Hollywood: it’s showtime
By Bill Siegel
During this week’s Golden Globes ceremony, Hollywood made numerous gestures in support of our freedom of expression. Referencing the computer hack of Sony Pictures in response to the film “The Interview” and the horrific murders at the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, Hollywood voiced support for fearlessly standing up for the right to insult. It is now time for Hollywood to act courageously by creating films that authentically portray the life of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad.
Opinion leaders need not get lost in balancing rights to criticize, satirize and insult with our natural calls for civility and responsible dialogue. No civilized Westerner can argue against truth and its pursuit. U.S. defamation law generally holds truth as a complete defense. It is a noble cause in itself and justice is intended to flow from it.
With Islam’s Sharia law, however, truth, like non-Muslims themselves, is subordinate to the primacy of Islam and Mohammad. Defending Mohammad’s pre-eminence at all costs has deeply implanted “war is deceit,” taqiyya and other forms of dissimulation throughout Islam; avenging the Prophet, as seen in the Hebdo murders, is Sharia’s justice.
There simply is no way to understand Islam without full comprehension of Mohammad’s life. Islam declares Mohammad the best of all Muslims; therefore a seriously engaged Muslim looks to Mohammad’s life for the best guidance on how to be a “good” Muslim. And because Mohammad is also the self-declared final prophet, no one can come after him to change, reform, or revolutionize Islam. The Quran, unlike the Bible, is not made up of stories. Rather, it comprises the words of Allah, and its verses are presented non-chronologically based on length. The Hadith, the vast collections of sayings and acts of Mohammad, also lack any context. Neither can be meaningfully understood except against the background of Mohammad’s life.
Depiction, through art, film, and dramatic performances is a vital component of learning. Much of the modern world, Christian and non-Christian alike, has formed a general consensus on who Jesus was and what he stands for in large part from the innumerable images and films that have been created over centuries. “Blessed are the meek,” “Give unto Caesar,” and “It is finished” would be one dimensional poetic lines if we had not over millennia processed and enriched the full life of Jesus through art. Apart from the occasional conceptual art or radical political statement, one sees in these images a healer, a teacher, a loving figure who forgives while suffering on the cross and is resurrected in grand glory. Similarly, years from now, “spiritual” figures such as Moses, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Martin Luther King and the religions or movements centered upon them may be as well understood (rightly or wrongly) from the films produced about them than from any book.
There has been a long obeyed ban on portraying Mohammad. Islamic history has rejected animate art as a distraction. Sunni Islam particularly prohibits picturing Mohammad although Shia Islam has permitted many such works. More powerfully, however, across all Islam anything that casts the Prophet in what a Muslim would deem a negative light, true of not, is blasphemy. This threat has successfully prevented meaningful and truthful depiction of Mohammad resulting, in part, in today’s worldwide ignorance of Islam among non-Muslims.
What would an accurate and fair film of Mohammad’s life show? One would see “Jihad” in action with Mohammad beheading 600-900 Jews of the Banu Quraizah tribe as their heads roll into trenches, taking women and children as slaves, leading more than 25 raids, taking 20% of the booty for himself and Allah, and reneging on treaties.
One would see him consummating one of his thirteen marriages with the 9 year old Aisha and how the revelations he timely received from Allah conveniently grant his desires, including Allah’s arranging Mohammad’s adopted son to divorce his wife so that Mohammad could marry her.
One would see the early “tolerant” and “peaceful” revelations so often cited abrogated by later ones revealed when Mohammad had full power to dominate.
One would see him solicit an assassin to murder the poet who, much like Charlie Hebdo, insulted him, would see how he terrorized to weaken his enemy’s will so that little else was required to cause its ultimate submission to him, Allah, and Islam, and hear him utter at his life’s end, “I have been made victorious by terror.”
One would see him structure his community into a bigoted hierarchy in which Muslims lived according to one set of rules while certain others (Christians and Jews primarily) were granted protection so long as they submitted to the shamefully humiliating lesser status requirements of being a Dhimmi. All others were forced to convert or die.
In short, one would see someone very different from Jesus and other “spiritual” figures of “great religions.”
This is not a call for gratuitous or unprovoked attack on Muslim virtue. Rather, it is to fully expose what seriously committed Muslims themselves learn and know about Mohammad and their religion. Valuable works, true to the accepted literature are not insult; they are history.
This is a call to help hasten Islam’s integration with modernity, should it choose to do so. Christianity engaged centuries of debate and contention which helped it shed aspects it had acquired at different stages of its development and replace with new ones more intimately connected to the times. Needless to add, it continues to do so today as modernity itself evolves. Essential to this process has always been the ability to return to the life of Jesus as freely and widely portrayed.
Only when we can freely depict Mohammad’s life can we genuinely debate and evaluate today’s widespread notions as “Islam is a religion of peace,” “violent jihadis perverting a great religion,” “war on terror,” “violent extremism” and “radical Islam” that pepper the media chatter.
Like it or not, the war between the Quran and the U.S. Constitution is escalating. If we are to preserve our founders’ gifts, Hollywood must fearlessly use its unparalleled talents to teach the world what is behind our most dangerous threat. While serious violent reaction from the Muslim world is likely, it will pale compared to the Islamic supremacy that will result if we continue to subjugate our right to speak the truth to Sharia demands. The opportunity to do so may soon disappear. Hollywood- break a leg before we lose our heads.
Bill Siegel is the author of “The Control Factor- Our Struggle to See the True Threat.”