Aslan's interviewer makes much of the fact that Aslan is a Muslim, a fact which apparently means that he has no right to write a book about the historical figure of Jesus. Aslan replies, repeatedly, that he is an historian of religion with a "PhD" in the topic.
There's no doubt that the interviewer is playing gotcha, that she hasn't read the book and does not intend to, and that she's relying on acceptable prejudices against Muslims to frame the discussion. She does rely on critiques of Aslan by other scholars, but in order to drive the discussion toward its predetermined end rather than to have a real conversation.
Then again, this is cable TV. What did Aslan expect? For his part, Aslan pushes his academic credentials too aggressively, before an audience that is likely to scorn "elites." America is suspicious of our intellectualls, not proud of them. Perhaps Aslan was startled by the brazenness of the interviewer's approach, but I'm surprised he was so surprised.
There is no point in holding up this interview as an example of the shallowness of American culture, as the NPR set is wont to do. That would just be another instance of eggheads talking to themselves, with nothing to show for it. I count myself in that number. Watching Aslan suffer on Fox, I remembered one thing: when my book is published, my interviews should be on PBS.
* Correction: this interview was on FoxNews.com, not TV.
* Side note: Alas, Fox interviewer Lauren Green graduated from Northwestern's Medill School.