September 12th, 2012
12:06 PM ET
Ambassador's killing shines light on Muslim sensitivities around Prophet Mohammed
By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors
(CNN) – Violence over depictions of the Prophet Mohammed may mystify many non-Muslims, but it speaks to a central tenet of Islam: that the Prophet was a man, not God, and that portraying him threatens to lead to worshiping a human instead of Allah.
“It's all rooted in the notion of idol worship,” says Akbar Ahmed, who chairs the Islamic Studies department at American University. “In Islam, the notion of God versus any depiction of God or any sacred figure is very strong."
“The Prophet himself was aware that if people saw his face portrayed by people, they would soon start worshiping him,” Ahmed says. “So he himself spoke against such images, saying ‘I’m just a man.’”
The prohibition against such portrayals was on stark display Tuesday, as mobs in Egypt and Libya attacked U.S. compounds in response to a film that vilifies the Prophet Mohammed, who founded Islam in the 7th century. The attack on the U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, was orchestrated by extremists who used the protests as a diversion, U.S. sources told CNN Wednesday.
The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi killed J. Christopher Stevens, Washington's ambassador to Libya, as well as three other Americans at the compound.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
The film that’s believed to have inspired the violence depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a child molester, womanizer and ruthless killer, going a big step beyond violating the basic Muslim prohibition against depicting the Prophet, even in a favorable light.
There are questions about who is behind the movie. Initial reports identified a supposedly Israeli-American real-estate developer named Sam Bacile, but it's unclear if that person even exists. A member of the film's production staff told CNN that the producer's name was listed as Abenob Nakoula Basseley.
In Sunni mosques, the largest branch of the faith, there are no images of people of any kind. The spaces are often decorated with verses from the Quran.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
Mohamed Magid, an imam who leads the Islamic Society of North America, says the Muslim prohibition on depicting prophets extends to Jesus and Moses, who Islam treats as prophets.
“Pictures and images are prohibited from being worshiped,” Magid says.
There have been historical instances of Muslims depicting the Prophet, says Omid Safi, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied the issue.
"We have had visual depictions of the Prophet in the form of miniatures and pictures in the Iranian context, the Turkish context, the central Asian Context,” says Safi, author of the book "Memories of Mohammed." “The one significant context where depictions of the Prophet have not been image-related has been in the Arab context.”
“As you go farther east, away from the Arabian Peninsula, you find depictions of the prophet in art,” said Johari Abdul-Malik, the imam for Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia. He noted that images of the teachings of the prophet were sometimes used to bridge gaps in illiteracy.
But even depictions of the Prophet by Muslim artists has been a sensitive issue.
Akbar, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom, says that Muslim artists in the 15th and 16th centuries would depict the Prophet but took pains to avoid drawing his face.
“It would be as if he was wearing a veil on his face, so the really orthodox could not object – that was the solution they found," Akbar says.
In a Muslim film called “The Messenger,” which circulated throughout the Muslim world in the 1970s and 1980s, the Prophet is depicted only as a shadow.
Adbul-Malik said that in the Quran, there is “no statement from the prophet requesting his image not be recorded.” The passages relating to a ban on creating images of the prophets come from the hadith, recordings of the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and his closest companions. The hadith is not viewed on the same plane as the Quran but as important to understanding the Quran.
Scholars of religion say Muslim opposition to portraying Mohammed wasn’t generally violated in earlier centuries because of a gulf between much of the Muslim world and the West.
In the age of globalization, non-Muslims and critics of Islam have felt free to depict Mohammed, including in offensive ways.
In 2006, a Danish cartoonist’s depiction of the Prophet wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse provoked demonstrations across the world.
Akbar says that until relatively recently, depictions of Jesus tended to be reverential, but Christianity has had a decades-long head start in dealing with negative portrayals of Jesus in film and art.
soundoff (4,725 Responses)« Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 Next »
About this blog
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.
Human life is sacred to me and in the Middle East they are proving that is a religion of hate & murder.
Imagine a world without the cult of islam. Ohhh, what a wonderful world it would be.
Mohammed is not a prophet, Islam is not a religion, and Allah is not the same as God. when will american and europe get this. when after they kill us all?
Why did we decide to give these people a foothold in our beloved society. We have suffered too long under this liberal yoke.
When will you go back under your rock and stay there. You are such an ignorant person, uneducated and frankly a racist!!
They can burn our flag and kill our people, it is time for all Americans to come together and put down these dogs and put them down permanently ! Make the burn in hell.
This problem is much bigger than that. The entire world must stand together in unity and drive this backward cult back to the middle ages where it belongs.
How long must the West stand in fear of these animals? Why do we need to appease them? Now is the time to strike and teach these pigs a lesson. No more bowing down to these SOBs.
So the Prophet is a man and not God - that makes the bizarre reaction and violence even more absurd. So the nation of Islam will kill innocents because draws a cartoon or someone depicts a man (Mohammed) in an unfavorable light (but true, we don't know) If the United States acted so wildly and violently whenever someone defaned its flag or Christ, we would be in a Crusades-like World War III perpetually
There is no justification for killing –and regardless if it is a religious response, any such violence should be met with equal justice. In the Mideat they used to say "an eye for an eye" Nowadays it should be a US Embassy and killing of Americans be met with drone attacks and cruise missles... God bless America – one nation UNDER GOD with liberty AND JUSTICE for all
And for the record, I consider being called an infidel no different than someone putting Mohammed in a cartoon -
I read the first three comments. Two call for endless, non-winable war; obviously people no different than the criminals they seek to kill. One an intelligent response to insanity. God help us if that is representative of who we are.
Islam-the "religion" that brings you hate, intolerance and violence.
Christianity, the cult that brings you a god who commands death and eternal torture–the biggest azzhole terrorist of all time.
"Akbar says that until relatively recently, depictions of Jesus tended to be reverential, but Christianity has had a decades-long head start in dealing with negative portrayals of Jesus in film and art."
SHOW me ONE instance where Christians acted like this when a negative portrayal of CHrist was shown... its simple THERES NOT! But according to this guy we are handling it better because we have had a longer time to deal with it. SO I suppose he can point to a time where an anti-Jesus film/book/painting was made and Christians burned down houses or embassies and killed people. Please show this to me.
Killing and rioting IS NOT the way to condemn something.
I wish these people would realize that God does not need their protection. Can can defend Himself and is able to.
Oh, so there IS a god, and you really, really know about him unlike the Muslims.
Bottom-line is that most muslims are uneducated animals that could not even to begin to comprehend what is wrote in their filth book-the koran. They are illiterate monkeys that mumble empty chants when they pray at their temples and commit violence by listening to the garbage their mullahs propagate. Common sense tells us that by eradicating these "top pigs", a sense of peace might come to region. Remember, "slay the priest and spare the poet".
This is not a Muslim issue. Religion in general is the problem. The next largest hate group are the Christians that live all around us.
“It's all rooted in the notion of idol worship,” says Akbar Ahmed,...no its rooted in stupidity
Time for the Modern Crusades. The Non-Muslim world needs to stop waiting for the next attack and put Political Correctness aside. Treat them like the violent predators they are – when they kill an innocent human, hunt them down and kill them. Not all alligators, grizzlies, or mountain lions will attack but you can't trust any of them. It's a matter of survival.
So we should hint down and kill all muslims, alligators, and grizzly bears? What a great solution.
Yes, we must have a holy war against these animals in order to stop this abomination that is islam. We must destroy these child rapist and murderers of woman.
@ItsOnlyMe = Read closely... don't trust any of them and hunt down the ones that kill. Although your misread approach would work also.
Richard fore loves cokk
Islam came along 700 years after Christianity. Look where Christianity was 700 years ago... Burning witches, polygamy, etc, etc.
Repubs are idiots
I can only see that the filmmakers have reached their goals – they sparked once again the violence between the Muslims and the Christians. Outcomes of the movie were obvious- the filmmakers knew that there would be killings and a bloodshed. they exactly knew and probably wanted those results – I think so. why did they do that? should they be responsible? if they did that merely for the5-minutes fame -its one thing. if they did it expecting bloodshed-its a crime. I know that Americans in general do not like to insult people or religions, because otherwise there is no logic: why the Americans are politically correct when abstaining from derogating races, and why they would not be sensitive while derogating religions? this is not a freedom- its a voluntary choice of violence then. I think the American society should pay more attention to those who wants to spark hatred between the Christians and the Moslems.
I think that film makers built a terrorist detector. If someone is willing to kill for images or drawings, they're a fvcking animal.
Middle-Easterns should stop promoting a child molester as their prophet.
Nobody gives a rats ass,what any muSlim thinks or wants.Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel.
If muslims don't want to post images of mohammed, that is their choice. Non-muslims do not need to abide by muslim rules.
Exactly. Muslims can't show images of Mohammad. Non-Muslims can show whatever the heck they want. If Muslims are offended by it then they can avoid seeing it.
Akbar Ahmed makes a completely nonsensical argument in his assertion that because Mohamed was only a man they have to get all crazy when he is depicted unfavorably. By that logic we should kill anyone who depicts Jesus unfavorably sense he in fact what not just a man, but the son of God.
If anyone cares to notice the greater truth, it is only the muslim religion that commits murder and atrocities around the world in the name of their religion. At this present time, there exists no other religion that pursues the aforementioned acts. These idiots of no particular nationality deem it their duty as set forth in their teachings. The poor, uneducated, ignorant masses are incited to violence quite easily by only just one individual taking control. These zealots and fanatics leave out no one from their mandated right to commit violence in the name of islam and don't even exclude their own as these people are void of decency and morality. Obama, a self-proclaimed muslim himself, through his lack of leadership, his arrogant posture towards Israel, his commitment to weaken U.S. defenses (look at the comment he made to the russian which is tantamount to reducing our nuclear capability while the russians have no intention of limiting their own stockpile) and his open support of all muslim terrorists through apology and appeasement is opening the door to an attack worse than the 9/11 WTC.
At least use facts. Obama is NOT a muslim. You can rail against islam, because there is cause their because of their double and triple standards and their knee-jerk response to what they perceive as a slight to their religion. That is fact-based. But don't make this tragedy into a American partisan event and post lies.
You're a pathetically ignorant person.
Obama, a self-proclaimed Muslim? Since when? What planet are you on? Because it's not Earth. Get a grip and get your facts right.
Mecca is a slum.
Islam men like to stick bananas in their bums.
Richard why yaaal red necks boon town bufoons fk ure sisters. No wonder all this inbreeding got u retarded.
Actually muslim men loving sticking bananas in each others arrrres. Then they eat them with some nice lamb meat and chickpeas. They wash it down with Israeli spunk.