Channel 4 in the UK made a program called “Islam: The Untold Story”, and got so many complaints and threats that they have cancelled the screening of the show. This is a disgrace: the program is a serious, historical look at Islam, and the protesters are complaining because it takes an objective look at the evidence. We must be able to scrutinize Islam. If they’re going to hide their origins in obscurity, lies, and threats, then their beliefs should be dismissed.
I haven’t seen the program (and at this rate, I never will!), but I can make an informed guess at the content. It’s presented by Tom Holland, author of In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire, an excellent and entirely sympathetic review of the history of Islam. He discusses the deep roots of Islam, formed in a culture that was shaped by its proximity to the frontier between the two great empires of the ancient world, Rome and Persia. He traces the origins of the Islamic holy book, and discovers that no, it didn’t simply appear in 7th century Arabia (although he does think there was a singular original text), but that Islamic thought coalesced long after the time of Mohammed…and he points out that there is no contemporary evidence at all of this person Mohammed — which sounds awfully familiar to those of us who are more exposed to the Jesus myth — and that there is a long history of self-deluding Islamic ‘scholarship’ that has a lot of similarity to the self-serving confabulations of Christians.
It doesn’t make negative judgments about Islam at all, unless, of course, you find reality offensive. I thought it was an excellent book to explain the complexities of Islamic history, and it made Islam more human and more interesting. It’s well worth reading.
It would also be worth watching, if Channel 4 would grow a spine. And if Channel 4 can’t manage it, I don’t know how we can ever hope to see it in the US.
Those of you living in the UK can watch it here. They block us Americans, I’m afraid.