Skip to content

PBS’s “Life of Muhammad”

 

RNS-MUHAMMAD-TV

WE LIVE in a country that, on the one hand, imposes greater and greater restrictions on the liberties of its citizens, spying on their private communications, frisking them at airports and public events, demanding that they submit constantly to time-consuming and humiliating “security measures.” The purpose of these infringements on basic liberties? Rarely does anyone come out and say it, but the purpose is to prevent violence by Muslims.

On the other hand, we live in a country that freely allows its publicly-funded television network to promote Islam. This week, the three-part “Life of Muhammad,” which was made by Muslims, was aired on PBS. I did not see it, but I have it from a reliable source that it was reverential and assured viewers that Islam is a religion of peace. Every single day the government acts as if Islam is a violent creed, but we are told by our public authorities that Muslim murder and mayhem is no worse than the Inquisition. You know it’s bad when John Esposito, professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown, praises the series as “balanced.” A Los Angeles Times review gives the details:

Interlaced with modern topics, each of the hour-long episodes deals with a portion of the prophet’s life — his early days, his departure from Mecca to Medina, and the later years in which he made peace with Mecca, and established a moral code that became known as Sharia law.

Beginning from a point of essential reverence — there is no questioning of Muhammad’s direct relationship with Allah — “The Life of Muhammad” directly addresses high-stakes issues including the divide between Muslims and Jews, and the medieval nature of Sharia law in a way that is almost painfully balanced.

The message of Muhammad, according to the religious experts in the series, was one of tolerance, humility and, in most cases, non-violence. Yes, he fought to defend Medina from the Meccan forces and yes, he ordered the slaughter of a Jewish tribe he believed had betrayed him.

But the series contends that these acts must be weighed in the context of their time and balanced by Muhammad’s calls for inclusion, forgiveness and compromise. Those who concentrate on the few verses of the Koran that espouse violence, we are told by the series, or who take the description of Muhammad’s wives being covered as a universal directive, are twisting the prophet’s original intent.

Imagery on the whole is a problem for the series; no visual depictions of Muhammad are shown, which is in keeping with Islamic tradition. (Even when using non-Islamic art, the face of Muhammad is blanked out.) As a consequence there is not too much to look at during the series. Shifting sand and shots of Omaar walking through the rocky hills or the markets of Medina take up so much screen time that the talking head-static of the experts is actually a relief.

Muhammad never comes alive as a man, but then, that is not the point here. “The Life of Muhammad” is an earnest, at times anxious, attempt to set the record straight on Islam, to remind Americans that this religion should not be judged by the actions of extremists any more than Christianity should be defined by the Inquisition.

– Comments –

Eric writes:

Why should all Muslims be judged on the actions of a few million extremists?

Laura writes:

Precisely. And why should all Muslims be judged on the actions of a prophet who was an “extremist?”

Daniel S. writes:

The LA Times wrote:

Muhammad never comes alive as a man, but then, that is not the point here. “The Life of Muhammad” is an earnest, at times anxious, attempt to set the record straight on Islam, to remind Americans that this religion should not be judged by the actions of extremists any more than Christianity should be defined by the Inquisition.

How utterly dishonest. The Inquisition was a single historical event that has been over for centuries. Its extent has also been widely exaggerated. On the other hand, Islamic militants daily commit mass murder in the name of their religion. They justify this violence by citing the Koran and the actions of Mahomet. There hasn’t been a Christian inquisition for centuries, but even as I write this comment Mohammedans in Egypt, Syria, and Nigeria are murdering Christians, something the Islamophile Esposito cares little about.

Jewel A. writes:

I might take the likes of Esposito and Karen Armstrong more seriously if they would just explain why they aren’t Muslims.

Dave P. writes:

This series on Islam was fronted by Somali Rageh Omar, onetime employee of the BBC, now working for al Jazeera.  Somalia is what it is because of the nature of Somalis. In liberalism, that makes it imperative that Somalis in the West are given special privileges. This satisfies Auster’s Laws:

  • “The worse any designated minority or alien group behaves in a liberal society, the bigger become the lies of Political Correctness in covering up for that group.” (source)
  • “The more egregiously any non-Western or non-white group behaves, the more evil whites are made to appear for noticing and drawing rational conclusions about that group’s bad behavior.” (source)

The BBC asked Rageh Omar to make a program on Islam’s contributions to European civilisation – you can guess the outcome. The BBC then decided to investigate the authenticity of the miracles performed by Jesus, and by implication the divinity of Jesus Christ. You may or may not be surprised to know that Rageh Omar, was asked to be lead and front for this program. The program alludes that there were no miracles but mass hysteria.You can read more here.

The only hysteria I see is the death wish in the political and media elite of the West.

Jacques writes:

Something especially appalling in the generally appalling LA Times review by Mary McNamera on the PBS series:

“Beginning from a point of essential reverence — there is no questioning of Muhammad’s direct relationship with Allah…”

When I first saw this I imagined that even a leftist journalist would not put the point in quite this way except as a criticism of the series.  But apparently she thinks the “essential reverence” that is simply taken for granted as a starting point in the series is perfectly fine.  It’s only right, or at least it’s not wrong, that PBS should present Islam from the perspective of Islam itself, on the assumption that Islam is actually true.  We can only imagine the uproar, of course, if a public broadcaster were to present Christianity as true.  Or if it were to present Christianity without actively questioning and criticizing its theological claims.

The series does not question whether Mohammed actually had some “relationship” with Allah, or whether such a being as “Allah” exists, but presents these things as facts!  And the series begins from these utterly bizarre premises, instead of attempting to present a case.  Aren’t secular leftist Western journalists supposed to be critical of these kinds of ideas?  Aren’t they supposed to encourage “critical thinking” about traditional beliefs and customs?  This review sounds like it could have been the work of a “religious studies” professor in Saudi Arabia.

Buck writes:

This morning, I had some of the same thoughts as Jacques did, so I wrote an email to Ms. McNamara. I haven’t received a response. I could have been more polite.

Ms. McNamara,

You write: ” ‘The Life of Muhammad’ attempts to separate the “facts” from the countless, and often crazily diverse, interpretations — a task inevitably made more difficult by the lack of primary sources.”

Then you write: “Fortunately that is more than enough to achieve journalist-narrator Rageh Omaar’s primary goal: to separate the beliefs and practices of Islam from those of its more bloody-minded zealots.”

Which is it? You even put “facts” in scare quotes. Then you proceed to regurgitate those “facts” as if they are truth. You must accept them as truth, or you wouldn’t repeat them.

Essentially, you begin your article by telling me that you have no idea what the truth about Mohammad is – that no one does – and that you are not going to judge the facts that you are aware of, but that you are going to puff-piece your ignorance away. Why? What is your motive?

Have you read the Koran, the Hadiths, the countless scholars that have written about Islam, the endless commentary and even the Islamic scholars themselves – say for instance, the brilliant Sistani himself?

You attribute qualities to Muhammad that you accept as true, but of which you have no knowledge. “With an open-mindedness unheard of at the time.” How do you know this? Because you saw it on TV?

You write: “Beginning from a point of essential reverence — there is no questioning of Muhammad’s direct relationship with Allah” but without quotes. You say that like you are a devout Muslim. Is it “essential” to you?

Finally, you write this: “Muhammad never comes alive as a man, but then, that is not the point here. “The Life of Muhammad” is an earnest, at times anxious, attempt to set the record straight on Islam, to remind Americans that this religion should not be judged by the actions of extremists any more than Christianity should be defined by the Inquisition.”

You, like so many others, plant the “Inquisition” IED, then you hide and hope for the worst.

Your ignorance is typical of modern journalists, and in that light, you deem the Inquisition a fair analogy. Islam says that we are all Muslims even if we don’t know it yet. We simply have not yet submitted. If you had a basic knowledge of your subject, you would know that. The Inquisition, then, as you obviously don’t know, could only be slightly similar to Islam’s Jihad if you are a devout Muslim. The Inquisition, as horrible as it was, was concerned with heretics, not with Jews or with Muslims or with other outsiders. Heretics are not disbelievers, unbelievers or blasphemers. So, if the kafir – the world of people who are not Muslims, not simply the death-defying apostate, but the thousands of kafir that are regularly being murdered and butchered by today’s devout Muslim – are, in your mind, the same as the heretic Catholic, then your false analogy makes sense to you. That is why you and your ilk continue to use it. But, it makes no sense. Muslims kill anyone and everyone, targeting some more than others, but they don’t discriminate, and try to keep it in house, like the Inquisitors did. If Islam kept its murdering butchery confined to within its historical borders, then you would know even less than you do. But, they don’t stay within their borders. They, whether you know it or not, are actively seeking, as they are so commanded, to make the entire world submit to Islam. Not weak Christian-like proselytizing, but total domination. You need to educate yourself on a subject before you write about it. Or, find some facts and report them.

Don Vincenzo writes:

For anyone to imagine that a PBS Production of a multi-part biography of Islam would present evidence of its connection to terrorism or offer any serious criticism of that “peaceful religion,” is to believe in the tooth fairy. In fact, one’s acceptance of the presence of a tooth fairy is more likely than to believe that PBS would portray Islam any differently. As is also true in most political scandals, when dealing with academics who are called on as “experts” by PBS, including Professor John Esposito, a tried and tested vade mecum to guide us would be: follow the money.

Professor John L. Esposito of Georgetown University is the Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talan Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Yes, this is the same Prince who wrote a check to NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani after 9/11 for 10 million dollars on condition that the city offer ways to change attitudes about Muslims, 19 of whom had, of course, just crashed planes into two buildings in New York City and killed nearly 3,000 innocent people. Giuliani refused to accept the Prince’s largesse, which was not well accepted by the Saudi citizen.

The Prince, who is a member of the Saudi royal family, has also sought to influence other institutions of higher learning, and has established a similar Center as the one at Georgetown in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh. Seed money for the Georgetown initiative cost an estimated 20 million dollars; the cost in Scotland cannot be much less expense if at all. Perhaps the Prince’s interest in education springs from his awareness of Orwell’s statement: who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.

What is happening at Georgetown – and one does speculate why a (former) Jesuit university, the oldest Catholic college in the US, was chosen? – is part of an all out court press, which includes PBS and other media outlets, to convince the American public that Islam is like any other religion. After all, if President George W. Bush could call it a “religion of peace,” then why not everyone else?

Professor Esposito, with whom I share a similar ending of our surnames, and place of birth, cannot be that obtuse or ill informed as to see that Islam’s history is nothing but an effort to destroy all competing religions by the use of terror. Yet, he continues to shill for a place for Islam at the table that would, if the past is prologue, seek to end the acceptable practice of his recognized Catholic faith. Again, this is an Orwellian situation and needs another explanation from Orwell himself: “There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe them.”

Share:EmailFacebook2Twitter0Pinterest0Google+0