Monday, August 26, 2013

Considering the relationship between religion and media

In this course we will be looking critically at the relationship between Jewish & Muslim communities and the media. This includes identifying the assumptions different parties carry and promote both about the role media plays in society,  and how religion is conceived and understood. It is important that we when studying the relationship between media, religion and culture we carefully reflect on how media outlets promotes certain view about religion, as well as how religious groups may frame media with certain assumptions.

Potential conflicts and misunderstandings between religion and media were exemplified in early August when Fox news aired an interview with Religious Studies Scholar Reza Aslan. While the interview was slated to be a review of his controversial new book "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" the encounter between Aslan and the Fox Anchor highlighted a number of tension and stereotypes about how religion is understood and should be communicated about in media culture.  One of the key issues emerged in the news reporters objection that someone from a Muslim background could speak and write about another faith tradition. Their exchange highlighted a number of stereotype and assumptions about how religion should be viewed and engaged with in the public sphere Please review this article about the event "Video: U.S. scholar Reza Aslan’s book no.1 after botched Fox interview" and its featured video interview. 

Please watch the Fox interview and reflect on the following questions:

What assumptions does the Fox reporter have about Islam and the field of religious studies?
What assumptions does Aslan stress about religion and the role of religious scholarship in society?
What does this clip illustrated about the relationship and possible tensions between religion and media in popular media culture?

Please post your thoughts on these issues in a 50-100 word response as a comment to this blog, and come prepared to discuss these and your classmate responses at the next class meeting.

10 comments:

Claire Levatino said...

The reporter for Fox News assumes that since the Reza Aslan is Islamic he doesn't know about Christianity and he isn't qualified to write about Jesus Christ. She is ignorant to the fact that you do not have to be a Christian to write a credible account of the life of Jesus. In fact, Aslan repeats multiple times that he has decades of professional experience as a scholar in this field. Aslan tries to get through to the reporter that one does not have to be a Christian to know about Christianity and that her accusations against him are no different than a "Democrat with a PHD in Reagan, whose been studying his life for two decades writing a book about Reagan". Ultimately, Aslan is trying to convey to the reporter that his personal religious views have nothing to do with the book he researched and worked on for two decades and that he is not biased. This clip demonstrates that even people of the media who are supposed to be politically correct and globally aware buy into stereotypes and are ignorant towards cultures different than their own. The reporter made a fool out of herself by attacking Aslan's personal religion instead of analyzing his scholarly work, making it clear she had not even read the book and was unfamiliar with the points brought up with in it.

Tamsyn Morison said...

The reported from Fox news places Aslan into a group of people, refusing to see him as an individual. She cannot see past the fact that Aslan is a muslim, stunting her from looking further into his credibility as a scholar. She assumes that his work is simply “faith based bias” despite the fact that Aslan has been studying the New Testament for 20 years. Aslan explains that he and many others are scholars in religion who just happen to have certain beliefs, in his case he believes in Islamic principles. He stresses that he should not be seen as a muslim but as a historian. He even highlights that he, unlike the Muslim faith, believes in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Through the pairs heated discussion, we are able to see that the media simply plasters people with labels, believing that you can only talk about things pertaining to your set label. The scholarly work of an individual is discredited simply due to a stereotype.

Lynna Jezek said...

I felt incredibly sorry for Aslan in this news interview; the reporter didn’t give him a chance to even explain himself fully throughout most of the video without interrupting. Though highly educated in his field, the reporter assumed that because Aslan is a Muslim, he cannot objectively write about Christianity or Jesus Christ. Although Aslan repeatedly stresses the fact that his opinion does not stand alone – though controversial, some scholars support the claims in his book – the reporter is sure that he does not have proper authority to speak on the subject. He stresses that his religion does not affect his credibility as a scholar and writer due to his extensive work in all world religions and his education behind these studies.
This clip is demonstrative of the fact that even professionals are sometimes not willing to look past stereotypes associated with religions other than their own despite the substantial credibility from the other party, like Aslan in this video. In today’s culture, it is evident that hostilities are still high towards people of other religions, especially those of Islamic faith.

Cal Smith said...

It's very obvious to me that the Fox News reporter either hasn't read the book or isn't interested in discussing any of its points on television news. The reporter seems to think that Aslan's scholarly work is some sort of controlled compilation of thoughts by a biased Muslim to undermine Christianity. Whereas this stereotype is extremely off base the reporter could've pointed out that Aslan's unique religious situation in the perspective of people in his family being Christian could've sparked his interest in religious studies and contributed to his understandings of modern Christian culture. However, it seems that the right wing of media has assumptions about any and every Muslim on their program.

Rachel Ann said...

First, Fox News hosts and hostesses are rude and uncouth. Fox News as with anyone that thinks differently than them begins my interrupting the speaker and tries to make them feel uncomfortable for the beliefs, views on political issue, or any other topic that might be presented that Fox does not agree with. The first thing that is brought up is his religion, which has does not have anything to do with the discussion of the book, the media wants to begin by classifying him, so that an immediate judgement is made by the viewers. As with anyone on any topic, there may be some bias, but Aslan stresses that he has focused his scholarly works on all religion. He does not try to persuade or prove that one religion is right compared to another, but he wants to present the history of a man that is known in all parts of the world. Instead of having a scholarly, intellectual conversation about a book that is filled with knowledge and history, with a man that is far more educated than herself, and the possibility of even learning something, he was put on Fox for public humiliation and slandering of his religious beliefs. There was no real interest in his knowledge after years of education or in the work that he had written, but instead she was out to make a mockery of him for writing about something that he himself does not practice. Stereotyping is important to these large corporations that present America and even other countries with news.

Delma Ramirez said...

The Fox reporter makes the direct assumption that Aslan is not only unable to write about Christianity because his religious beliefs are Muslim but even though he has studied the field of religion she still finds him incompetent and bias. Aslan repeatedly tries to emphasize and make a point to the reporter that yes although there will be scholarly disagreements and agreements, just like any other field of study his book is written through a scholars analysis of history and recorded data. The fact that the Fox reporter, who shouldn’t be biased in addressing the news couldn’t acknowledge Aslan’s book as an academically published document by a PHD scholar is enough evidence to depict the relationship between media and religion.

Paige Dusthimer said...

The Fox reporter seems set on the fact that he is Muslim, as if he has no place in writing about Christianity. However, that is a broad assumption. Just because someone does not practice a certain religion, it does not mean that the person is not fully knowledgable about that opposing religion. It's preposterous to believe that just because someone does not participate in the religion that they are ignorant about the subject. It also appears narrow minded of the reporter to be surprised that just because this isn't his religion that it is SO WILD that he is writing about it. He seems quite acquainted with other religions, specifically Christianity and very open to diversity. (Which the reporter shows none of the prior qualities mentioned). Aslan emphasizes that though he has a religion, this does not interfere with his scholarship. This book was intended to be a historical piece. Aslan also informs us that Islam believes in the virgin birth, but not in the crucification of Jesus. There is obvious tensions and dislike by the reporter to something of a different culture. It is apparent that it is disturbing to her the interest Aslan has in someone else's religion. Society today is so segmented and like-minded people forced upon each other, that is isn't truly that shocking that the reporter approaches the subject in this manner. A lot of times cultures and religion are separated, and it is taboo to be engaged in an idea other then the one you believe in. Sad actually.

Karlie Willbern said...

The Fox reporter in this interview automatically assumes from the moment that Reza Aslan informs her that he is a Muslim that he has no right to be writing a book about the life of Jesus Christ. What she doesn't seem to understand is that he is a religious scholar with a PhD, therefor he is very well educated in many religions. It would be like telling her that since she is a reporter for Fox, she is not allowed to watch any other news outlets. Her assumptions simply make no sense. Aslan, throughout the interview, stresses to her that he is very well qualified to write about Jesus, but she continues to question his reasoning. This interview clearly demonstrates the tensions between religion and the media and also brings forth America's ignorance on the subject.

Daniel Humada said...

The reporter is ignorant to the fact that this man is a academic and has spent 20 years studying religion. She immediately discredits his work on Jesus, because Aslan happens to be a muslim. He states many times throughout the interview his very strong resume on religion, but the reporter remained ignorant just because he is muslim. This is a perfect example of how even the media focuses on the stereotypes of individuals rather than their accomplishments. This man may have very well wrote an excellent book on Jesus, but because he just happens to have been a muslim ignorant people immediately blew it off.

ModernDayFreyja said...

The Fox reporter not only interrupts this guy and repeats the same general question, "Why are you interested in Christianity? In Jesus?" and Aslan keeps repeating that he is an academic and it is his job. The reporter's angle on her interview is to stir a debate or controversy with the author even though Alsan keeps telling her that he is a historian and is reporting facts and theories based on his unbiased and academic research. Aslan hits the head on the nail when he calls her out and says that they're not discussing the points in his book, but the validity of his ability to write a book about Christianity when he is Muslim. This interview shows that the media itself is not only biased in its own views but is not reliable as a single piece of evidence to form an educated opinion.