Inside the Koran – documentary
Review by Mike Ghouse
Inside the Koran Premiered today Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 9 PM ET/PT at National Geographic Channel.
The Shia-Sunni relationship was compared to Catholic-Protestant and it made sense; the producer was addressing the world audience to understand the difference between divinity of clergy and absence of clergy to connect with God. It was done fairly well and both interpretations were presented in a respectful manner to Shia and Sunni traditions.
The Female Genital Mutilation was not a scholarly presentation; it has the signs of presenting Islam negatively, the commentator also said that the Prophet had organized such an event. That should be removed, as it is a falsity. Indeed, the prophet condemned such a practice.
The inclusion of German Scholar Luxembourg’s interpretation must be addressed. He talks about adding Zer, Zabar, Tashdid and the dots added to the Quranic text and compares it with Syrio-Aramic language. He was specific about how it could alter the meaning from the misinterpreted word Houri to white grapes, or the state of eternal bliss. More and more people are looking at the reward as eternal bliss as opposed to female Houries. Tariq Ramadan emphasized the part about learning and seeking knowledge as one of the most important aspect of Islam.
Qur’aan as the word of God was talked about and the documentary expressly showed the difference between Jewish and Christian belief where they believe their books are written by man but divinely inspired, where as Muslims believe Quraan is the word of God and hence the background for non-negotiability.
Islamic contribution to the world of Science, Math, Geometry, Geography and Astronomy was well acknowledged. I thank the producer for bringing positive things to the public who are getting conditioned to know nothing more than the blazing guns and suicide bombers.
They ran a smooth presentation on Sufi and Wahhabi tradition.
One crucial idea that he presented was the dichotomy of how Muslims react when they were not threatened vs. when they were. The example of welcoming Jews and Christians who were not mainstream in Europe at that time, to how they act when they are threatened, showing Shah of Iran and Tyrant Saddam, while showing our (American) hand in nurturing these and other fascists.
The aspect of Human dignity was good. Showing a kid recting the Qur'aan where it says, forgivness is the most important value to God, the one who forgives is the noblest. And went on to say that even though the Sharia law sounds harsh about flagging the adulterer, it is makes it virtually impossible to carry it out due to the requriments of four witnessess.
Dr. Taj Hargey of Muslim Educational center of Oxford spoke the rational side of us, while the comments from another Imam were not quite civil when he spoke about FGM as an African culture, he could have said Tradition of the area. Sheik Badri was shamelessly defending FGM. One of the elderly Imams was nasty about women’s ability to receive pleasure; he was derogatory about women enjoying life and said that it leads to promiscuity. I don’t know where he got his Islam from. I condemn that and hope all the Muslims consider that option to condemn his words.
Though the excessive hovering of camera on Veil was disproportionate, but good points were made as to the culturality of Hijab rather than religiosity of it. Both the Egyptian women; Lena Fawza and Ghada Shabandar spoke in general the language of common Muslims who believe in co-existence and getting along with all.
My hats off to the producer for making this documentary; on his part, except the FGM boo boo, he was fair in consistently reminding that it is not in Qur’aan, he said that about the Hijab requirement, about the FGM and several other incidents. The criticism is fair and so is the truth.
It is a remarkable documentary. I hope it has motivated the audience to understand the difference between culture and religion and not all that is dished out to them as truth, as there is another side to it.
More about the documentary below:
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He is the founding president of World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: Good for Muslims and good for the world. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website http://www.mikeghouse.net/. Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com
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FROM DAISY KHAN
National Geographic Channel: Inside the Koran Premieres Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 9 PM ET/PT
As Salaamu Alaykum and peace be with you. As part of this announcement we wish to include the findings of a small Muslim focus group in New York City that reviewed the Inside the Koran documentary for educational and outreach purposes. This group expressed many concerns over the contents of the documentary. We have sent a letter (link provided below) summarizing these concerns to the executive producer of the show for The National Geographic Channel. One of the group’s key suggestions to National Geographic is to hold panel discussions and/or debates surrounding the Qur’an.
Letter to the producer:
August 4, 2008
Executive Producer, Inside the Koran
National Geographic Channel
1145 17th Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-4688
Dear Mr. Morowitz,
I am writing on behalf of a New York Muslim focus group that viewed Inside the Koran
documentary prior to its August 5th release on The National Geographic Channel. This diverse group of Muslims met last month in order to evaluate the documentary’s potential use as an educational tool in churches, synagogues, schools, or other public spaces.
First of all, I would like to express our excitement that a major media outlet has decided to produce and air such a documentary. Given today’s political climate, we welcome this opportunity. While we appreciated some aspects of the documentary – such as depicting the Qur’an in everyday life, its relevance to Muslims, its diversities of interpretation and Muslims’ unity of faith around the Qur’an – we feel compelled to indicate our overall discomfort with certain aspects and specific segments of the documentary. The crux of our concern lies with the film’s title. Inside the Koran is a documentary about Muslim practice, diversity of opinion, and political tensions from conflicts which are loosely centered on the Qur’an. The documentary made minimal effort to deal with the text itself, its history, transmission, recitation or the sophisticated traditions of interpretation (‘ulum al-Qur’an).
Not only were no Qur’anic experts interviewed but there was also a consistent attempt to conflate cultural practices with religious doctrine -- an unfortunate and untrue association. One example is that of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Although the documentary included interviews with scholars who insisted that FGM is a cultural practice, FGM was treated nevertheless as a Qu’ranic issue.
The focus of the documentary was overly political, beginning with the opening images of a suicide bomber reciting the Qur’an. Overall, the documentary made excessive use of bloody and violent
images. It constantly showed Muslims killing others (or other Muslims). As we all know, the gaps between the Muslim World and the West are only exacerbated by associating extremists’ actions with mainstream views. The documentary’s unfortunate focus on violence undermines more positive portrayals of Muslims in the West and therefore pushes reconciliation farther out of reach.
The documentary also contained some inaccuracies, most notably in the sections on Shi’ism (see
attached link from notable Shi’a authorities). For example, Qom was related to the Vatican and the Shi’i-Sunni relationship was compared to that of Catholics-Protestants. The Sunni-Shi’i split arose after the Qur’an, but this history was never mentioned. Another minor inaccuracy portrayed the Dome of the Rock as a mosque (it is actually a shrine whereas Al-Aqsa is a mosque nearby).
The following factors should also have been taken into consideration:
• The documentary should have included an in-depth discussion on Qur’an’s revelation, its means of transmission, its structure (chapters, arrangement etc.), and compilation. Instead of simply quoting “problematic” passages, the documentary should have provided the context of revelations.
• The documentary should have focused on the ‘ulum al-Qur’an (reason of revelations, abrogation, linguistics/phonetics, and other tools of interpretation) to ensure that the viewer walked away with an understanding of the rich history of the Qu’ran.
• The filmmakers should have minimized the extensive coverage of current political events (and that of contentious issues in general, especially when not related or only tangentially related to the Qur’an) and instead presented the Qur’anic view on various issues such as the environment, God’s creation etc.
• Finally, the filmmakers should not have included the section on the German scholar which
does not add much to the documentary and is condescending to Muslim traditions of
We strongly feel that the documentary should have additionally included information relating to four areas that do not currently appear in the film:
1. The Qur’an as the “word of God”;
2. the compilation of the Qur’an’s text (i.e. how it is written);
3. Qur’anic recitation (i.e. how it is recited); and 4. how the Qur’an is interpreted into everyday practice. These factors must have been taken into account for the documentary to be truly worthy of the name Inside the Koran.
In light of the above, members of our group have suggested organizing a follow-up National
Geographic program, which would hold discussions and/or debates surrounding the Qur’an or even specific segments of the documentary. This would provide viewers of Inside the Koran with a further developed understanding of this critically-important text. The group would be willing to meet with you to discuss this suggestion or any of these attached comments. Thank you.
Executive Director, The American Society for Muslim Advancement
A KORAN FOR PEACE AND A KORAN FOR WAR.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL OPENS A WINDOW INTO THE VOLATILE PARADOX OF ISLAM'S MOST SACRED TEXT
Two-Hour Special Inside the Koran Offers Fresh Insight Into Islam's 'Guide to Humanity,' Vividly Illustrated With the Muslim World's Rich History
Inside the Koran Premieres Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 9 PM ET/PT
'I don't see the Koran connected to the taking of lives. Koran is about existence, about tolerance, about mercy.' - Dr. Sabri Saidam, Palestinian Expert
(WASHINGTON, D.C. - JULY 15, 2008) The Koran has become one of the most ideologically influential and controversial texts in the world. Muslims believe it to be the word of God, as first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad nearly 1,500 years ago. Yet within this single community of worshippers, there are profound differences in religious practices, the status of women, and attitudes toward peace, violence, punishment and forgiveness. But if the Koran is viewed as the irrefutable word of God, why do these differences exist? And how well do Muslims and non-Muslims alike really understand its key spiritual and ethical messages? These questions have never been more paramount.
Over the past few decades, the Middle East has been an epicenter of political and violent turmoil, often with religious conflict at its core. With so much at stake, an understanding of the Muslim faith and its most sacred text is more important than ever before. On Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 9 PM ET/PT, National Geographic Channel (NGC) presents Inside the Koran, a journey into the heart of the Islamic world to discover a clearer understanding of this complex and seemingly contradictory spiritual guide. The show presents a cross-section of Muslims living according to their varied interpretations of the Koran - from ayatollahs and grand imams to simple farmers, and from women in positions of power to those living in veiled seclusion. NGC examines the Koran's messages of peace and tolerance - including what some perceive as justification in the text for violent conflict and suicide bombings that have increasingly been deployed against U.S. troops and their allies.
Using first-person accounts to present a comprehensive and compelling perspective on the Koran, the turbulent history of the Islamic world and what may lie ahead for this struggling region, the two-hour special includes fascinating historical footage and rarely seen interviews with Muslim leaders, notable experts, scholars and religious activists.
'The Koran is like a big store, a supermarket,' says Palestinian peace activist Muhammad Hurani. In this Book, you are able to pick different answers. You are able to make peace, according to the Koran. You are able to declare war.... So many different voices come out of the Koran. Moderate people have their support in verses of the Koran. Radical people have the same thing.'
Inside the Koran delves into the Islamic world to reveal a religion of vast dimensions. It is the second largest world religion after Christianity; well over a billion people - from the Americas to China, from Finland to the southern tip of Africa - are Muslim. Yet within this single universe of belief there are profound differences in the treatment of women and ethical practices. Some Muslim regimes deny girls an education and women the right to vote or drive. In some countries, on public transportation, veiled women scuttle through the rear doors of segregated buses. However, in other Muslim countries, women lead political parties and even become heads of state. In some places, executions by stoning, hanging and beheading are carried out in public. In others, the death penalty has been abolished altogether.
That is just one slice of the paradox of the Koran. On the one hand, proponents of peace quote the consistent message of life's sanctity. In verse after verse, suicide is explicitly forbidden - 'Destroy not yourselves.' And yet, suicide bombers are also quoting from the Koran when they say that those who die fighting in the name of Allah achieve martyrdom and receive their reward in Paradise. Both claim their cause is guided by God's hand, but can such conflicting views be reconciled?
Juxtaposed with present-day contrasts and contradictions, Inside the Koran reaches back into the golden age of Islamic civilization, when the Koran inspired values of freedom and tolerance - a culture of openness that led to astounding developments in architecture, mathematics, science and philosophy - while Europe was mired in its feudal Dark Ages. But in the ancient Islamic world, when Muslims felt threatened - either by external enemies or internal disruptions - the impulse was to take a very different message of retaliation from the Koran. With tensions in the Middle East at an all-time high, some Muslims believe they are now living in such a time. As the Muslim religion continues to grow, the message believers take from the Koran could have global repercussions for generations to come.
Additional interviewees include Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, head of Naqshabandi Sufi in Jerusalem; Dr. Taj Hargey, Muslim Educational Centre at Oxford University; Sheikh Khalid Tafesh, Palestinian Hamas leader; Patrick Sookhdeo, Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity; Sheikh Tayser Rajab Al-Tamimi, supreme judge of Palestinian Islamic Shari'a Courts; Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque; and Sheikh Yousuf Saanei, grand ayatollah of the Iranian city of Qom.
Inside the Koran is produced by Juniper Communications Ltd. Producer, writer and director is Antony Thomas. For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Noah Morowitz, senior vice president of special programming is Michael Cascio, and executive vice president of content is Steve Burns.
My comments on the above peace:
Just like the Qur’aan, nuclear energy is beneficent to mankind in the right hands and disaster in the wrong hands. Nuclear energy is good like Qur’aan is, it the mindset of evil men (I am not sure if there are war mongering women – exception: Dr. Rice) that produces different results. Don’t blame the nuclear energy, Qur’aan or bible for that, it is the evil men and not their religion.
There is a verse in Qur’aan about it: Qur'an, Al-Inshiqaq, Surah 84:7-15: “Each person will be given a book. Those who are given their books in their right hands (understanding the book correctly) will be judged leniently; and they will return to their people joyfully. But those who are given their books in their left hands (misunderstanding) will call their own destruction on themselves, and burn in the fire of hell. There are the people who have never cared for their neighbors; they thought they would never return to God. Their Lord watches all that people do. “
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PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.