An American produced film, made for an apparent $5 million, has inflamed the Muslim world by depicting the prophet Muhammad as a sex-crazed murderer. U.S. embassies and consulates in Egypt and Libya have been attacked as a result and the American ambassador in Benghazi has been killed. It’s a horrible situation. But what of the film that has caused this outpouring of violence? I decided to look at it with my cultural hat on.
The film, or the fifteen-minute taster I saw, begins mid-scene with an Army corporal proudly telling a Christian doctor about Muhammad’s many wives and mistresses. They have a laugh. But this laugh turns sour, it echoes the screaming of innocents because a rough gang of extremists are on their way.
In a wild blur, terrifying men with strap on beards knock down an innocent woman on their way to burn the doctor’s surgery. What do they care of medicine, these wild animals?
Here she is, the beautiful symbol of innocent, smashed Christianity. Plato understood the power of beauty and so do the Christian backers of this $5 million feature film. A beautiful woman is always on the right side.
With his surgery nought but an entirely pure memory, our brave doctor explains the villainy of Islam to his daughters. “Man + X = Islamic extremist”, he says. “Extremist – X = Man”. What does it mean? That’s not the point; it’s powerful, mysterious and allows us to go on a journey back to the root of "Islamic evil": the prophet Muhammad, the world’s biggest shagger.
Here he is, gnawing on a bone, the archetypal savage. The director is starting as he means to go on. This is to be an all-out assault on Islam’s answer to Jesus. Jesus, of course, was partial to a delicate chickpea salad. Muhammad, who we have been told is a bastard, only knows the pleasures of raw meat.
As well as being a raw antelope-chomping savage, Muhammad also seems to be a spoilt frat bro, bitching at his armed guard and coming across like the star of Bill & Ted Hit The Desert. The film is already expertly blending elements of the raw, earthy style of There Will be Blood-era Paul Thomas Anderson with the hilarious, free-spirited misogyny of an early Keanu Reeves vehicle.
“You are not wearing under garments,” this demure, well-covered woman tells Muhammad. Boy is there egg on his face! The interior setting ramps up the sexual tension but instead of maintaining this frisson, the director swiftly has Muhammad putting his head between the be-robed lady’s legs. Muhammad will have her by the end of the scene, further proof, if there was proof needed, of his diabolical sexual power...
This, apparently, is the first Muslim animal. Muhammad is delighted by him and starts to resemble Mozart in Amadeus, delightedly bantering with the curmudgeonly donkey. It is, perhaps, an ingenious role reversal of the Shrek-Donkey relationship: here, Shrek (Muhammad) is full of energy while Donkey (the Donkey) is taciturn.
This is the beginning of Islam. Muhammad running off to spread the word whilst the be-robed woman tells some old man to “write a book for us”- he agrees, telling her it will be copied from the Torah and the Bible. The scene’s artificial look, recorded on a sound stage with a desert background seemingly pasted in from MS Paint, cleverly alludes to the artificial composition of the Qur’an.
Here, Muhammad has been caught indulging his favourite pastime: ploughing a servant girl. He tries to assuage the wrath of the two women beating him with shoes by offering their menfolk various titles. Again, the use of the claustrophobic interior is masterful. This, we are told, is Muhammad’s domain. He is never more comfortable than when in the private confines of a desert encampment, a comely servant girl or handsome desert boy (yep, this film suggests, among other things, that Muhammad definitely enjoyed being gay) by his side.
Muhammad tells everyone that all non-Muslims must die and the screen irrupts in flames. Here, the rage of Muhammad is literally reflected. His anger is like fire. It will never be put out. It will devour all-particularly Christians and handsome boys-and save none.
It is possibly the most awful and offensive film in history.
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