Making slight shift in `Islam'

May 05, 2001|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Baltimore filmmaker Rob Gardner and PBS have agreed to alter an image of the Prophet Muhammad in "Islam: Empire of Faith," Gardner's documentary on the history of Islam that is scheduled to air Tuesday.

The decision became public yesterday when the Washington-based Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), contacted newspapers about it. According to the group, concerns were raised by members after a screening of the film April 11 at its office in Washington. At issue is a 14th-century painting in the film that shows Muhammad at the Kaaba in Mecca. The Kaaba is the most sacred shrine in the Muslim world.

As explained in the press release from CAIR: "For Muslims, created representations of prophets are inappropriate in that they distract from God's message and could lead to a kind of idol worship, something forbidden in Islam."

While the press release made it sound as if Gardner had agreed to delete the entire image of Muhammad, the filmmaker said yesterday that was not the case.

"After talking to PBS and various scholars, what we agreed to was a small re-animation of one shot of a 14th-century painting of Muhammad, so that you won't see his face. But you will still see the prophet. Basically, we're just showing the image from a different angle," Gardner said from New York, where he was set to leave for Israel to make a documentary.

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