PBS series ‘Life of Muhammad’ explores diverse opinions of prophet

The portrait of the Muslim prophet, which emerges from a PBS documentary “Life of Muhammad,” may surprise some American viewers.

 

“As major polls by Gallup, Pew, and others have reported, astonishing numbers of Americans, as well as Europeans, are not only ignorant of Islam but have deep fears and prejudices towards their Muslim populations,” said John Esposito, professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University who appears in the three-part series that debuts Tuesday (Aug. 20) on PBS.

 

Esposito praised the series’ “balance,” and its attempts to describe controversial aspects of the prophet’s life with a diversity of opinions.

 

Produced for the BBC in 2011, the series examines the world into which Muhammad was born and his marriage to his first wife, Khadijah. The second hour focuses on the “Night Journey to Jerusalem,” his departure from Mecca and the eight-year war with the Meccan tribes. The third analyzes events during his later life, including the introduction of the moral code known as Shariah and the concept of jihad.

 

Narrated by Rageh Omaar, a Somali-born journalist, the series presents Muhammad in a respectful, positive light, though it doesn’t shirk from the controversies that surround Muhammad, who was born in Mecca in 570 A.D.

 

Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at University of Oxford, says in the film, “We never represent or have any images of any of the prophets.”

 

Omaar’s signoff at the end of the three-hour documentary attempts to contextualize all of the stories—flattering and damning—surrounding the prophet.  “He left Arabia a better place than he found it,” Omaar says.

Missouri To Vote On Prayer Amendment 2 Known As ‘Right To Pray’

ST. LOUIS — Missourians will vote on Tuesday (Aug. 7) on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that supporters say would protect residents’ right to pray in public, and if a recent poll is any indication, it could pass by a mammoth margin.

 

Supporters say the so-called “right to pray” ballot measure — known as Amendment 2 — better defines Missourians’ First Amendment rights and will help to protect the state’s Christians, about 80 percent of the population, who they say are under siege in the public square.

 

Opponents, meanwhile, say that the religious protections Amendment 2 would offer are already guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, and that it will open the door to all manner of unintended and costly consequences including endless taxpayer-funded lawsuits.

State Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat who opposed the original legislation, called Amendment 2 “a jobs bill for lawyers.”

 

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have questioned how disturbance or disruption would later be defined. What if one person’s “right to pray” intrudes on another’s right to abstain from prayer, or to pray according to the tenets of his or her own faith?

But Episcopal Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri said prayer in public schools “becomes the vehicle for a sectarian agenda, typically Christian and typically Protestant, in violation of the no-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.” Leading Jewish and Muslim groups also oppose the measure.