Siskel and Ebert they ain’t, but Islamic scholars, supremacists, jihadists and pressure groups have made their views known, often in quite colorful ways, about numerous motion pictures that you may want to catch. So grab some popcorn and some old tomatoes: it’s movie time down at the mosque!
5. Thumbs down: Noah
Russell Crowe’s lavish Biblical epic Noah is about to be released in the Middle East, and Muslim scholars are enraged. It has been banned in Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Cairo’s Al-Azhar, which Barack Obama has praised as “a beacon of Islamic learning,” issued a statement denouncing the film as un-Islamic and calling for it to be banned. Some Muslim scholars in Egypt have even called for the destruction of any theater that dared to show the film.
The film has aroused such fury because, as Al-Azhar explained, depicting a prophet of Islam (as Noah is; his story is told and retold in the Qur’an, and he gives his name to the Muslim holy book’s 71st sura) “contradicts the stature of prophets and messengers … and antagonises the faithful.” Mahmoud Mehanna, a member of Al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars, added that “prophets, their voices, and even their shadows cannot be depicted,” helpfully explaining that “prophets are holy people.”
This is, of course, why we have not seen Muslims make laudatory films about Muhammad, even for proselytizing purposes: the story of a prophet who cannot be shown, even in shadow, and whose voice cannot be heard makes for a dramatic vacancy the size of a movie directed by Peter Jackson (the perpetrator of the interminably turgid Lord of the Rings series). Those who dare transgress against these strictures and depict a prophet face the prospect of being declared a blasphemer, which could mean demonstrations, riots, death fatwas, and worse.
This is true of Russell Crowe, even though his film depicts a lesser prophet. He may have started out trying to be the next Charlton Heston, and could wind up instead being the next Salman Rushdie.
4. Thumbs down: Ya Rab: Jihad Against Terrorism
Ya Rab: Jihad Against Terrorism is a Bollywood film that, according to Business of Cinema, “broadly deals with the issue of Jihad and how Quran has been misinterpreted to give birth to terrorism.”
You’d think that peaceful Muslims would be glad to see this addressed — certainly I myself am interested to see how Ajaz Khan makes a case that “Quran has been misinterpreted to give birth to terrorism,” since jihad terrorists routinely quote chapter and verse of the Qur’an to justify their actions, and for years I’ve called upon Muslims who claim that this is a “hijacking” of Islam to refute their exegesis.
Instead, however, Muslims in India protested against the film, and a Muslim group, Jamiatul Ulema-e-Maharashtra, went to court in a failed effort to get it banned. This was even after they succeeded in getting the filmmakers to remove portions they found objectionable. Indian Muslim leader Syed Furqan fulminated:
Why the film has portrayed only Muslims as terrorists? It would have shown people from other religions as terrorists. The fact is that the film portrays bad and negative image of Muslims. Far from clearing the misconceptions, it will create hatred against the Muslim community.
These are common arguments that we hear in the West also: that other religions inspire terrorists as well, and to speak about jihad terror will only lead people to hate Muslims. But to depict modern-day terrorists who quoted the Bible or Bhagavad Gita or any other religious texts to justify violence, the filmmakers would have had to enter wholly into the realm of fantasy. And clearly Ajaz Khan didn’t make the film because he hated Muslims, but because he wanted to create a Muslim effort against jihad terror. That instead he met with rage, protests, and demands that his film be banned is telling.
3. Thumbs down: Innocence of Muslims
This is, of course, the amateurish YouTube video trailer depicting Muhammad doing things that early Muslim sources say he did, which Barack Obama and his aides blamed for the Benghazi jihad attack of September 11, 2012.
Subsequently, there really were worldwide Muslim riots and rage over this video, followed by Barack Obama intoning at the UN that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” and Hillary Clinton assuring the father of one of the Benghazi victims that the filmmaker would be imprisoned – which he was, making him America’s first political prisoner and martyr for the freedom of speech.
All this culminated in the 9th Appeals Court’s recent ruling that Google had to take the video down from YouTube, because an actress in it, Cindy Lee Garcia, objected to how her voice had been re-dubbed and how she had been misled as to the nature of the project. Google pointed out how ridiculous this ruling was:
The panel has adopted a novel interpretation of copyright law that will invite uncertainty and chaos for the entertainment industry, documentary filmmakers, amateur content creators, and for online hosting services like YouTube, allowing bit players in movies, videos, and other media to control how and when creative works are publicly displayed.
The court later allowed the video to be restored if Garcia’s five-second appearance were edited out. One thing was clear throughout the whole legal battle: if the film had been critical of any other religious figure, it never would have been ordered down, or have become the epicenter of such intense controversy. But the future indeed appears not to belong either to those who slander the prophet of Islam, or those who disclose uncomfortable truths about him.
2. Thumbs down: The Sum of All Fears
This hyper-sensitivity with regard to Islam goes back a long way in Hollywood. Even films about terrorism rarely depict Islamic jihadists, and when they do, there is invariably a moderate Muslim character on the other side, fighting against the jihadists with all he has.
Even as far back as 2001, when Tom Clancy’s novel about Islamic terrorists, The Sum of All Fears, was being made into a movie, the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) launched a successful campaign to pressure the filmmakers into changing the terrorists of the script into some other kind of villain. Despite the fact that the film was targeted for a post-9/11 audience, and that Islamic jihad terrorism is quite obviously real (and much more real in today’s world than neo-Nazi terror), the filmmakers bowed to CAIR’s pressure and re-cast the villains as neo-Nazis. Film director Phil Alden Robinson wrote abjectly to CAIR,
I hope you will be reassured that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs, and I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination.
That is how the censorship of all critical references to Islam and Muslims, even in the context of resisting jihad terror, advances in our Orwellian age: to adopt Sharia blasphemy restrictions on speaking about Islam is to “combat discrimination.”
1. Thumbs up: Jihad videos
But Islamic supremacists don’t hate all movies. On December 22, 2008, five Muslims were convicted of plotting to enter the U.S. Army base in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and murder as many soldiers as they could. A sixth got five years in prison for weapons offenses, and the group became known as the Fort Dix Six.
This jihad plot was uncovered in January 2006 when two of the plotters entered a Circuit City outlet in New Jersey and asked a clerk to convert a videotape to DVD. The video showed men shooting automatic weapons and crying out, “Allahu akbar.”
Although the clerk, Brian Morgenstern, was alarmed, he hesitated over what to do. Years of politically correct indoctrination from the mainstream media made him wonder if it would be wrong to stop these men. Finally he asked a coworker, “Dude, I just saw some really weird s—–. I don’t know what to do. Should I call someone or is that being racist?” His concern was ironic, given that the Fort Dix plotters were all white European Muslims from the former Yugoslavia. Fortunately, Morgenstern’s coworker urged him to contact police, and he ultimately did.
Morgenstern’s hesitation, however, is yet another indication of how successful American Muslim advocacy groups have been in portraying resistance to the global jihad as “racism” and honest discussion of the elements of Islam that jihadists use to justify acts of violence and other acts in service of Islamic supremacism as “bigotry”—and ultimately, in confusing huge numbers of Americans about just what we’re up against. Nonetheless, we can be grateful that while his customers gave their beheading videos a big thumbs up, Morgenstern gave them a resounding thumbs down.
image courtesy shutterstock / fotoaloja