Are Feature Length, Honest Muhammad Movies in the Offing?
The LA Times reported (Tuesday, 9/25/12) that two remarkably courageous Muslim "apostates"-the Palestinian Muslim convert to Christianity Mosab Hassan Yousef, and the Iranian Muslim freethinker Ali Sina-have unbowdlerized, narrative films on the life Islam's prophet Muhammad in production, or pre- production.
Yousef, now an LA resident, maintains that he
...has already cast a "prominent Hollywood actor" in the title role of his film "Muhammad," which has a proposed budget of $30 million. The film will tell the story of the prophet from age 12 to his death, and will have the look and feel of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," ... "My goal is to create this big mirror to show the Muslim world the true image of its leader."
Ali Sina, whose film is in preproduction claims that
.. he has raised $2 million from Southern California investors for the film, which does not yet have a title but will portray the prophet as a cult leader in the vein of David Koresh or Jim Jones. He hopes to raise a total of $10 million, he said, and begin filming next year.
Sina, now a Canadian, initially contemplated
... a biopic about Muhammad a decade ago, but stepped up his effort in the last two years as technological advances made it feasible to circumvent government censors and wary exhibitors. "We can bypass theaters completely and sell the movie online with a profit to a large number of people, especially Muslims. They can download it and watch it even if they are living in Karachi or Mecca or Medina."
With notable understatement, the LA Times report observes,
Reactions to the films, if they are ever finished, are likely to be severe.
The prevalence of such likely overwrought reactions can be gauged by the comments elicited for the LA Times story from much ballyhooed moderate Muslim academic Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, and a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom. Ahmed warned:
This is crossing a line. If there is an actor physically portraying Muhammad, there will be a violent reaction.
Ahmed acknowledged that such "violent reaction" would ensue even if a devout Muslim made a movie about Muhammad, claiming most Muslims (apparently, himself included) were unprepared to view their prophet on screen, especially if not cast in a purely hagiographic light.
Both Mosab Hassan Yousef, and Ali Sina should be lauded for undertaking this profoundly dangerous task: producing accurate film biographies of Muhammad, the Jihad Model (as so designated by Muslim Brotherhood "Spiritual Leader" Yusuf Al-Qaradawi), based, larrgely on the earliest, most complete pious Muslim biography of Islam's prophet: The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah.
Indeed a century ago (in 1915), W.H.T. Gairdner, the great Arabic linguist and scholar of Islam, noted dispassionately what is readily apparent from Muhammad's actual biography (as opposed to the treacly Muslim hagiography) based exclusively on the reverent Muslim sources:
As incidents in the life of an Arab conqueror, the tales of raiding, private assassinations and public executions, perpetual enlargements of the harem, and so forth, might be historically explicable and therefore pardonable but it is another matter that they should be taken as a setting forth of the moral ideal for all time.
Four years later, in 1919, Gairdner wrote an essay titled "Muhammad Without Camouflage," responding to a mendacious birthday tribute panegyric of Islam's prophet written collaboratively by Muslims and non-Muslims. A particularly trenchant segment of Gairdner's rebuttal discussed the slaughter of the vanquished Medinan Jewish tribe, Banu Qurayza, whose massacre became an important motif in jihad war jurisprudence. Relying exclusively upon Muslim sources, Gairdner highlighted without equivocation the pivotal role that Muhammad himself played in orchestrating the overall events:
The umpire who gave the fatal decision (Saad) was extravagantly praised by Muhammad. Yet his action was wholly and admittedly due to his lust for personal vengeance on a tribe which had occasioned him a painful wound. In the agony of its treatment he cried out: "O God, let not my soul go forth ere thou has cooled my eye from the Bani Quraiza" [Banu Qurayza]. This was the arbiter to whose word the fate of that tribe was given over. His sentiments were well-known to Muhammad, who appointed him. It is perfectly clear from that that their slaughter had been decreed. What makes it clearer still is the assertion of another biographer that Muhammad had refused to treat with the Bani Quraiza at all until they had "come down to receive the judgment of the Apostle of God." Accordingly "they came down"; in other words put themselves in his power. And only then was the arbitration of Saad proposed and accepted - but not accepted until it had been forced on him by Muhammad; for Saad first declined and tried to make Muhammad take the responsibility, but was told "qad amarak Allahu takhuma fihim," - "Allah has commanded you to give sentence in their case." From every point of view therefore the evidence is simply crushing that Muhammad was the ultimate author of this massacre.
Reinforcing Gairdner's earlier observations, another major scholar of Islam, Arthur Jeffery, in his review of A. Guillaume's seminal 1955 English translation of the defining pious Muslim biography of Islam's prophet by Ibn Ishaq, remarked:
Years ago the late Canon Gairdner in Cairo said that the best answer to the numerous apologetic Lives of Muhammad published in the interests of Muslim propaganda in the West would be an unvarnished translation of the earliest Arabic biography of the prophet. In this present volume such a translation is put into our hands in a beautifully printed and produced book. ... Byzantine, Syriac, and Armenian writers who mention him say only that he was a merchant who appeared as a prophet and sent the Arabs out on their wars of conquest.
Given the ongoing, millennial history of violent Muslim rage aroused by (even reverent) depictions of Muhammad in words or images - and the lethal punishment for such portrayals still sanctioned at present by Islam's Sharia-based blasphemy law - it is fitting that only persons of Mosab Hassan Yousef's and Ali Sina's remarkably intrepid conviction would attempt such a forbidding, if critically important task. These men embody the moral clarity and remarkable courage of the ex-Communist apostate Cassandras from an earlier era, who unflinchingly educated Westerners about the doctrines of that atheistic, totalitarian scourge. All in the West who claim to uphold our unique bedrock freedoms, secured by the bloody sacrifices of previous generations-particularly those faint-hearted elites in government, media, and the academy, who cower at the threat of Islamic totalitarianism-should support the heroic efforts of Hassan Yousef and Ali Sina to protect that Western birthright.