There may be a language barrier evident in the wording, but the supremacism and sense of entitlement come through loud and clear. The documentary’s makers have already made a major effort not to offend, avoiding any visual depiction of Muhammad, but they are assured of offending someone nonetheless. In particular, in this case, if they lean too Sunni, they will offend Shi’ites; if they lean too Shi’ite, they will offend Sunnis.
And if they lapse for a moment in hagiography or leave room for a shadow of doubt about Muhammad’s prophetic credentials, they will offend still other viewers. James Thurber’s observation applies: “You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.” “Iran attacks BBC for documentary series on life of prophet Muhammad,” by Saeed Kamali Dehghan for the Guardian, June 28:
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”.
At least they left “prophet” lowercase, and not with the honorific capitalization so casually used by other news organizations.
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.” […]
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”.