservative counterparts and tells outright lies about Robert Spencer and Pam Geller.

  • Reza Aslan is no friend of Israel.He calls Judea Palestine in his book ,the Romans didn’t call Israel Palestine till after the Bar Kochba revolt a little more then 100yrs after Jesus death.So he lies for his muslim propaganda purposes

  • David Chetakian

    The bias of the writer of this article is apparent . Yashua is in and of Torah. Of course
    He is Jewish. This Muslim can never know anything about a prophet of
    The Most High unless he knows Torah. Does he? Do you?

  • simone

    For those of you that seem to feel tender about this ‘great guy’ I suggest a bit of a ‘reality check’ – if you believe honesty has anything to do with anything – provided by a true scholar (see authors credits and credential below URL)in his just published Frontpage magazine article: The Lies and Misrepresentations of Reza Aslan

    by …Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-Syrian scholar, is the president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He serves on the advisory board of the Harvard International Review, an official publication of Harvard University. Rafizadeh has previously taught at several universities including the University of Damascus, Islamic Azad University, and the University of California Santa Barbara through a Fulbright Teaching scholarship. Previously, he conducted research at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He regularly commentates on national and international outlets including CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, Fox News and France 24 International. His works have appeared on The New York Times International, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, CNN, Fareed Zakaria GPS, The Nation, Yale Journal of International Affairs, The Jerusalem Post and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at


  • Ilbert Phillips

    I saw the interview that the author has described and it was in fact a rather bizarre interview. The interviewer did not ask the right questions and interviewee said little. This scholar has written a book that insults traditional Christians and does not in any way refute, seriously, the Muslim’s view of Christ, whom Muslims believe to be a prophet, but not the son of God. In addition, they believe that Muhammad has replaced Jesus,being he, Muhammad is last prophet after Moses, Abraham and Jesus. So what is the big deal?

  • greg hoey

    Sounds like an interesting book then there’s mine too-“Awake in fright by an Elephant in the Room” out on amazon by greg hoey

  • simone

    I grew up where this guy Reza Aslan did and I have ‘a nose’ for people from that area. Put this together with the fact as a long-time student of socio-cultural-theological anthropology (and much traveled through out Europe and the Middle East)whose most recent studies have been world history ‘via the Jewish people’, I have regularly successfully identified persons who though ‘no longer Jewish’ (perhaps many generations Moslem, Christian or generally agnostic, etc)and I would virtually bet money this man’s family has Judaic roots. I happen to have a great deal of admiration for Jewish people in general with their many and great contributions to culture and societies going back many hundreds of years all over the world…so don’t mistake me;my interest is purely theo-cultural-anthropological, and like a fair number I have known, many people are unaware that they have forebearers who were Jewish. Historically political/ social/ economic pressures upon Jews to convert to whatever faith was the dominant one in their environment was periodically terribly powerful and in some case they were faced with no option other than death. Understandably many tried to ‘be whatever’ on the surface (if forced to pretend)while holding onto their faith privately, but it’s not hard to imagine that after a number of generations and without the support of strong Jewish community around them, eventually individuals/ families became sort of hybridized, until finally they lost their Jewish roots/ identity all together. Sure it’s a stretch, but my guess as to why this fellow Reza is both driven to explore (even identifying Jesus in his Jewish roots) AND feels yet vacillating about his own theological identification/ truths, etc. (just a sense, as I’m newly exposed to this guy, haven’t read any of his books, etc.)is long lost Jewish roots are tickling, calling, and/but this may be the last thing he could imagine. I’d nearly bet my life he has deeply faithful Judaism back there in his roots somewhere. I wish I could tell him this…I spent 20 years as a member of Osher Marin Jewish Community Center – there nearby where he grew up – where I swam daily and enjoyed a really wonderful group of bright healthy and constructive people (not restricted to Jewish persons but probably 90+ % Jewish membership). My studies have led me to run into the distressing fact that many persons who are aware of Judaism in their immediate background – despite the fact that they are identified with another religion – are very hesitant to admit this. I find this terribly sad as I ‘pick up’ either or both some weird sense of personal or social shame which of course is empirically senseless, reminding me of African Americans of old, who if they could appearance-wise did their best – under similar terrible pressures – to ‘pass’, to distance themselves from their African heritage (I grew up in a family very active and involved in the African-American civil rights movement of the 60’s)and was well-aware of these kinds of struggles to survive in oppressive environments). I hate racial, religious, ethnic, etc. prejudice and find heinous the fact that people have been – and continue to still in places around the world – forced to try to deny what they should never have to just in order to secure equal opportunity and treatment heinous. That anyone would feel the need to hide Judaic roots I find very sad as it amplifies the history of oppression and prejudice that Jews have historically endured; and so I suspect that this Reza fellow, while happy to consider his Christian & Islamic identifications, I guess is not at all interested in considering Judaism which I believe are his roots no matter those roots may be distant. Perhaps one day he’ll settle down – if he’s really a truth seeker – and take a look at this. Reza’s surname Aslan, by the way, while Turko-Iranian place-wise, is a name shared by all 3 Abrahamic faiths, including present day Jews.

    • Hi Simone, I agree with your assessments regarding the “Jewish roots” of so very many people, including Muslims today.

      The fierce “take no prisoners” ways of the Arabs meant death to the conquered men, slavery for the women and children. Many of the women bore children who were then raised Islamic. This pattern in different iterations, including intermarriage, is why Jewish genes can certainly be found in Muslims.

      Most followers of Islam have no clue that Judaism is the “mother” of their religion. From ritual circumcision, to Halal, to holidays starting “the night before,” to Sabbath observance (Jews had Saturday, Christians Sunday, so Friday was chosen),etc., the influence of Judaism is apparent.

      What is notable, however, is the extreme Islamic interpretation of Jewish practices : children take their identities/religion from their fathers, females are subject to circumcision, modesty in dress becomes “body bags” for women, Fasting becomes a month long observance… and on and on.

      Reza Aslan might very well be a “member of the tribe” -one he never expected. And wouldn’t radical Islamic fanatics choke if they ever heard this news.

      • Simone

        Thank you for your interesting response Robert. Yes, extremism of all kinds is of course wrong and sadly rampant, and/but I believe also that much ‘wrong-headed’ habits/behaviors stem in tribal cultural habits which are then ‘attached’ to religions beliefs – female circumcision for example. It all comes down to education, doesn’t it. I am a retired woman who has had some time now (post raising my children, etc.) to study and learn in greater depth about all of the religious tradtions. Given the amount of study I’ve done, the time it’s taken, it’s no wonder to me that so many even well-meaning people have little understanding of their own faith nonetheless others other-than their own. It is very difficult to truly understand the will of God/Allah without examining and comparing all the books and intelligent commentary. The stand I wish people would take is ‘when in doubt judge not’…embrace and accept all good people (kind,non-judgemental, sincerely well-meant, etc.) and with-hold coming to concrete conclusions short of the opportunity to study involved manners completely. After all God/Allah gives most people an ‘instinctual understanding’ of righteousness and one can grow spiritually by paying attention to the basic tenants of any of the paths given, which can suffice though ideally atleast eventually individuals have the opportunity to ‘seek further’ for ‘more sure and comprehensive’. Personally I find the subject of spiritual truth – vast and complex (and/but also interesting)- the more I know, the more I know I don’t know…kind of thing. Meanwhile I wish that all people would understand that God/Allah wants nothing more than that we are kind, tolerant, and patient with one another and that we do NOT behave badly in the name of God/Allah. Unfortunately there are just such a great number of people who while misguided, or shallow understanding-wise, are at the same time aggressively sure of themselves and how/why people ‘get like this’ is difficult for me to understand but I think it’s among the greatest problems regarding inability of people of different faiths to live in harmony with others. (“If you don’t understand for sure dignity to be quiet and the humility to live true to this fact and strive to just be a kind generous person”.) My personal exposure has been mainly with Christians and Islamic persons in this respect). Below is an URL for a video – onTed Talks -that though a bit ‘sappy/ contrived’ was nonetheless pleasing to experience as a break from constant awareness and exposure to issues involving people at odds with one another identified as ‘religious differences’ (we know that 90% of it has politics and/or economics at the root, eh?)It’s pleasing to see ANYthing that encourages mutual love and acceptance among faiths.
        TITLE: TEDxRainier – Interfaith Amigos
        URL: TEDxRainier – Interfaith Amigos

    • Greunewald

      All this religious discussion presumes some connection to one’s DNA and background, as if you are born a certain religion.

      What Jesus accomplished was to fulfill all of the Torah and create a completely new creature, born from above, in ANYONE who will believe and put their trust in Him as the God/Man, who came to save any and everyone who would believe. “In that Day I will write my law upon their hearts.” (instead of in stone, or in the stone cold hearts of self righteous religion).

      The “mystery of the cross” is that God made “one new man” out of both Jews and Gentiles, through Christ’s final and complete sacrifice for us.

      Therefore, all division and racism and religiousity and self-righteousness, and tribalism, and racial pride are dissolved and done away with by God, but only for those whom believe. They will experience this oneness and love.

      “For in Christ there is no Jew, nor Greek, nor Slave, nor Free, nor Scythian, nor Barbarian, nor Male, nor Female, but ALL ARE ONE”. Peace, love, joy and harmony for all who believe.

      But for some reason, the world does not accept this, does not want this, and even despises it. The world would rather hang on to it’s racial/tribal/relgious/ethnic and gender pride, rather than submit to God and what he has done in Christ, become saved, and have eternal life, love, and joy.

      Jesus warned those who would follow him, “As the world has hated me, so will they hate you.”

      Millions and millions of people, like Aslan, claim to be or have been Christians, but don’t have a clue because they never surrendered and yielded their will to allow God to be born from above within them. How can someone ever have the glorious love and majesty of their creator come to live inside of them, and then turn there back upon Him and reject him?

      Christ came to die for your sins, so that you may be cleansed, born anew, and the spirit of God Himself comes to live inside and along side of you.

      If anyone, including Aslan, REALLY experienced the creator of the universe coming to love you, live inside you, walk along side you, then WHY would they ever leave that? Unless… they never really had the true experience in the first place.

      History is FULL of millions fake “christians” who never were really Christians at all, they never were born from above, never experienced the new birth and spirit of God, and yet went on to do atrocities including the killing of millions of true Christians in the name of the “church”, as they did in Europe.

      But forget all of that… Jesus came to save you, the reader, as well. Won’t you seek him out and find out who he really is?

  • Alana

    Because obviously he’s happy with his religion: or are you trying to be funny? Perhaps I’m obtuse, but I don’t find it at all amusing.

  • R



    GO, MAN, GO!!!!!!!

  • Carol

    Oy! Who wants him? He’s made enough disparaging remarks about Jews and Israelis. We don’t need him to be an MOT, too!

  • Shimon

    What is this doing on a Jewish website?