Movie Night 



Here we go again. Somebody posted a movie trailer to YouTube derogatory to Mohammed, and the predictable riots, arsons and murders have followed in its wake. The U.S. State Department, as is its wont, did not seize this teachable moment to sing the praises of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but snivelled and grovelled. Are the biographical details of the movie accurate?


Amateur Hour Insult Religion
Peaceful Protest Aisha
Waraqa the Christian Conspiracy Theory
Khadijah Satanic Verses

Movie trailer, 'Innocence of Muslims'


Amateur Hour

This movie is widely described as 'amateurish,' and this description seems almost kind. Certainly no one would ever expect to see a 'professional' cinematic biography of Mohammed; though the cowardly atheists who inhabit Hollywood are long practiced at blaspheming Jesus in TV shows like South Park and Family Guy, they leave Mohammed alone. We may continue to expect musicals lampooning the Mormons, not the Muslims, because the drunks and druggies who superintend this cultural field are too enamored of their own sweet lives to place them at any risk.

Even within their 'amateur' confines, though, these movie-makers have come up with a strange looking product distinctly lacking in production values. To transport their actors to the desert, the movie-makers used the green screen technique which situates the weatherman in front of the map, but they did not use it adroitly. The characters appear to be floating in air, untethered to the ground, because they do not cast any shadow upon the ground, though illumined by the sun.

Our justice system considers the Egyptian-American gentleman named by the media in connection with this film to be a scam artist, practiced at check-kiting and the like. The sum of 'five million dollars' has been bandied about, but five million dollars was certainly not spent on this film. While today's blockbusters cost mega-millions of dollars, a very respectable-looking independent film can be made for this sum of money, of necessity lacking big-name stars and space-ships exploding, but the characters' feet will rest upon the ground. If he did indeed collect five million dollars from investors, then what happened to it? Given this man's prior history, one wonders.

The First Amendment covers amateur projects as well as the (missing in action) professional ones, of course.

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Insult Religion

Some Muslims have suggested that it ought to be against the law to insult any religion. This would not be a smart move on their part, however, because it would necessitate that we ban the Koran, which insults Jews, Christians and pagans:



  • “The Jews say, 'Ezra (Ozair) is a son of God'; and the Christians say, 'The Messiah is a son of God.' Such the sayings in their mouths! They resemble the sayings of the Infidels of old! God do battle with them! How are they misguided! They take their teachers, and their monks, and the Messiah, son of Mary, for Lords beside God, though bidden to worship one God only. There is no God but He! Far from His glory be what they associate with Him!”
  • (Sura 9:30-31).



Likening the Jews and Christians to "the Infidels of old" is, and is intended to be, insulting. Will this book be banned in the brave new world that comes after it is forbidden to insult religion?


Muslim protestors burning U.S. flag



Unfortunately, if we go this route, the baby will get flung out with the bath-water, because the Bible also insults religion. The faith of the pagan idolaters is derided:



  • “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
  • “They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
  • “They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
  • “They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
  • “They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”
  • (Psalm 115-4-8).



The psalmist says that those who worship the pagan idols, who see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing, are just like them: numb as a door post. What an insulting thing to say! Who of us would say such a thing to our Hindu neighbors, happily pouring out a platter of milk for their elephant-headed idol to lap up? But if we ban such language, we ban the Bible.

There was a U.S. President not so long ago, named George W. Bush, who thought that religion was a good thing: any religion, whatever. The Bible does not share this perspective. There are religions known to the Bible which, according to the prophets, serve as an express elevator to hell. Step through those doors and it's a speedy trip down:

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Peaceful Protest

But surely there's nothing wrong with a peaceful protest. Why may not the citizenry peaceably assemble and make their point? Many Christians picketed outside movie theaters when the film 'Last Temptation of Christ' came out. For that matter, if they prefer to withhold their business in the future from the theater chain that has seen fit to poke a stick in their eye, then who could blame them?

No one, and there's nothing wrong with peaceful protest. But who can fail to realize by now the general standard of civilization is so low in the Muslim world that any crowd which gathers for a peaceful protest will speedily devolve into a riotous mob?

The proper way to refer to the participants in these events is not 'protestors,' nor 'demonstrators,' as here:

"Protests over an anti-Muslim film turned violent Friday across Pakistan, with police firing tear gas and live ammunition at thousands of demonstrators who threw rocks and set fire to buildings. At least 17 people were killed and dozens were injured." (AP, Pakistani protests of anti-Muslim film turn deadly, by Riaz Khan, September 21, 2012).

People who throw rocks are 'rioters,' people who set fires are 'arsonists.' When they call these people 'demonstrators,' they give the benign concept of a street demonstration a bad name.

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Aisha

The accusation that Mohammed married a nine-year-old girl is accurate. That doing so may not have shocked the inhabitants of seventh century Arabia the way it shocks people today is a really, really good reason not to model our behavior on the behavior of the inhabitants of seventh century Arabia.

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  • “Narrated Hisham's father:
  • “Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old. but He! Far from His glory be what they associate with Him!”
  • (Hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 236).


  • “Narrated 'Aisha:
  • “that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).
  • (Hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64, see also 65).


  • “Narrated 'Ursa:
  • “The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).
  • (Hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 88).




Waraqa

One of the accusations is the film is that Waraqa, the cousin of Khadijah, Mohammed's wealthy first wife, forged the early portions of the Koran. This cannot be confirmed, but Waraqa must certainly have been one of Mohammed's sources. The Koran is a pastiche of stories and fables gathered from near and far, from Christianity and Judaism mostly, but here and there a bit of local folklore. Waraqa was someone known to Mohammed who had some knowledge of Christianity:

"One day when the Quaraysh had assembled on a feast day to venerate and circumambulate the idol to which they offered sacrifices, this being a feast which they held annually, four men drew apart secretly and agreed to keep their counsel in the bonds of friendship. . .They were of the opinion that their people had corrupted the religion of their father Abraham, and that the stone they went round was of no account; it could neither hear, nor see, nor hurt, nor help. 'Find for yourselves a religion,' they said; 'for by God you have none.' So they went their several ways in the lands, seeking the Hanifiya, the religion of Abraham.

"Waraqa attached himself to Christianity and studied its scriptures until he had thoroughly mastered them." (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, pp. 98-99).

There were others as well who likely served as informants to Mohammed; several are even mentioned in the Koran. This was the seventh century. All around the Western world had already turned to monotheism, but semi-civilized Arabia was a backwater. Realizing they were the last of the Mohicans, Mohammed's most astute neighbors were already willing to give up on pagan idolatry. His message struck a chord.

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Conspiracy Theory

Many in the Middle East are partial to the kind of conspiracy theories that allege, for example, that Dick Cheney was behind 9/11. In pursuit of this way of looking at the world, you will see the claim made that the U.S. government is behind this movie:

"'United States of America with the help of Zionist Regime made a Sacrilegious movie insulting all the religions not only Islam. All the Muslims worldwide must unify and Stand against the action, Muslims must do whatever is necessary to stop spreading this movie. We will attack them for this insult with all we have. All the Muslim youths who are active in the Cyber world will attack to American and Zionist Web bases as much as needed such that they say that they are sorry about that insult.'" (Terrorist demand note, quoted in news story, Officials see Iran, not outrage over film, behind cyber attacks on US banks, by Robert Windrem and Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, September 21, 2012).

(It should be noted that the "officials" of the story title advance their own conspiracy theory, namely that this terrorist demand note is a fake, and in reality the government of Iran, not "Muslim youths," perpetrated these cyber attacks against large American banks.) One must wonder why the United States government, with all the resources at its disposal, can't make a better movie. And if the U.S. government did make the movie, why can't somebody tell the State Department, which has started up its usual routine of shucking and jiving and apologizing.

The conspiracy paradigm pre-assigns blame based on parcelling out the world into good guys and bad guys. Thus when anything happens, we already know who to blame.

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Khadijah

One of the creepier scenes in the movie represents Mohammed ibn Abdallah's terror and confusion upon receipt of his first revelation. Mohammed did himself wonder whether his visitant was a demon:

"And I [Mohammed] came to Khadija and sat by her thigh and drew close to her. She said, 'O Abul-Qasim, where hast thou been? By God, I sent my messengers in search of thee, and they reached the high ground above Mecca and returned to me. I said to her, 'Woe is me poet or possessed.' She said, 'I take refuge in God from that O Abul-Qasim. God would not treat you thus since he knows your truthfulness, your great trustworthiness, your fine character, and your kindness. This cannot be, my dear. Perhaps you did see something.' 'Yes, I did,' I said. . .Then she rose and gathered her garments about her and set forth to her cousin Waraqa. . .who had become a Christian and read the scriptures and learned from those that follow the Torah and the Gospel. And when she related to him what the apostle of God told her he had seen and heard, Waraqa cried, 'Holy! Holy!'" (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, pp. 106-107).

Certainly the material could have been presented more tastefully. However the movie-makers did not make up the episode; not only is it found in Ibn Ishaq, Mohammed's earliest biographer, but also in the Hadith, of canonical authority for most Muslims:

"Then Allah's Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, 'Cover me! Cover me!' They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, 'I fear that something may happen to me.' Khadija replied, 'Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your Kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.'" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3).

Maybe they should ban Ibn Ishaq, though Ibn Ishaq himself, as well as most of his readers, profess Islam; and if they ever bite the bullet and ban the Hadith, many forms of Islam with disappear alongside.

The odd little demon-dance of Khadijah and Mohammed requires explanation. It begins with hokey-pokey type moves, then ends with her disrobing:

"Ismail b. Abu Hakim, a freedman of the family of al-Zubayr, told me on Khadija's authority that she said to the apostle of God, 'O son of my uncle, are you able to tell me about your visitant, when he comes to you?' He replied that he could, and she asked him to tell her when he came. So when Gabriel came to him, as he was wont, the apostle said to Khadija, 'This is Gabriel who has just come to me.' 'Get up, O son of my uncle,' she said, 'and sit by my left thigh.' The apostle did so, and she said, 'Can you see him?' 'Yes,' he said. She said,'Then turn round and sit on my right thigh.' He did so, and she said, 'Can you see him?' When he said that he could she asked him to move and sit in her lap. When he had done this she again asked if he could see him, and when he said yes, she disclosed her form and cast aside her veil while the apostle was sitting in her lap. Then she said, 'Can you see him?' And he replied, 'No.' She said, 'O son of my uncle, rejoice and be of good heart, by God he is an angel and not a satan.'" (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 107)

Khadijah's thought process seems to be, if Mohammed's new-found friend, the familiar spirit who had begun visiting him, had been a baleful demon rather than an angel, he would have hung around and watched the strip show. The fact that he left proved him modest and well-behaved. At any rate this is Khadijah's theory: real angels don't stick around to watch the lap dance. While I would not have staged this scene the same way as did the movie-makers,— I'm visualizing the older Khadijah as a large, heavy-set woman, and Mohammed as somewhat smaller, not exactly a doll for her to play with on her lap, but it must be realized if Mohammed were a line-backer type and she a pert little lady, he could not have sat on her lap,— certainly they must be allowed the poetic license to make sense of a rather confusing episode. If we envision Khadijah as a big, Brunhilda-type, then at least the episode can be staged in accord with Ibn Ishaq's stage directions, otherwise not. Khadijah's rule of thumb for distinguishing between angels and demons seems to be that a beneficent angel will display proper decorum and leave when things start to get hot, while a baleful demon will stay, make himself at home, and eagerly watch the show; they don't mind salacious content, because their tastes in entertainment are so much lower. Where she got her information I don't know, perhaps from local folklore.

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Satanic Verses

Ibn Ishaq's most damaging story is not Mohammed's demon-dance with Khadijah, but the story of the Satanic verses, which strikes at the heart of the inspiration of the Koran. Who wrote the Koran? God, say the Muslims; Mohammed was just the conduit, a pipe-line carrying this material from heaven down to earth, untouched by human hands. Mohammed, says the story of the Satanic verses; he, not God, was the editor who decided what to include, what to exclude. There was no 'prior restraint;' Gabriel could keep nothing out of the Koran Mohammed wanted in, he could only remonstrate after the fact:



  • “Because of his love for his people and his anxiety over them it would delight him if the obstacle that made his task so difficult could be removed; so that he meditated on the project and longed for it and it was dear to him. Then God sent down 'By the star when it sets your comrade errs not and is not deceived, he speaks not from his own desire,' and when he reached His words 'Have you thought of al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat the third, the other,' Satan, when he was meditating upon it, and desiring to bring it (sc. reconciliation) to his people, put upon his tongue 'these are the exalted Gharaniq [swans or cranes] whose intercession is approved.' When Quraysh heard that, they were delighted and greatly pleased at the way in which he spoke of their gods and they listened to him; while the believers were holding that what their prophet brought them from their Lord was true, not suspecting a mistake or a vain desire or a slip. . .
  • “Then Gabriel came to the apostle and said, 'What have you done, Muhammad? You have read to these people something I did not bring you from God and you have said what He did not say to you.'”
  • (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, pp. 165-166).



The Quraysh were pagan polytheists who resisted Mohammed's message of monotheism. So he changed it. God could only work on his conscience afterward, promising "God will annul what Satan has suggested:"

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