It [the film] really created the Islamaphobic sentiment and it really contributed to those people who wanted to create a wedge, who wanted to create barriers between the Muslims and the rest of the community in this country and the West.”A controversial anti-Islam documentary by a British historian has received a wave criticism for his views on the origins of Islam. The film Islam: the Untold Story by Tom Holland aired on Britain’s Channel 4 last week. Both the broadcasting station and UK media regulator Ofcom has received more than a thousand complaints. The documentary claims there is little written contemporary evidence about the origin of Islam and the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Press TV has conducted an interview with Syed Inayatollah Andrabi, political commentator and analyst from London to shed more light on the issue. He is joined by Abdul Alim Musa, Imam of Masjid al-Islam from Washington and author and journalist Mark Glenn from Coeur D’Alene. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview. Press TV: Mr. Andrabi, let us look first of all at the main claims that are made in this film, there is little written contemporary evidence, it says, about the origin of Islam, there are questions on when the Qur’an was written and suggestions that Mecca may not have been the real birthplace of the prophet [Mohammad] (PBUH). The question is, however, how reliable are the sources that the film mentions? Is that not an untold story? Or as critics say an untrue story? … Channel Four in the UK has said that the documentary is “an extraordinary detective story in which Holland found himself embroiled in an underground but seismic debate”, in their words, “the issue of whether as Muslims have always believed, Islam was born fully formed in all its fundamentals or else evolved gradually over many years.” But one question as was pointed out there by Mark Glenn [another guest on the program and the previous speaker], why Channel Four and Holland, basically, decided to question the issues of such importance in Islam? Andrabi: In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate. Well, Holland is a historian and as a historian he can always raise questions or he can question anything. But the main point here is why the documentary was aired on the Channel Four? And Channel Four is the channel that is viewed by families in this country (UK).
There are some channels for example, there is a channel, BBC Four, which is mainly meant for serious discussions but Channel Four is an ordinary Channel, it is viewed for news, for entertainment and to air a program on Channel Four; it really raises questions about the motives what the motives were behind this program?Now, you are not raising serious questions in an academic seminar, at a conference, you are raising questions in a TV program which is watched by parents, children, young growing Muslim men and women and it really does not leave a good impact [on the viewers]. I watched it myself, my family watched it, it was really in a very bad taste, it did not leave a very good impact and as we go on talking, I will say something about the content of the program, how questionable was the content, but my point is that it did not leave a good impact. It really created the Islamaphobic sentiment and it really contributed to those people who wanted to create a wedge, who wanted to create barriers between the Muslims and the rest of the community in this country and the West. Press TV: Mr. Andrabi, would you go as far as saying that this is not historian, so to speak, trying to find out through research and through speaking with various scholars, going to various places, to investigate the birth of Islam? Would you say that, actually, this is too off the mark and is suggesting some other agenda? Basically Holland himself has said that he was aware of the deeply held, in his words, sensitivities but he did go ahead and make [made] the film anyway. Why? Andrabi:
Well, something that is very clear from the program, is that the author of the program is definitely pursuing his own agenda and he is picking up the verses from the [Holy] Qur’an and he is meeting the people, he is going to the places accordingly. But he is driven by an agenda.If it was not so, then as you referred to, those people who have come up with the critical examination of this documentary, there is proper questions; for example, why did he ignore and why he insisted on ignoring all the Islamic scholarships? Is there no Islamic scholarship in the history of Islam? Now as we know, as the Imam [Abdul Alim Musa, guest on the show] can tell us, there are very authentic books, like for example, the History of Tabari, they are very early books; early books written about the history of Islam and they stand out for the level of their scholarship. And why this guy, why did he choose to ignore all the Islamic scholarships? Why did he discount all the old traditions as useless? Old tradition has also its place in Islamic scholarship, we have a sort of branch of knowledge that has been developed and that branch of knowledge is how to scrutinize the human narration, how to scrutinize the people who narrate. This is a full scholarship that has developed over centuries. Why did this guy choose to ignore all these? And why did he not see, as you rightly said, why did not he consult a proper Islamic scholar specialized in History; rather than philosophy as Professor Nasri is. So this raises questions about the very motives of the program. And it is clear that he was pursuing an agenda there. MY/HMV