I am teaching a couple of sections of “Introduction to the Study of Global Religions” this semester, and, as it turns out, last week was quite important for globalization and religion. Unfortunately, we were so busy in class with discussing readings that we did not get to unpack the extremely confusing events centered around protests to an American-made video about the Prophet Muhammad.
So, here is an attempt to engage those issues. For really good summaries of global issues like this, I always turn to the BBC’s website. Muslims see the Prophet Muhammad as the model for living a good life, and God’s chosen recipient for the revelation of the Qur’an. I think it’s important to start with those basic facts before delving into analysis.
With the facts in mind, what is “thick” about these global events? My mind goes to the roots of the highly offensive video, which are are quite mysterious. It was filmed in a shroud of secrecy and deception. The film seems to have ties to extremist of certain American Christian groups, as well as a member of a Los Angeles area Coptic Christian community. A soft porn director seems to have been misled in being hired to film the video. The actors starring in the film also report being duped.
I think the film itself is embarrassingly bad: cheap production, bad acting, with much of its dialogue strangely dubbed over the voices of the actors. How could anyone take something this ridiculous (and disgusting, and just plain stupid) so seriously? Somehow, the enigmatic nature of the film, its content, and its history played really well in getting angry people all over the world even angrier. The embarrassingly bad film was made to embarrass the sentiments of its viewers.
I think this film spoke the language of embarrassed, angry people (who act in the anonymity of mobs) because it was made by embarrassed, angry people (who hide behind duplicitous anonymity).