updated 7/31/2013 12:46:27 PM ET 2013-07-31T16:46:27

Religious scholar Reza Aslan spoke with Chris Hayes about the cringe-worthy Fox News interview on his faith and credentials that's gone viral and rocketed his new book to the top of the bestsellers list.

Religious scholar Reza Aslan spoke with Chris Hayes about the cringe-worthy Fox News interview on his faith and credentials that’s gone viral and rocketed his new book to the top of the bestsellers list Tuesday on All In.

Fox News Religion Correspondent Lauren Green repeatedly asked Aslan, who is a Muslim, about his ability to write an unbiased biography of Jesus. The line of questioning struck many viewers as ignorant and xenophobic. However, Aslan told Hayes he actually credits the interview with sparking an important national conversation.

“I think at this point what’s really fascinating to me just from, you know, an academic perspective is this is no longer even about me,” said Aslan, “It’s not about Fox News. This has become a much-needed larger discussion in the country about media, and journalism, and scholarship, and faith, and the role of religion in society.”

Aslan also weighed in on the Islamophobic rumors perpetuated by Fox News about Huma Abedin’s connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. A New York TImes op-ed also characterized Abedin as an oppressed Muslim woman based on her upbringing in conservative Saudi Arabia.

“If Huma has this secret Muslim agenda, it’s not going so well,” he said. “I mean, I like Hillary Clinton a lot but she is no friend to the Palestinians. Her husband, Anthony Weiner, his views about the Palestinians are despicable. This is a man who has said there is no such thing as an occupation of the West Bank.”

Watch the video above for Chris Hayes’ full conversation with Reza Aslan.

Video: Reza Aslan on that strange Fox interview, and the necessary discussion on religion in society

  1. Closed captioning of: Reza Aslan on that strange Fox interview, and the necessary discussion on religion in society

    >>> the top selling book on all of amaz, the head of george r.r. martin 's "game of throes can ", ahead of stephen king 's "joyland" and ahead of "twilight of elites" was reza aslan 's "zealot." biography about a first century jewish teacher and iconoclast named jesus in which a great deal of the story that informs the book is not new necessarily. the reason why this book jumped from number eight over the weekend to number one, the reason why according to the book's own publisher that sales increased 35% in 2 days is an astonishingly odd interview on the website is suggesting just might be the most embarrassing interview fox has ever done. .

    >> you're a muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of christianity ?

    >> well, to be clear, i am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the new testament and fluency in biblical greek who has been studying the origins of christianity for two decades who also just happens to be a muslim.

    >> it still begs the question, why would you be interested in the founder of christianity ?

    >> 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. i am a historian. i am a ph.d. in the history of religions. this isn't a muslim opinion. i'm not sure what my faith happens to do with my 20 years of academic study of the new testament. i do think it's, perhaps, a little bit strange that rather than debating the arguments of the book, we are debating the right of the scholar to actually write it. my job as a scholar of religions with a ph.d. in the subject is to write about religions.

    >> you're putting yourself as a scholar, and i've interviewed scholars who have written books on the resurrection, on the real jesus , and who are looking at the same information that you're saying and saying your information is somehow different from theirs is really not being honest here.

    >> i don't think my -- ma'am, my information is not different from theirs at all. i'm afraid that it sounds like you haven't actually read my book or seen what i've said about the resurrection or about jesus or about his claims. i think you might be surprised in what i say.

    >> joining me now is religious scholar reza aslan , author of the book "zealo"zealot. : the life and times of jesus the nazareth." this has been sucked up in the viral whirlwind. you're benefiting from the whole thing because the book is out everywhere and everyone's seen the sbrinterview. in some way, the best interview you did in the entire publicity tour for this book.

    >> well, that may be true. it certainly has allowed the book to be read by a different audience, a kind of audience that probably would not be interested in this kind of book. i am grateful for that. but i think at this point what's really fascinating to me, just from, you know, an academic perspective, is that this is no longer even about me. it's not about fox news. this has become a much needed larger discussion in the country about media and journalism and, you know, scholarship and faith in the role of religion in society. as a writer, as a thinker, i'm just absolutely thrilled that something that i thought would just be a small interview has launched this public discussion in this country. i'm really happy about that.

    >> reza, let me ask you about your personal trajectory. i listened to the interview you did with terry gross of " fresh air ." i did not know the backtoir, you were raised in a nonpracticing muslim household. a young immigrant who had been in the country quite a few years as a kid and sort of moved away from christianity and ended up later finding islam as your faith. and how did that trajectory -- because i think that is an interesting, important part of this story, right?

    >> yeah.

    >> how did that end up informing the work produced in this book?

    >> that's actually a really good question, chris, because i feel as though i have this unique perspective in talking an the historical jesus . both because, you know, i saw it from the inside, you know, as a worshipper of christ, as someone who believed that jesus was god incarnate , and, again, from somebody who was perhaps not burdened by those kinds of doctrinal issues, the baggage of dogma. it allowed me to look at jesus with a fresh set of eyes but to still, nevertheless, understand the importance that this man plays in the lives of billions of people. and i've said this before, but i just want to say it again, i have nothing but compassion for lauren green . i totally get where she is coming from. if i were 15 -- if i were my 15-year-old evangelical christian self, i'd probably be a little bit afraid and feeling a little bit attacked, too, but, again, that's not my intention at all.

    >> well, here's the question about the book. i've seen other -- i want to read you a quote from alan jacobs, about your credentials which has now become a topic of discussion among conservatives. there's a fair question of what new are you adding to the literature, who kind of value to framework are you operating out of? as you talk about the historical jesus and the context? he says " reza aslan is not a new testle scholar. his book is educated amateur summary and synthesis of a particularly skeptical but quite long-established line of new testament scholarship presented to us as simple fact." what do you say to that?

    >> i think the opinion about the scholarship is perfectly fine. that's a good opinion. i actually cite all the scholars who disagree with every single point that i make in the book. and i cite all the scholars who agree with me. i mean, it turns out that people have been writing about jesus for a very, very long time. and so, you know, i'm immersed in that studies. but to the credentials part, and i really hate doing this because there is nothing more annoying than somebody having to talk about his credentials, but all right, here we go again. my bachelor is from santa clara university , in scripture and tradition which is fancy talk for new testament. i have fluency in biblical greek . master's of theological study from harvard. my ph.d. course work was all done in history of religion . dissertation, about' jihadism as a social movement , .s i am an expert in the history of religions, and please, god, please let me never have to say those things again.

    >> all right. i will not make you say that again. i want you to stick around because there is a disturbing new chapter to the anthony weiner scandal that does not involve photos or text messages. when we come back, we'll talk about the sudden barrage of attacks on weiner's wife and the cultural fear


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