Saturday 1 September 2012

Islam: The Untold Story

We've had Jesus mythicism, against which Bart Ehrman has recently stepped up as an unlikely champion — though his public arguments against those of Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price have been unconvincing in my opinion. I've not read Ehrman's new book, but neither have I read the relevant tomes from Carrier and Price (though this is an omission I hope to rectify for all three in due course).

Recently we've also had Muhammad mythicism, disreputably presented on Unbelievable? with mythicist Robert Spencer clashing noisily with Adnan Rashid. And in the past week Channel 4 has shown Tom Holland's TV documentary Islam: The Untold Story.

In contrast to the Unbelievable? altercation, Holland's film was quietly and studiously presented, but reached the alarming conclusion that there was no documentary evidence of Muhammad, neither contemporary nor for the subsequent century. Yet Islam claims to be true on the basis of the Qur'an — allegedly written by the Prophet, to whom the word of Allah was personally revealed. Holland is not a believer, and his approach has a different focus from that of Rageh Omaar's BBC2 documentary The Life of Muhammad (which itself drew some critical comments when I blogged about it).

Holland's documentary is available to view online:
(and incidentally will be re-broadcast on 4seven this coming Monday morning (audio described) at 02:05 BST, or alternatively it's available on YouTube — see below)

The film's controversial conclusion was bound to draw criticism from the faithful, and Holland has responded on the Channel 4 website:

He defends his approach in this paragraph:
It is important to stress as we do in the film that this is a historical endeavour and is not a critique of one of the major monotheistic religions. It was commissioned as part of Channel 4's remit to support and stimulate well-informed debate on a wide range of issues, by providing access to information and views from around the world and by challenging established views.
Though this is perfectly valid, and he may not have criticised Islam directly, it's a little naive to expect his critics to agree that their faith has no foundation.

The documentary is currently available on YouTube in its entirety, so judge for yourself: