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Muslims in Hollywood
June 28th, 2014
05:57 PM ET

How Muslims flipped the script in Hollywood

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Los Angeles (CNN) – For years, Ahmed Ahmed’s acting resume read like a rap sheet.

His first film role was Terrorist No. 4 in “Executive Decision.”

His first sitcom part: Hakeem, a terrorist, on “Roseanne.”

“I realized there was a big market out there for playing bad Arabs,” the actor said with a sarcastic laugh.

Born in Egypt and raised in Riverside, California, Ahmed - a friendly, round-faced guy - carries no trace of an accent and doesn’t look particularly sinister.

But he said he was rarely considered for parts playing doctors, lawyers ... or anything, really, but menacing Muslims during the early days of his career.

Meanwhile, a pilgrimage to Mecca, the spiritual home of Islam, pricked his conscience. He felt responsible, in some small way, for the violent images of Islam broadcast across American screens.

“I realized I was becoming a slave to the industry,” Ahmed said.

The role in which the actor was regularly cast, an Islamic extremist, has become almost as familiar a Hollywood cliché as the noble savage or gold-hearted hooker.

In films and television shows from “24” to “Syriana,” Muslims are the olive-skinned evildoers who cloak their violent schemes in religious rhetoric while cursing their American adversaries.

Ahmed wanted no part of that anymore. He quit Hollywood and went back to waiting tables, where he compensated for the bad food with a bonhomie that would blossom into a standup comedy act.

Fast forward to 2014, and Ahmed, who turns 44 this month, is starring in “Sullivan & Son,” a raunchy TBS sitcom that revels - or wallows, if you like - in political incorrectness. (CNN and TBS are both owned by Time Warner.)

Yes, his character - a hapless tow-truck driver also named Ahmed - endures a cringe-worthy barrage of ethnic jokes.

But it’s a sign of progress, in his view, for Ahmed to be considered as ripe for ribbing as the rest of the multiethnic gang on “Sullivan & Son,” one of the few sitcoms to feature an Arab-American Muslim who is a character, not a caricature.

“I don’t have to be the ‘Arab guy’ or the ‘Muslim guy,’” Ahmed said. “Those things fade into the background, and I’m just a regular guy.”

For decades, Ahmed and other Muslims say, Hollywood has put their faith very much in the foreground, often cast in an ominous light.

After 9/11, the typecasting only increased, experts and activists say, especially for actors of Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian descent.

“When Hollywood dealt with Muslim characters it was completely one-dimensional,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, an American writer and intellectual who blogs at TheMuslimGuy.com. “They were the seething terrorists, without any sort of humanizing attributes.”

But American Muslims may be finally smashing the silver-screen stereotypes.

Groups like the Muslim Public Affairs Council consult on screenplays, train Muslim writers and connect network honchos with budding talent.

Young Muslims are producing their own projects, with the Internet as their global studio and audience.

And Muslim actors don’t just play terrorists anymore: They play presidents and “Star Trek” captains.

It's not just about landing juicy acting roles, American Muslims say.

How Hollywood sees Islam influences the rest of the country and carries deep implications for civil liberties, foreign policy and interfaith relations.

"Intentionally or unintentionally, images teach people whom to fear, whom to hate, and whom to love," writes Jack Shaheen, a longtime scholar of how the media depicts Muslims.

Billionaires, bombers and belly dancers

Hollywood’s increasingly complex portrayal of Islam flickered across American screens this past Tuesday, when Ahmed’s “Sullivan & Son” began its third season and Fox debuted a new series from a producer of “24” and “Homeland.”

“Tyrant,” a drama, follows a California pediatrician back to his fictional Middle-Eastern homeland, where his father is a brutal dictator.

The plot, producer Howard Gordon says, is modeled on the Arab Spring and real-life tyrants like Moammar Gadhafi.

“To have the opportunity to tell a story about people and put faces on the things that are merely headlines felt just too good to ignore," Gordon told Indiewire.

It’s the same ripped-from-the-news recipe that brought the Hollywood veteran critical and commercial success with “Homeland” and “24.”

But Gordon’s work has been controversial, even “Islamophobic,” according to some Muslim groups, for its depiction of their religion as rife with terrorists.

“Tyrant” displays some of the same problems, the Council on American-Islamic Relations complained after a screening in Washington this month.

“If the only thing you saw or heard about the Middle East was watching ‘Tyrant,’ you’d come away saying, ‘Man, what a bunch of savages. They deserve whatever they get,’” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Shaheen, author of "Reel Bad Arabs" and other media studies, once said that Arab Muslims are limited to three roles in Hollywood: billionaires, bombers and belly dancers.

“In ‘Tyrant,’ you get everything but the belly dancers,” Hooper said.

Secular critics weren’t much kinder.

Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever called “Tyrant” a “stultifyingly acted TV drama stocked with tired and terribly broad notions of Muslim culture.”

Gordon’s agent said he could not be reached for comment.

But Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which consulted on “Tyrant” scripts, said the show doesn’t present Islam or the Middle East as a monolith. What's more, "Tyrant," can help Americans understand the plight of Muslims who suffer under the brutal rule of dictators, he said.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, a show like `Tyrant’ would have turned into a clash-of-civilizations plotline. With Howard, it’s about the human dimensions and social realities, and how everyone is responsible for creating tyrants.”

Al-Marayati said he considers Gordon a partner who takes MPAC's suggestions seriously.

For example, the “Tyrant” script was changed to make clear that one character’s poor treatment of women does not derive from Islam, Al-Marayati said.

“We made the point that it's not religion that drives this behavior,” Al-Marayati said. “It’s a personal choice.”

Gordon has said the Muslim Public Affairs Council had a “significant impact” on “Tyrant” from the beginning of production.

“I tried to address their concerns regarding cultural inaccuracies and potentially incendiary characterizations,” he told The Daily Beast. “I may not always have been entirely successful, but the dialogue has always been open and fluid.”

The relationship between the council and Gordon wasn’t always so rosy.

The Muslim council opened its Hollywood bureau after 9/11 to counter negative images of Islam in popular culture. Season four of “24,” which broadcast in 2005, was one of its biggest tests.

The plot centered on a seemingly nice, middle-class Muslim-American family who were secretly scheming to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.

The council was one of several Muslim groups concerned about the sleeper-cell story line.

“They were creating this idea in people’s minds that your neighbor, who you think is a doctor and has a lovely home, is actually plotting an attack on the country,” explained Deana Nassar, the council’s Hollywood liaison.

“It was a very scary indictment.”

Members of the council met with the shows producers, including Gordon, to convey their concerns.

Initially, the “24” team resisted the council’s entreaties, citing creative license, until they realized that their show might put real Muslims in danger, said Nassar.

Fox agreed to run a disclaimer before each episode of “24,” stating that American Muslims denounce terrorism. More importantly, the council said, “24” began to feature more Muslim “good guys” and fewer Islamic terrorists.

“’24’ is a big success story for us,” Nassar said.

But others weren’t so sure.

Shaheen, the media scholar, said the disclaimer before “24” was laughable, and the addition of more likeable characters was a silly sop to placate Muslims.

“It was like, ‘OK, we vilified you in seasons four and five but now we’ll make it up to you,” he said.

Al-Marayati and other Muslims acknowledge that modern Islam faces unique challenges. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Boko Haram weren’t dreamed up by screenwriters. They are real threats to international security.

The council said its goal isn’t to erase all negative images of Islam in Hollywood. It’s to persuade producers and writers to include balanced, accurate and nuanced views of Muslims in their work. And it hasn’t been easy.

“Hollywood still has a long way to go to humanize Muslims,” Al-Marayati acknowledged. “But we have to start somewhere. We can’t just throw up our hands and refuse to engage.”

From Aladdin to Alice 

Few Muslim groups engage Hollywood as much as the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which has built relationships with studio executives at all four major networks, and consulted on shows from “Seventh Heaven” to “Bones.”

More recently, the council advised “Project X-Ray,” an upcoming film about Guantanamo Bay, and a project with actor Forest Whitaker about a Muslim ex-con adjusting to life outside prison.

Even when the Muslim council sharply disagrees with a television show or film, it often calls for consultation, rather than cancellation.

“It’s very important for us not to act like watchdogs,” Nassar said, “because we don’t want to discourage executives from doing stories about Arabs and Muslims.”

Still, word of a recent ABC project called “Alice in Arabia” prompted a quick call from Nassar to network executives.

According to ABC, “Alice” was to be a dramatic series about an American teenager who gets kidnapped and taken to Saudi Arabia, where she copes with life “behind the veil.”

Many American Muslims said the show’s premise “reinforces old racist tropes” about dark-skinned men threatening white women.

This tweet pretty much sums up the sentiment.

ABC quickly canceled the show, saying that the “conversation” about “Alice in Arabia” was “not what we envisioned” and “certainly not conducive to the creative process.”

To Nassar, an entertainment lawyer by training, the “Alice” incident reminder her of watching “Aladdin” as a child.

The Disney movie, which takes place in a fictional sultanate, presented Arab culture as a “whole new world” apart from Nassar’s home in California.

“I loved that movie, and I was like, 'Wow, that’s where my people come from?’ It’s so scary and mysterious,’” Nassar said.

“But the the time is over for America to look at that place and its people as mysterious and exotic. We’re here. We’re in America. We’re so integrated in this society that you know we’re the same.”

Muslims are not only integrated in the United States, they’re highly successful here, according to studies.

More than 80% of Muslims say they are satisfied with their lives in this country, according to Gallup surveys, which also show that only American Jews have higher education levels.

The country’s estimated 3 million to 6 million Muslims are congressmen, business leaders, doctors, lawyers, and, increasingly, actors and filmmakers.

“The millennial generation is starting to push back on their parents’ imposition of career choices,” said Iftikhar of TheMuslimGuy.com. “There are more Muslim artists, actors, academics, writers and comedians.”

And, with the help of groups like the Muslim Public Affairs Council, they’re making inroads in highly competitive Tinseltown.

Earlier this month, for example, the council partnered with the Disney/ABC Television Group to host a screenwriters’ workshop.

Thirty-five young Muslim writers applied for a spot by writing sample scripts for their favorite shows; a dozen were accepted.

At the daylong event, ABC executives and a dozen young Muslim men and women, a few in colorful headscarves, crowded around a long table at the council’s Los Angeles office.

(The workshop was closed to the media, but the council sent a description and photos, and connected CNN with participants.)

The Hollywood insiders offered advice on how to write compelling stories, pitch projects and get good gigs on studio lots.

“It's a journey to work in this business,” Tim McNeal, ABC’s head of creative talent development, told the writers, according to a statement released by the council.

“We are here to help you along your journey. If you choose to work in a creative space in television, please think of us as a resource.”

Hala Alsaman, an Iraqi-Canadian who applied for the workshop with a “spec” script on “Mad Men,” said she appreciated the writing tips, but the chance to network with ABC executives was even more valuable.

The benefits behind the workshop can run both ways, the Muslim council and ABC said. Muslims get a voice at the writers’ table, and networks can tap into new and diverse talent pools.

“If we get even one person inside Hollywood who can be a source of good information about Muslims, that’s our goal,” Al-Marayati said.

But the information source doesn't always have to be screenwriters. Sometimes the actors can change the scripts as well.

A Muslim president

Those e-mail chains forwarded from your grandmother are right: America has had a Muslim president.

His name is Faran Tahir, and he played President Patel in the 2013 sci-fi flick “Elysium.”

The 50-year-old actor also may be the first South Asian cast into outer space. He played Capt. Robau in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” reboot.

Yes, both plots are fictional, but they’re not trivial, Tahir said.

“The movies might be futuristic. But the person sitting in the theaters has to accept it as a possibility.”

Tahir didn’t have an easy road in Hollywood. There weren’t many roles for Pakistani-American actors 30 years ago. He couldn’t find mentors or hold down an apartment. He lived in his car for a while.

But Tahir built up his chops by acting in plays while waiting for film and television roles to trickle in, and turning down parts when they felt too much like typecasting.

Those oversimplifications often resulted from laziness, not an anti-Islamic agenda, the actor said, and Muslims must remember that sometimes stereotypes are accurate.

“If a show is being based on current affairs, let’s not forget that in this war on terrorism there are people who are doing some terrible things,” Tahir said.

The actor estimates that he’s played five or six Muslim terrorists during the past 15 years, but he’s also played radiologists, principals and sci-fi characters.

“Things are definitely starting to change,” Tahir said. “We’ve been in this culture long enough. We’ve been through what everyone else has been through.”

The actor himself was the source of one big change in his most famous role to date, playing the villain in the 2008 film “Iron Man.”

The script called for his character, Raza, to be a Muslim terrorist. “That would have been fine if the movie was about current affairs,” Tahir said. “But it’s a superhero movie. Why would we have to bring in such a sensitive subject?”

The actor said the “Iron Man” producers agreed and stripped the religious references from the script. Tahir wasn’t the only Muslim-American actor to benefit from the revisions.

Ahmed Ahmed, the comedian who once quit Hollywood, was cast as one of Tahir’s fellow mercenaries.

He said he still had some qualms about playing a dark-skinned villain, but the chance to be part of a blockbuster movie was too good to turn down.

Ahmed said he’s also started to take typecasting less seriously. He recently starred in a “Funny or Die” short film about “How to be a Terrorist - in Hollywood.”

“It’s gotten so out of control with the one-sided depictions of the Middle East,” he said, “we might as well try to have some fun with it.”

But as he drove onto the Warner Bros. lot on a recent morning, international affairs were far from Ahmed’s mind.

Twenty years ago he was a struggling actor, knocking around the same studio lot, just trying to find a job.

Now, the third season of “Sullivan & Son” was about to air, and the actor was readying for a stand-up comedy tour with fellow cast members. It took a long time, but by his lights, he’s made it in Hollywood.

“I’m still playing an Arab character,” he said with a laugh, “but I’m not playing a terrorist!”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Discrimination • Islam • Media • Movies • Muslim • TV

soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. lookatuniverse

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “Does the human being not see that we created him from a tiny drop, then he turns into an ardent enemy?” [36:77]

    “He raises a question to us – while forgetting his initial creation – "Who can resurrect the bones after they had rotted?" [36:78]

    “Say, "The One who initiated them in the first place will resurrect them. He is fully aware of every creation." [36:79]

    “Is not the One who created the heavens and the earth able to recreate the same? Yes indeed; He is the Creator, the Omniscient.” [36:81]

    “All He needs to do to carry out any command is to say to it, "Be," and it is.” [36:82]

    “O people, here is a parable that you must ponder carefully: the idols you set up beside God can never create a fly, even if they banded together to do so. Furthermore, if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it; weak is the pursuer and the pursued.” [22:73]

    “They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.”[22:74]

    “If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.” [Quran 6:116]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [19:35]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    July 1, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
    • Reality

      And now for some 21st century koranic reality:

      o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)
      o
      "Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)

      "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)

      "...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)

      "Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:29-)

      "It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)

      "If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)

      "Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)

      "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)

      "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

      "'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

      "Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)

      "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)

      "Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)

      "Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)

      Quran (8:12) – "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them"

      Quran (9:5) – "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them."

      July 1, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
  2. potzrebie

    Not to rain on your parade or anything and I don't know whether you noticed it or not, but one group of Muslims just got through slaughtering (shooting, beheading, etc.) another group of Muslims over in Iraq. It's what Muslims do. Just sayin'

    June 30, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  3. jonathanlk

    So forget religion. Just try to grasp a sense of decency or a justice system that treats all people fairly, equally. For example Muzzammil Hassan was a Muslim Hollywood producer who had been producing a Muslim sitcom show after 911 to counter Muslim stereotypes in America and show the public that Muslims were just like other Amercans. That sounded all good until his wife handed him divorce papers. As punishment he beheaded her. His defense in the US court was that Islamic law permits a man to behead his wife. It is obviously an issue if a man like this considers himself to understand what 'normal' is in America. Anyone who filters the world through that kind of system, one which is unfair, can not even begin to see what normal is what understand the meaning of decency, or fairness, even what human rights are. – Good luck – we have a long way to go before we all become decent though, a lot of muslims, christians, jews, and atheists have been guilty of unfair murderous behavior. It is more about the individual. Beneath the cloak of religion we are all pretty much the same, people. People will act like people no matter what religion they are. Bad apples ruin it for everyone.

    June 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
  4. jonusb

    And needless to day, most of them have none other than the Jews in Hollywood to thank for getting them where they are today.

    June 30, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
  5. Doris

    "They [rulers] must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did...

    If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs."

    –Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

    Goodness – I imagine Hitler liked that one too.....

    June 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Ahmed means Muhammad like Fred is an abbreviation of Frederic.

    There are several abbreviations of the name Muhammad so that a great portion of all Muslims in fact is called Muhammad.

    Seemingly they honor Muhammad, the mass murderer, like the Christians adore Jesus, the mass healer.

    A question: "Shouldn't we beware of people honoring a mass murderer?"

    A further question: "Why do we reject Jesus who has cured so many sick people like nobody else?"

    Don't we have a depraved heart when we increasingly honor a mass murderer, and reject a mass healer.

    It makes me very nervous that Islam today finds more and more acceptance in the Western World though it is clear that it is a religion of war, evil, destruction, death, sorrow, torture, pain, doom, darkness, backwardness, hatred, revenge, bossiness, etc.

    Ain't I right that we more and more forsake the true God who is Life, Truth, Love, Cure, etc. in himself. Don't we adore the Antichrist when we accept Islam as a legitimate religion, and Muhammad as legal Prophet.

    We live in a damned age.

    Muhammad (Ahmed), the mass murder (from Wikipedia)

    Banu Qurayza (the story of their execution by Muhammad)

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Banu Qurayza (Arabic: بني قريظة; بنو قريظة‎ alternate spellings include Quraiza, Qurayzah, Quraytha, and the archaic Koreiza) were a Jewish tribe which lived in northern Arabia, at the oasis of Yathrib (presently known as Medina), until the 7th century. In February/March of 627 AD, their conflict with Muhammad led to a 25-day siege of Banu Qurayza ending in the tribe's surrender.[1] There is much debate about the number executed with some estimating that between 400-900 males were beheaded,[2] while the Sunni hadith simply state that all male members were killed, without specifying a figure, and one woman.[3]

    Jewish tribes reportedly arrived in Hijaz in the wake of the Jewish-Roman wars and introduced agriculture, putting them in a culturally, economically and politically dominant position.[4][5] However, in the 5th century, the Banu Aws and the Banu Khazraj, two Arab tribes that had arrived from Yemen, gained dominance.[6] When these two tribes became embroiled in conflict with each other, the Jewish tribes, now clients[5][7] or allies[6] of the Arabs, fought on different sides, the Qurayza siding with the Aws.[8]

    In 622, the Islamic prophet Muhammad arrived at Yathrib from Mecca and reportedly established a compact between the conflicting parties.[4][9][10] While the city found itself at war with Muhammad's native Meccan tribe of the Quraysh, tensions between the growing numbers of Muslims and the Jewish communities mounted.[8]

    In 627, when the Quraysh and their allies besieged the city in the Battle of the Trench, the Qurayza entered into negotiations with the besiegers.[11] Subsequently, the tribe was charged with treason and besieged by the Muslims commanded by Muhammad.[12][13] The Banu Qurayza were overtaken and most of the men, apart from those who surrendered (many of whom converted to Islam), were beheaded, while all the women and children were taken captive and enslaved.[12][13][13][14][15][16] Several revisionist authors have challenged the veracity of this incident, arguing that it was exaggerated or invented.[17][18][19]

    June 30, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
  7. Doris

    "...but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!"

    –Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

    Oh – I'm sure Hitler loved reading that....

    June 30, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
  8. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Akira is "sau-blöd".

    June 30, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
  9. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    There may be Muslims seeming to be civilized people.

    However, the Islam is such a dishonest religion that we must imply that Muslims who live in the Western World only play-act.

    Maybe they want to infiltrate our societies , and when they have lulled us enough after some times they yank their knifes, and cut off our heads (I mean that literally).

    Don't believe that Islam is a religion taking people in God's presence. Islam takes you in Satan's presence.

    Islam was made-up for the sake of aggressive war and conquests. Islam is only "vibrant" and meaningful when its believers conquer other countries through Jihad, and bring low the infidels (Jews and Christians).

    June 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
    • Doris

      Rainy: "Islam takes you in Satan's presence."

      Let's just call this Rainy's Nutty Belief Blender juice. Definitely less filling and zero calories. Actually -it's comprised of zero anything.

      June 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
  10. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Akira is the most stupid girl of the world. Certainly she was brought up in a Muslim country.

    June 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
    • Doris

      You wish you could be as bright as Akira..rainman.

      By the way, Rainy, have you invited awanderingsnot over for some mutual flagellation? I just know if the two of you double down on the whipping, you'll be guaranteed first class seats to the dungeon in the sky that you so desperately seek.

      "Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools..."

      "If I had to refute all the other articles of the Jewish faith, I should be obliged to write against them as much and for as long a time as they have used for inventing their lies– that is, longer than two thousand years."

      –Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

      June 30, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

      sau-blöd (bayrisch)

      June 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
  11. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Muhammad (Ahmed), the mass murder (from Wikipedia)

    Banu Qurayza (the story of their execution by Muhammad)

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Banu Qurayza (Arabic: بني قريظة; بنو قريظة‎ alternate spellings include Quraiza, Qurayzah, Quraytha, and the archaic Koreiza) were a Jewish tribe which lived in northern Arabia, at the oasis of Yathrib (presently known as Medina), until the 7th century. In February/March of 627 AD, their conflict with Muhammad led to a 25-day siege of Banu Qurayza ending in the tribe's surrender.[1] There is much debate about the number executed with some estimating that between 400-900 males were beheaded,[2] while the Sunni hadith simply state that all male members were killed, without specifying a figure, and one woman.[3]

    Jewish tribes reportedly arrived in Hijaz in the wake of the Jewish-Roman wars and introduced agriculture, putting them in a culturally, economically and politically dominant position.[4][5] However, in the 5th century, the Banu Aws and the Banu Khazraj, two Arab tribes that had arrived from Yemen, gained dominance.[6] When these two tribes became embroiled in conflict with each other, the Jewish tribes, now clients[5][7] or allies[6] of the Arabs, fought on different sides, the Qurayza siding with the Aws.[8]

    In 622, the Islamic prophet Muhammad arrived at Yathrib from Mecca and reportedly established a compact between the conflicting parties.[4][9][10] While the city found itself at war with Muhammad's native Meccan tribe of the Quraysh, tensions between the growing numbers of Muslims and the Jewish communities mounted.[8]

    In 627, when the Quraysh and their allies besieged the city in the Battle of the Trench, the Qurayza entered into negotiations with the besiegers.[11] Subsequently, the tribe was charged with treason and besieged by the Muslims commanded by Muhammad.[12][13] The Banu Qurayza were overtaken and most of the men, apart from those who surrendered (many of whom converted to Islam), were beheaded, while all the women and children were taken captive and enslaved.[12][13][13][14][15][16] Several revisionist authors have challenged the veracity of this incident, arguing that it was exaggerated or invented.[17][18][19]

    June 30, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
  12. ebraiter

    Up until the end of the Soviet Union, Hollywood went after the Soviet Union. Now that Russia is a [errr] "loving" country [except recently], Hollywood has picked on the Muslims [in the Middle East] because they are the biggest threat [especially after 9/11].
    I do not think the Muslims who watch stuff from Hollywood will ever be happy. Their leaders will be upset even for something like a Muslim-like character tossing some garbage out of an expensive car or maybe a crooked Muslim-like politician taking bribes. But if someone who is Black, Jewish, Asian or others happen, do the leaders of those complain?
    How many times have you seen Black or Hispanic community leaders complain that too many US TV shows and movies lump them in with gangs?

    June 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
  13. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Ahmed means Muhammad like Fred is an abbreviation of Frederic.

    There are several abbreviations of the name Muhammad so that a great portion of all Muslims in fact is called Muhammad.

    Seemingly they honor Muhammad, the mass murderer, like the Christians adore Jesus, the mass healer.

    A question: "Shouldn't we beware of people honoring a mass murderer?"

    A further question: "Why do we reject Jesus who has cured so many sick people like nobody else?"

    Don't we have a depraved heart when we increasingly honor a mass murderer, and reject a mass healer.

    It makes me very nervous that Islam today finds more and more acceptance in the Western World though it is clear that it is a religion of war, evil, destruction, death, sorrow, torture, pain, doom, darkness, backwardness, hatred, revenge, bossiness, etc.

    Ain't I right that we more and more forsake the true God who is Life, Truth, Love, Cure, etc. in himself. Don't we adore the Antichrist when we accept Islam as a legitimate religion, and Muhammad as legal Prophet.

    We live in a damned age.

    June 30, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • Reality

      Live in damned age? Get real, your salvation is at hand. See below in case you forgot:

      Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

      • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

      • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

      • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

      • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

      • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

      • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

      • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

      • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

      Added details available upon written request.

      A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

      e.g. Taoism

      "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

      Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

      June 30, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        You will get judged for every useless word you have uttered against God and his Church.

        You will get judged by the one who died and rose for you. As you refused his love, only judgement remains.

        June 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
        • igaftr

          or not...
          likely not considering that is one possibility among an infinite number of possibilities.

          June 30, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
        • Reality

          And RB's fire and brimstone Lutheranism again raises its ugly, absurd head !!

          June 30, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
        • evolveddna

          Rainer.. so Christian Voodoo then? i feel sorry that a person can be so fearful of the very god he invented.

          June 30, 2014 at 10:39 pm |
  14. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Ahmed means Muhammad like Fred is an abbreviation of Frederic.

    There are several abbreviations of the name Muhammad so that a great portion of all Muslims in fact is called Muhammad.

    Seemingly they honor Muhammad, the mass murderer, like the Christians adore Jesus, the mass healer.

    A question: "Shouldn't we beware of people honoring a mass murderer?"

    A further question: "Why do we reject Jesus who has cured so many sick people like nobody else?"

    Don't we have a depraved heart when we increasingly honor a mass murderer, and reject a mass healer.

    It makes me very nervous that Islam today finds more and more acceptance in the Western World though it is clear that it is a religion of war, evil, destruction, death, sorrow, torture, pain, doom, darkness, backwardness, hatred, revenge, bossiness, etc.

    Ain't I right that we more and more forsake the true God who is Life, Truth, Love, Cure, etc. in himself. Don't we adore the Antichrist when we accept Islam as a legitimate religion, and Muhammad as legal Prophet.

    We life in a damned age.

    June 30, 2014 at 11:52 am |
    • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

      Crucial is that they all love a mass murderer.

      June 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        God has the right to "kill" every human being, but a lousy criminal called Muhammad, never had got this right.

        When God "kills" somebody then this is more a "taking away". God can take away the beings he has also created. Who should judge God who is the highest judge?

        June 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Akira is so stupid that she cannot distinguish between God's rights and the rights of a lousy human being, even an extreme criminal.

        God will judge Muhammad for all his murders. God will talk with him about every single innocent human being he has killed.

        June 30, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        There is a difference if I assume I would act on divine guidance, or if I really act on divine guidance.

        Muhammad acted on satanic guidance.

        Muhammad, (incarnated?) son of the devil.

        June 30, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
      • Doris

        Rainy: "Muhammad acted on satanic guidance."

        I see. So you and Satan had a conversation about this???

        June 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          After a conversation with you and Akira I need no more conversation with Satan.

          June 30, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

      From Wikipedia:

      Etymology[edit]

      Ahmed is a variant transliteration of the Islamic prophet Muhammad's name. The name has its origins in a prophecy attributed to Jesus, in the Quran in Surah 61: As-Saff (The Ranks).

      61:6 And [this happened, too,] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O children of Israel! Behold, I am an apostle of God unto you, [sent] to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to give [you] the glad tiding of an apostle who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmed." But when he [whose coming Jesus had foretold] came unto them with all evidence of the truth, they said: "This [alleged message of his] is [nothing but] spellbinding eloquence!"

      June 30, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
  15. Reality

    The solution/cure for Islamic brainwashing has been presented on page one of the commentaries. Please send a copy to all of your Muslim friends.

    June 30, 2014 at 7:48 am |
  16. mountainlady5281

    The problem with Islam is that the religion and the theocracy they establish is based on a book that tells them to kill anyone who does not agree to become a Muslim. The message in the Quran is clear. Unless the American Muslims referred to in this article are saying that they do not believe parts of their holy book.....the bottom line is that they are ordered by Mohammed to convert the world to Islam, to establish an Islamic state under Sharia Law and kill unbelievers. Hard to see how we can mainstream that kind of thinking into a democracy with religious freedom.

    June 29, 2014 at 10:24 pm |
    • Reality

      But keep in mind the OT/Torah has been updated by 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis.

      Only for the new members of this blog:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

      The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      June 30, 2014 at 7:51 am |
    • ebraiter

      That would depend on the "type" of Muslims. ISIS, Al Qaeda and the like interpret the Quran in their own perverse way. I'm sure if the Quran was translated by one group as "Don't be friendly with unbelievers" the extremists would interpret it as "Kill all unbelievers".

      June 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
      • Reality

        Taken together, the following passages spell potential doom to infidels:

        o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)
        o
        "Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)

        "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)

        "...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)

        "Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:29-)

        "It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)

        "If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)

        "Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)

        "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)

        "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

        "'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

        "Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)

        "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)

        "Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)

        "Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)

        Quran (8:12) – "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them"

        Quran (9:5) – "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them."

        June 30, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
  17. dr2evil

    Muslims are funny as long as they don't blow others up!

    June 29, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
  18. austin929

    .God Bless............( ) ed the World.

    June 29, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
  19. flightfromfrostmtn

    "There is nothing in atheism or free thinking that values freedom for other people. And a Christian can be a free thinker. In fact atheists can learn a thing or 2 about free thinking from Christians.

    If you disagree with that, you probably aren't a real free thinker."

    There is after all only ONE true free thinker path........You are a funny one Dala:)

    June 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm |
    • flightfromfrostmtn

      misplaced

      June 29, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
    • Dalahäst

      People who identify as "free thinkers" generally are not.

      June 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
  20. Doris

    "...but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!"

    -Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

    June 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
    • Dalahäst

      Kind of reminds me of Thomas Jefferson. He said some incredibly derogatory and racist remarks against groups of people he hated, too. Both men accomplished some great feats. But also fell way short of providing a good example for us to follow.

      June 29, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
      • flightfromfrostmtn

        Jefferson said some critical things about religion and human nature- that were spot on....Martin Luther apparently actually hated a group of people to the point that he wanted them gone.

        June 29, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Luther also said some critical things about religion and human nature that were also spot on. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and said horrible things about African-Americans and Native Americans, as in they were inferior to European Americans.

          June 29, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          While i dont know about the comments you claim, He seems to be a paradoxical man when it came to slavery. There is no excuse for that and what worse he knew it was wrong.

          June 29, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          I just thought it was funny that Doris would post that about Luther. When she routinely posts quotes from Thomas Jefferson, who had his own similar issues.

          June 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
        • fortheloveofellipsis

          Sorry, son, but Jefferson supported slavery as an expedient–"holding a wolf by the ears," as he put it ("you don't like it, but you don't dare let go")–while Martin Luther wanted to effectively exterminate an entire ethnic group because he believed they were all Christ-killers, right down to the children. Yeah, exactly the same, you betcha...

          June 29, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Nope. I have no support for what Martin Luther said about Jews late in his life. Those closest to him were begging him to stop his writings. They certainly did not match up with what Luther wrote about Jews earlier in his life. He seemed to take issue with them theologically. He didn't view them as a separate ethnic group. Jews come from a variety of different ethnic groups, actually. From people who looked like Martin Luther to people who looked like the slaves that Thomas Jefferson owned.

          Thomas Jefferson, unfortunately, said a lot of racist and horrible things about other groups of people. And there are some strong indications he took advantage of people he owned as property se.xually. He had some major flaws.

          June 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm |
        • Reality

          Speaking of flaws:

          . JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

          Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

          Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

          Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Many contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

          Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah/Argentine white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

          So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, obviously flawed, preacher/magic man would do or say?

          June 30, 2014 at 7:55 am |
        • Dalahäst

          I know you've posted that packaged response over 1,000 times and you must be really proud of it, but can you at least make it fit the context of the conversation?

          June 30, 2014 at 9:16 am |
        • Reality

          You pointed out the major flaws of Jefferson. I simply pointed out some of the major flaws of your Jesus.

          June 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.