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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Let's not kid anyone, the US will do anything to protect its national interests, including launching attacks on countries. They of course knew this movie would target their embassies and endanger American lives. The only reason they did nothing, and hide behind the free speech farce, is because it either serves their interest / agenda to create turmoil or they are the ones behind it.
Common sense folks.
Nobody even knew about the movie here, let alone the US government. Go spout your conspiracy theory crap elsewhere.
And what would you suggest they do after the movie came out. Move out of Libya. Attack Libya and Egypt. Never go out of the embassy. ?
you have taken a scripture out of context. I hope that one day JESUS will reveall himself to you in the spirit because if you read the bible with out the HOLY SPIRIT JESUS told his disciples this LUKE 8 verse 10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. GOD BLESS you
The irrationality of these people being lead by extremists can not be blame on President Obama. Yet Mr. Romney seem to blame a statement from embasy in Cairo for the violence. He is so out of touch.
Israel is again putting pressure on the U.S. government to do Israel's bidding. Israel has repeatedly resisted doing the suggestions from many of our presidents and yet expects unquestioning support from the U.S. This puts us in conflict with radical Islamic extremists
Blaming the making of a video that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a excuse to do this harm is ridiculous by civilized standards. This is an example of irrational religious ideology. Many people in the radical Islamic countries in something like European Dark Ages and need to be enlightened with access to outside sources of information. Such ignorance can be easily exploited by Al Qaeda extremism.
As Thomas Friedman has repeatedly said Islam needs modernity.
Growing up in the strict Islamic countries has much communities pressure to not question the religious leaders and leads to inhumane actions such as this. Outspoken critics are silenced by threats of violence. Some are then wipe for extremists to incite them to violence and in this case Al Qaeda may be in that role.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes about this from growing up in Somali to arrival in the U.S. in her books "Infidel" and "Nomad". They heavily employ the threat of a painful eternity if people don't conform to what the interpreters of the Quran tell them
Don't you people get it??? There was NO film. This was totally orchestrated. Obama talked about killing bin Laden how many times lately? You think the muslims are going to sit down and just take the fact that their great one was killed by our no good POTUS? Obama just doesn't know when to keep it shut. Some things are best left unbragged about and that just happens to be one of them!
Wrong. Romney doesn't know when to keep HIS mouth shut. The only time he opens his mouth is to change his feet!
Killing BinLaden was a bold and smart move. You would suggest that he survive. On the other hand Republican voices wish to play like President Obama is weak on defense and this taking out of BinLaden and other AlQaeda leaders has help weaken that terorist organization that inflicted 9/11 on our mainland.
There was a film. It was seen by 10 people in a theater and the trailer is on YouTube.
Huh. Didn't know posting a link would put the film on there. But there it is. If any Muslims are on here, please don't blow me up.
No film? Really?
"...the 80 cast and crew members involved in the making of the movie said they were "grossly misled" about its intent."
The prohibition of images of Mohammed reminds me of the Second Commandment:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
BTW, to all you posters saying that because of the actions of a few, all Muslims are bad, I would like to remind you that Muslim Libyans fought side by side with the consulate personnel and that Ambassador Stevens is being mourned by Muslims throughout the world as a mad who loved and helped the Libyan people in their hour of need against Khaddafi.
Thing Again needs to think again. The graven images are not to be made of God. Mohammad was not God, never will be, never can be. Get real. It is only people who have made him into a false god can think like that.
Can we stop calling him the "Prophet Muhammad"? He's not our prophet.
There's never been a serious, scholarly study as to whether he even existed. If he didn't, then Islam itself falls apart like a house of cards. If he did, then his life can be examined through a scholarly, historical lens.
Start calling him "Muhammad, who Muslims believe was a prophet" or something, in the US edition of CNN, that doesn't carte blanche affirm something most Americans don't believe.
There is much dispute as to the details of Jesus' life, including where he was during his 13 years of exile. There is also no concrete proof that he "rose from the dead." It all comes down to faith – and I would hope that people could get past the details and to the point of their faiths and stop trying to harm each other over their differences.
What proof do you have that Jesus existed? The proof that Moses, Jesus, Muhammad existed comes from the superhuman mathematical code of the Quran discovered by Dr. Rashad Khalifa – who incidentally was killed by muslim fundamentalists in Tucson in 1990. Every word and letter was proved to be divinely designed and preserved, and you would think muslims would celebrate this proof of their scripture instead of killing the man that discovered it. Unfortunately muslims do not follow the Quran and are its worst enemies, instead following the lies attributed to Mohammad, called hadith and sunna akin to Mishna and Gemarrah (man made Talmud of the jews) instead of the Torah. Similarly the Gsopel of Jesus was abandoned and destroyed in favor of the 4 gospels that the bishops chose to introduce the trinity (by a slim majority) 250 years after the death of Jesus. The pattern repeats. the human being is very predictable.
Where in my post did I mention Jesus? I didn't. I'm talking about Muhammad. Jesus HAS been subjected to scrutiny as to whether or not he existed – Muhammad has not. That's my point.
The Senior Scholars Authority called on Islamic academic institutions to study the phenomenon of aggression against Islam in order to determine its sources and the factors affecting it, and also the intellectual methods best used to quell such antagonism.
The authority recommended increasing efforts to reveal the truth about Islam through communicating with expat communities and Islamic centres in the West, especially those where attacks emanate from. It said it would form an initiative to this effect soon.
"study the phenomenon of aggression against Islam in order to determine its sources and the factors affecting it"
That's funny. They don't think that maybe Islamic aggression causes it?
Chicken or the egg?
They are obviously a bit biased, but I was focusing on their approach of, "increasing efforts to reveal the truth about Islam through communicating"
The inherent problem with religion is the rules/edicts of such a religion only apply to those who follow it... I do not have to abide by isalms rules and laws any more than I do what christianity has to say...
islam(ists) ae and islam itself is very thin-skinned and PURPOSELY looks for opportunities to weild the sword and violently punish those who appose and who do not "submit".
Gangland TV series needs to do a special on "The world's most dangerous religions." I know which one would get my vote.
look And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
I understand the anti-idol worship but in all honesty I still see naming yourself and your children muhammed, mohammed or any other variation of the spelling is kinda doing the same thing in a sly way. Just about every person who is muslim has Muhammed, Mohammed or some other variation of the name. It's like John Smith/Jane Smith in America. You may not worship a false idol like the michaelangelos' cousin posing as Jesus but using the name should be considered the same thing.
I actually agree with you, I also would prefer the name not be used, but it wasn't explicitly (or even suggestively) prohibited hence the people feel it is acceptable to use. However, there is a distinction on how the name is used. Muhammad the prophet often comes with a trailing salutation.
The issue is Muhammad is essentially trying to prevent what (Muslims believe) happened to Jesus.
People have always lacked the ability to relate to an abstract God hence the tendency is to elevate tangible objects like people, animals, sun, moon, etc. This has happened time and time again in history.
You would be surprised that this attempt was also made in Islam, but because of the lack of pictures/idols/objects, it has never taken hold, and is universally and consistently rejected by the mainstream.
FYI, in south america, people also keep the name Jesus. That in itself is not idol worship, but reverence to these is.
Islam – the only thing more sinister than Christianity. The leaders of Christianity are wondering how they can get their sheep so devout.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
God doesn't exist. The bible and its stupid myths are verifiably false. Move into reality homeboy.
on your day of judgment GOD will remind you of all you said and done to mock him and promise you that will be a day that i cry for you
Reading your comment, leads me to believe you can't think or understand beyond your own prejudices. Christianity and it's history have issues, but it's influence on mankind is profoundly more positive on mankind, than a world without. Read a history and compare the two, before you commenting further
I laugh at the thought of you crying. I wish i could drink your tears then urinate them back on your face.
After all you said the love that has been shed abroad in my heart was put their by JESUS and your comments should tell you that you need JESUS. Take care of yourself and I pray for you.
Do you think Christianity had a positive effect on the Incas, the Aztecs, or any of the inidiginous people in America?
Timothy, Jesus himself prayed and needed God, and cried out when he felt God abandoned him. You don't need Jesus, you need God. god needs no one.
Strange that The Son would cry out to Himself for fear that He had abandoned Himself while sacrificing Himself to HImself.
I find some of these sentiments encouraging:
"In Libya itself, however, people turned out to express their sorrow and regrets about a terrorist act they insisted did not represent their country or Islam. They carried banners denouncing both violence and insults to Islam."
Photos of the banners mentioned: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/12-photos-of-benghazi-citizens-apologizing-to-amer
1. Christian makes film about Islam.
2. Muslims react by killing 4 innocent people.
3. Step 2 takes place on anniversary of massive attack by Muslims.
Anybody see a common theme here?
Religion is a poison. A stain on society. The sooner we throw our gods, ghosts and goblins into the dustbin of history the better. The first man on the moon has already died and we are still fighting over who came up with the best pre-Dark Ages sky-fairy.
Pretty sure the article said the movie was made by an "Isreali-American", thus Jewish, not Christian.
You da commie, bully boss, Colin.
How about North Korea, and their brotherhood of international Tyrants, Colin? Commie doctrines fall by the wayside once the 'leaders' take over and take off the velvet glove.
@Brian – Six of one, half a dozen of the other. The point is that all religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity.
Uh, HMWT, the word was "common", not "commie".
Is that you, Joe McCarthy?
Amniculi, double minded man?.....'Jam 1:8 A double minded man [is] unstable in all his ways.'
Amniculi, you count by sixes and gave your version of 66. What's the final 6?
Nope. Single-minded in the belief that religion is a blight upon humanity.
Step 3, massive attack by muslims is unsubstantiated and totally illogical. Bldg 7 could never have fallen like a perfect demolition just because debris fell on it. (there was damage on the side facing the towers so it should have tipped over in that direction). The towers could never have started collapsing from the top, since there was no force acting on them .. the top few floors should have fallen like an egg (intact till they hit something). Please investigate common sense before spreading the lies of the media.
I dunno but you appear to be a member of the KGB tweet powice, amni.
the whole concept of religion in general is nothing more then a cop out, it provides people a reason to do things, a way to express gratefulness, and place to lay blame nothing more. going off and killing innocent people b/c of the way sum imaginary figure is portrayed is no better than son of sam claiming a dog told him to shoot random people. unfortunately violence and hate is what children in these middle east countries are taught since birth, and they believe it's ok as long as there is some weak as$ connection to religion (eg- disgracing the great mohammed) its pathetic.
People don't kill because of religion. People kill because they are evil, then use religion to justify their evil.
Muslim painter MF Hussain made nude paintings of Hindu goddesses. Did you see Hindus go on a rampage and start killing Muslims or blowing up Mosques? Islam does not really believe in tolerance or free speech. Islam seems to want to force everyone to be Muslim. Does Islam inherently create frustration in Muslims so that they are ready to go on a rampage on a slightest pretext or become suicide bombers?
ah yes the religon of peace strikes again..God will deal with these evil sinners as He does with all evil sinners....
Do absolutely nothing and act as if he didn't exist?
Misspelling there, Carl - it's the "religion/cult of pieces" -– hacked body parts, exploded cars/buildings/churches/etc.
Replace "God" with "Allah" and you're spouting what some Muslims think of you.
JESUS is the son of GOD. Muslims do not call my LORD and Savior a prophet it is disrespectful to my religion when you infer anything about JESUS. As a disciple of CHRIST I never label anyone in your religion but muslims you feel you are free to call JESUS a prophet. This is America and I Stand up for JESUS CHRIST SON OF THE TRUE AND LIVING GOD. One day every knee will bow and confess JESUS is the LORD. Muslims I still love you but dont think for a second it is okay to call my LORD a prophet. Timoth 2-15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
MOHAMMED is the prophet of ALLAH. Christians, do not call my PROPHET a false one it is disrespectful yo my religion when you infer anything about MOHAMMED. As a disciple of MOHAMMED, I never label anyone in your religion but christiams you feel you are free to call MOHAMMED a false prophet. This is Libya and I satand up for MOHAMMAED THE PROPHET OF THE TRUE AND LIVING GOD. One day every kneww will bow and confess MOHAMMED is the PROPHET. Christians I still love you but dont think for a second it is okay to call my PROPHET a false idol.
You are retarted as the Muslims you chide. You and your imaginary god are a joke.
@Drink My Kool-Aid
I'd make a Jonestown joke, but the punch line is too long.
Please don't try to justify this crap. Muslims cannot and refuse to Coexist with other faiths. They also believe that chaos will bring about their "saviour".......this is just another reality check that Islam is nothing but a destructive and hateful faith......
Islam are depicted as the "BORG" in the Star Trek series.
The crusades (all of them)
The countless women's clinic employees who have been killed, maimed, and made miserable
Thousands wearing white pointy hats and claiming free speech
These are not the same violence-for-religion as the attacks on the embassies of the middle east?
I think the U.S. should cut off financial aid to these muslim countries and replace it with free ham sandwiches.
Lol! Good one.
You really think the US gives financial aid to these countries to help them? No, to make them slaves, buy their governments, control their central banks, make them dependent and vote favorably at the UN ... the list goes on and on. the aid comes with baggage, conditions and high interest at times that ensure that they stay poor.
I find this offensive that the muslim religion would like me to live by their edicts when I am not a muslim. Therefore, for me it is perfectly alright to question the legacy of their founder as a man (and that is what is reported in this aricle). Since a man can have both weaknesses and strengths, there is nothing wrong in a film, article or dailog portraying the founder of Islam as a man. Further, all the restrictions apply nto those who are muslims and not ohers. People who believe in Islam need to understand this fact.
Nvertheless I would like to know where does the Quran or the teachings of the founder of Islam say that muslims can kill people, destroy property, and cause harm to others if they disgree with them? In my readings of Quran and its interpretations, I have never come across anything close to this.
Therefore, I have to conclude that the killings in Lybia and riots in other pats of the world are terrorist acts against humanity and do not represent religious freedom or repsect.
Now that you have characterized Islam as ill-intentioned toward your best interests how do you deal with them, and preserve political correctness so as not to offend them? They are already upset but you are putting forth that a peaceful religion should be associated by the acts of a few. This is backward and potentially racist since it counters the president's viewpoint. When we see Middle East violence, to include the murder of American Diplomats, that is a sign of the ineffectiveness of our messaging. I'm willing to point the finger at NASA because the president put them up to the task of improving relations with Islam, but no matter how you evaluate these actions they are America's fault and we must accept our punishment. If we express ourselves effectively we cant appease this tolerant religion and convince them we are on their side. Just because a few irresponsible citizens would suggest otherwise is a teachable moment. Haters gonna hate, but we are moving forward.
"I find this offensive that the christian religion would like me to live by their edicts when I am not a baptist. Therefore, for me it is perfectly alright to question the legacy of the book heavily edited and changed by a bunch of anglo middle-aged power-hungry MEN from its original set of STORIES. Since a man can have both weaknesses and strengths, there is nothing wrong in a film, article or dailog portraying christianity as not the be-all-and end-all of everyday life. Further, all the restrictions apply nto those who are christians and not ohers. People who believe in Christianity need to understand this fact."
There. Fixed that for ya.
Islamists just look for reasons to kill people. They say it is in the name of mohammed, but in the end the mob mentality takes over and they kill and destroy. They enjoy it. They really have nothing better to do. There is no way that any islamist can justify this behavior. It goes beyond religious beliefs. They just like to kill and will use any excuse at all to justify it. If the Islamist religion cannot control their own violent behavior, I assure you, Someone will. Their End of Days is near.
Muslims have to be properly handled or you get violence, that's what CNN says between the lines. The West cannot expect them to act like civilized himan beings.