Monday, May 22, 2006

The Da Vinci Code – Evidence of Muslim Selectiveness in Condemning Blasphemy?

The international Christian response to the release of the movie based on Dan Brown’s best selling novel The Da Vinci Code is hardly worth writing home about.

Thus far, the movie has been banned in that bastion of Christian power known as Samoa. Clerics from the Samoan Council of Churches had a preview of the movie before recommending to the government that it be banned.

In neighbouring Fiji, a Catholic organisation has also called for the movie to be banned. The same response might be likely in South American countries which are staunchly Catholic and where the Catholic lay order Opus Dei (portrayed in the novel and movie as a violent fundamentalist organisation) has an extensive following.

Western media outlets made much of the response by a small minority of Muslim extremists to the publication of 12 cartoons in a Danish neo-Conservative anti-immigrant newspaper. It will be interesting to see if media in nominally Muslim countries will report similar hysteria in nominally Christian countries.

Perhaps of more interest is if there is any hysteria to report. The Da Vinci Code storyline apparently suggests that Christ had an illicit affair with Mary Magdalene and then fathered a child. Christians claim that this story is blasphemous.

Few Muslims have bought into the discussion. Yet if Christians are right about the message of the book and its associated film, surely Muslims should also be offended by this blasphemy.

Some months back, I appeared on the Triple-J current affairs program Hack to discuss the Danish cartoon fiasco. I was joined by a well-meaning but clumsy young chap who later admitted to having no previous radio experience and whose only qualification was to be a former President of the Sydney University Muslim Students Association.

When asked about Muslim responses to the cartoons, this young fellow claimed that Muslims would behave the same way if Christ was insulted. At the time, I couldn’t help but think his claims were a little rich.

The Muslim response to The Da Vinci Code movie has been muted at best. I am not aware of any imam or Muslim organisational leader who has responded to the movie or has addressed the concerns Christian leaders. This situation exists not only in Australia but across the Western world.

As far as I’m concerned, this evidences a fundamental weakness in the faith of Muslims. Our faith requires us to defend the honour of all Prophets. If we are selective in that defence, it suggests we regard Christ’s honour as being less important than the honour of the Prophet Muhammad.

I am not suggesting Muslims start burning the US embassy to protest against American publishers and film makers behind The Da Vinci Code. But surely we must ask ourselves what has happened to our supposed love and honour of God’s Messiah that we cannot join with our fellow Christian believers in Christ to defend his honour against a work which, at least by Muslim standards, would be regarded as blasphemous.

We expect others to be sensitive to our religious sentiments. Yet how do we respond when sentiments we should share with our Christian brethren are violated? Why don’t we see Muslim governments and organisations and scholars issue press releases condemning Dan Brown’s book?

When Salman Rushdie wrote a work of fiction suggesting the wives of the Prophet Muhammad engaged in illicit sexual behaviour, Muslims were not the only ones to condemn the offence. The spiritual leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches also condemned the book for its insensitivity to Muslim religious figures and symbols.

Now we have an opportunity to condemn what is clearly an offence to the honour of Jesus and his followers. It is also an opportunity to show how genuine we are in our claims to love and follow Christ. Further, it is a chance for us to show that we are not selective in our condemnation of blasphemy.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

So you are qualified to be on Hack?

I think any experience yougn people get on radio the better...

Muslim_perth said...

Salam,

Not entirle true Irfan, Muslims in India have been protesting alongside christians. Even the imams and scolars there have been with the priests hand in hand.

Wasalam

Muslim_perth said...

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2006%5C05%5C23%5Cstory_23-5-2006_pg12_6

Islamists get ready to bash ‘Da Vinci Code’

KARACHI: Islamist parties will hold nationwide demonstrations against ‘The Da Vinci Code’ later this week, to protest the film’s “offensive” alternative take on the story of Jesus Christ, an opposition lawmaker said.

The adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, the story of a Vatican cover-up involving Christ and his supposed offspring, has recorded a $224 million global opening.

“The film is offensive towards a holy figure dear to all religions,” Deputy Secretary General of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Liaquat Baloch told Reuters. The MMA is the main Islamist political alliance in Pakistan.

Muslims regard Christ as an important prophet, but not as great as Islam’s Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Films or cartoons that hurt the sentiments of any religion in the name of culture should be rejected by the people, Baloch said, adding that rallies against the film would be held after Friday prayers.

No Pakistani film exhibitor has planned to screen the movie, but dealers of pirated DVDs and VCDs were expecting to offer it for sale by the end of the day.

“There is a huge demand for ‘The Da Vinci Code’,” Salman Shakir, a shopkeeper in Karachi. “We already have several orders lined up even though the initial prints are poor quality,” he said.

Christians, who make up less then 10 percent of predominantly Muslim Pakistan, fear the film could spread misunderstanding about their faith.

“We want people of other religions to also protest against the film,” said Javed Williams of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference. “It has caused disappointment in the Pakistani Catholic community,” he said. Reuters

dawood said...

This is a tricky issue if you ask me. One problem is that the part of the movie (and book) that undermines Christianity focusses very much on the aspect of the divinity of Jesus, which is clearly not so in our (Islamic) tradition, by claiming specific things happened in his life which were later supressed by the church in order to propagate the idea of his divinity.

This is kind of problematic for us because we reject this tenent of Christianity, although do also uphold his status as a Prophet and all round amazing guy worthy of respect.

To me, I think it kind of comes round to the whole 'free speech' thing, which sounds bad I know. This assaults the sensibilities of a specific segment of the community, which may or may not be shared by others, to various degrees. But isn't this just the same as the cartoon thing, which everyone lambasted the Muslim community for bringing up and reacting too in the first place? Muhammad is not sacred to anyone but us, and many other groups hold less than savoury opinions of him anyway. Yet the majority of people here did not seem to give a flying cuff about our plight (well, for those who had it).

The issue is about being able to empathise with another group of people who feel maligned by the media, even if we do not necessarily share the same situation ourselves. I empathise with them, and feel the publicity that this movie (and the book) have got is in a large part due to the fact that it sticks the finger up at Christianity. I think this is a case of if you play with fire, then you can get burned. You can't have it both ways, as you said in another article.

On the opposite side though, I am interested in seeing the various opinions (scholarly or non) which exist about the life of Jesus and trying to find out more about him and the history surrounding his life.