Iran attacks BBC for documentary series on life of Prophet Muhammad(saws)
Muhammad ‘Abd al-Haqq
Rageh Omar Interviews Abu Muwahhid & Abu Baraa for the new 3 part series on Life Of The Prophet (saw) which is being aired on BBC2 currently. This interview was recorded in November 2010.
Before I present a thorough critique of the BBC2 Documentary on the Life of the Prophet(as)(I have yet to view Part 3 of the documentary series), I would like to share with you an article discussing Iran’s opposition to this film. Presumably it is because the Shi’a representation of the sira of the Prophet’s life(saws) is different from the traditional Sunni interpretation. Also it seems that none of the Iranian officials criticizing the film have actually watched it.
Culture minister says country will take serious action over films that ‘ruin Muslims’ sanctity’
Iran‘s minister of cultural and Islamic guidance has attacked an upcoming BBC2 documentary series on the life of the founder of Islam, the prophet Muhammad, saying the “enemy” was attempting to “ruin Muslims’ sanctity”.
The three-part series, The Life of Muhammad, presented by Rageh Omaar, a Somali-born British Middle East correspondent for Al Jazeera English, is scheduled to be broadcast on BBC2 in mid-July and has been drawing increasing criticism from senior figures in Iran.
The documentary makers say it seeks to “retrace the actual footsteps of the prophet” from his birthplace in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, his struggles with his prophetic role and divine revelations, his migration to Medina and establishment of the first Islamic constitution before his final return to Mecca following armed conflicts.
But the Iranian culture minister, Mohammad Hosseini, who has not seen the programme, said in an interview on Monday that he was worried about the BBC film.
Speaking to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, he said: “The BBC’s decision to make a documentary on the life of [the] prophet Muhammad seems dubious and if our suspicions are proved to be correct, we will certainly take serious action.”
Hosseini added: “What the enemy is trying to do in ruining the Muslims’ sanctity is definitely much more than causing us to react and unfortunately, some Islamic countries are not taking this issue seriously. One way to show objections is to express condemnation of the West over their despicable actions.”
Iran and the West have previously clashed, famously, over publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988 and more recently in the row over threats to burn the Qur’an by a US pastor.
It is thought officials in Iran, where the population is predominantly Shia, could be worried that the BBC2 documentary might only be limited to a Sunni interpretation of Muhammad’s life. But Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC’s commissioning editor for religion and ethics, told the Guardian that they had consulted a Shia scholar for the programme.
“We had a number of consultants for the series including a Shia academic but what is important is that we wanted to tell a history of Muhammad and more specifically a general history of that period,” said Ahmed.
In reaction to Hosseini’s remarks, Ahmed added: “The series has not gone out yet and no one in Iran has actually seen any of it. I expect that it is hard to judge a programme before watching it but I understand, at the same time, that there are always people who will have very strong opinions about a film even before its broadcast.”
The BBC has stressed that its films are “a presenter-led documentary series” which “draw on the expertise and comments from the world’s leading academics and commentators on Islam.”
Tariq Ramadan of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, Ziauddin Sardar, a London-based scholar, Tom Holland, a historian and Princess Badiya El Hassan of the Jordanian royal family are among those who appear in the documentary, which was filmed in various locations including Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem, Syria and Jordan.
The BBC has also made clear that its series is “in line with Islamic tradition” and “it does not depict any images of the face of Muhammad, or feature dramatic reconstructions of Muhammad’s life”.
Hosseini’s remarks come only a month after Iranian authorities gave permission for the production of a home-made drama based on the life of the prophet, which is going to be directed by film-maker Majid Majidi.
A Crescent Films production for BBC2, The Life of Muhammad is directed by the British-Pakistani film-maker Faris Kermani who has previously made a number of Islam-related films, such as Channel 4’s Seven Wonders Of The Muslim World.
Rageh Omaar has previously worked on at least two Iranian projects, a TV documentary for Al Jazeera, Iran Season, and Rageh Inside Iran which was broadcast by BBC4.