Skip to comments.A sermon dressed up as a documentary
Posted on 12/24/2002 2:14:00 PM PST by knighthawk
For two astonishing hours on Wednesday night, the PBS network in the U.S. broadcast a new film devoted entirely to religious propaganda, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. Innocent viewers received no warning. The listings implied that we were to see a documentary, which usually means a mixture of fact and argument, the sort of thing PBS broadcasts on Iraq, Benjamin Franklin, or for that matter, Jesus Christ. But most of those who sat through Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet must have realized eventually that this was no documentary. It was an Islamic sermon on film.
PBS documentaries often display grievous faults, but I've never before seen one that depicted a religious figure as blameless, nor one that could be used as a recruiting film. The faults of Muhammad, if any, were not mentioned, nor were the shortcomings of Islam. The scholars who appeared were all Muslims or uncritical admirers of Muhammad. The filmmakers ducked every difficult issue, as if afraid that even a hint of criticism (unless instantly shot down) would offend someone. Has PBS ever treated another subject with such reverence?
Admittedly, the creators and co-producers, Michael Wolfe and Alexander Kronemer, both American converts to Islam, chose a difficult project. How to film the life of a man who ordered that no one should ever make an image of him? They couldn't even show a drawing, much less have an actor play him. So scholars described his career while we looked at desert scenes and unidentified period art (not Muhammad's period -- much later). A vaguely Middle Eastern score ran in the background.
That was half the film. The rest consisted of interviews with pious American Muslims. These scenes ran so long, and so obviously tried to make every American Muslim seem wholesome and loveable, that it became clear they were as central to the film's purpose as the life of the prophet. The "legacy" in the title turned out to mean the American Muslim community. The narration (read by André Braugher, famous as the star of Homicide: Life on the Streets) said there are seven million American Muslims, without mentioning that this figure is widely disputed.
While the film opened the subject of contemporary Islam by showing American believers, it avoided discussing every contentious question raised by Islam in the modern world. Why are most Islamic countries so backward that the people lead wretched lives? Why must Egypt (to take a spectacular example) beg the hated Americans for money so that the citizens can eat? Why did a great civilization, circa 1000, turn into a backwater, circa 2000? Why has Islamic opinion grown so rancid in certain places that crowds dance in the streets when they learn about the violent death of innocents? How did the principles preached by Muhammad become perverted by terrorists? Why have so many mainstream Muslims remained silent (or, more often, nearly silent) about Islamist atrocities?
And then there's the woman question. If PBS believes in anything, it believes in feminism, but the film did all it could to avoid this tricky problem. Muslim scholars told us Muhammad improved the lives of women (he eliminated female infanticide, for example) but didn't ask why women in Islamic countries now live such strictly circumscribed lives. Muhammad's own relations with women are sometimes questioned, so the producers handed that little problem to Karen Armstrong, an ex-nun who has written, among many other books, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. She was ready. She explained that Muhammad favoured polygamy because it helped women. In his time the wars created many widows and he realized that they needed male protection. So in his wisdom he made it possible for a man to have several wives (nine in his case, though Armstrong didn't mention that). Her conclusion: "It was an act of faith, not an act of lust that inspired men to take more wives. So, it would be wrong to think of the Prophet as basking decadently in the garden of sensual delights with his harem."
She also mentioned that some people take a cynical view of the fact that Muhammad, when he was 25 years old, greatly improved his position by marrying a rich 40-year-old widow. Armstrong was having none of that. "He deeply, deeply loved Khadija," she said, as if she had been discussing it with him just last week. As a reader who sometimes admires her work, I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was watching Karen Armstrong make a fool of herself.
Among all its other faults, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, violated the U.S. constitution's insistence on the separation of religion and the state. As the credits said, the film was backed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is supported by tax money. Lesser contributors included Arabian Bulk Trade, Irfan Kathwari Foundation, El-Hibri Foundation, Sabadia Family Foundation and Qureishi Family Trust.
How did PBS blunder into this disaster? In the name of multiculturalism, of course. Multiculturalism has many meanings, but television producers apparently believe that it means they should abandon intelligence, professionalism, and the line between information and propaganda.
Do any credible descriptions of him exist?
Was he an ugly mammer-jammer? goofy looking? What?
Who'd be the most natural in the role of 'mohammed!'?
Marlon Brando?... Or PeeWee Herman?
And who would be best in the role of his wife?
Mara Wilson? Nah... She's too OLD...
Huh? Female infanticide? Neither the Christians nor the Jews, the two main groups that Islam swamped in its violent barbaric sweep, practiced female infanticide. The pagans might have - but those who became Christians certainly didn't, and women were a heck of a lot better off in Christian societies than in Islamic ones.
Utterly disgusting garbage and lies.
Maybe they really were afriad of being shot....
Whether it is or isn't, you're still paying for it.
Maybe they just don't want a bomb up their a$$.
Has PBS ever treated another subject with such reverence?
The Prophet Clinton and His Consort.
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