Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American religious scholar, a writer, a social commentator/activist, and a TV host and producer. He has authored several books on religion and he belongs to the American Academy of Religion and several other associations of religious scholars.
Aslan is well read in the areas of creative writing, religious studies and international relations and as a result, he has served in several capacities in relation to these. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of California and he also serves on the advisory board for the National Iranian American Council. Aslan is also a regular contributor to many media outlets and in 2017 he headlined a short-lived religious documentary series Believer on CNN.
Reza Aslan Biography, Education
Reza Aslan was born in Tehran, Iran on May 3, 1972. His family fled his native country in 1979 owing to the Iranian Revolution. He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Born into a Shia Muslim family, Aslan converted to Christianity at age 15 and later reverted to Islam as a young adult.
Aslan schooled at Del Mar High School and he graduated in 1990. For college, he attended Santa Clara University in California and he graduated with a B.A. degree in Biblical Studies. He holds a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree in fiction writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. He also bagged a doctorate degree in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Over the years, Reza Aslan has served in various religious and literary organizations including the Drew University Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Pacific Council on International Policy, the World Conference of Religions for Peace, the Chicago Theological Seminary and the Yale Humanist Community. He has published several books including across different religious divides including No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (2005), How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of Terror (2009) and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2014).
In 2009, he founded a media company ‘Aslan Media’ which is aimed at towards providing a holistic coverage of the middle east as well as its diaspora communities around the world. Reza Aslan equally collaborated with Iranian American cinematographer and film producer Mahyad Tousi to create BoomGen Studios, a production company aimed at bringing stories from the Middle East to American audiences.
Being a social commentator, Aslan has featured on several radio and TV network programs including Anderson Cooper 360°, Fareed Zakaria GPS, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and many others. His most notable media appearance in recent times was on the documentary series Believer, a “spiritual travel series” through which he brought the traditions of different religious sects to the wider audience. Aslan began the production of the first season of Believer in 2015 and it eventually premiered on CNN in March 2017.
Why Was He Fired From CNN?
The first season of Reza Aslan’s Believer on CNN was quite successful though it generated many controversies. Among other allegations, the religious scholar was accused of spreading common stereotypical misconceptions and even bringing some of the religious sects in a bad light. These controversies, however, did not prevent the network from pursuing a second season of the series with Aslan.
Aslan ultimately met his Waterloo when he made some profane statements on social media against the US president Donald Trump in the aftermath of the June 2017 London Bridge attack. His anti-Trump remarks were met with a severe media backlash which ultimately cost him his job with the CNN. On June 9, 2017, the network announced the cancellation of Aslan’s Believer series as well as its decision to sever ties with the scholar.
Reza Aslan is married to a social entrepreneurship scholar, investor and writer Jessica Jackley. Though a Muslim, Aslan’s wife Jackley is a Christain and this beautiful interfaith marital union began in March 2011. The couple has remained inseparable ever since and they have 3 children together; twin sons born in 2012 and a younger son born in 2015.