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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