Recently someone told me I should watch the trailer for the new “Muslim” Movie, The Lady of Heaven.
A few minutes of trailer, and a Google search or two later, I came to the conclusion this movie is a bad idea, and I wanted to talk about why.
At first I wasn’t opposed to a movie about Islam. I might be Christian, but I think learning about what other people believe is important. Muslims are very, very hard to convert, and that is partly because their faith is so strong in Islam, it’s also partly because Christians are more afraid of them than we are willing to learn about them.
Of course, someone might say “Why should I care what Terrorists believe?”
Well not all Muslims are terrorists, just like not all Christians are fanatics. And we can’t broad brush them if we want to be taken seriously.
Actually Islam as it’s seen by many more peaceful Muslims has a lot in common with some of the less fundamental aspects of Christianity, and there’s more to it than just defending the faith from infidels.
I learned a lot about it from this great book “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.” Which detailed what Muslims believe in a way that Westerners can understand.
I believe firmly that the case for Christianity is irrefutable. I would not be a Christian if I didn’t not think it was the perfect religion…and I’d say any religion that is not perfect is not real, and if someone says that about their faith, they do not truly have any.
That out of the way what’s my interest in this movie?
Well, I am not trying to be condescending, but, I feel a sort of kinship with Muslims in this one respect: Both Christian and Muslims do not feel like the world understands them, nor treats then well.
Christians are taught to expect this because we are righteous. Muslim are, as far as I can tell, taught to expect it because they are fundamental. It boils down to very similar things.
People fear Muslims more than Christians, but that has not always been the case. Christianity has its dark place in history. Where people went off what the Bible actually teaches and came up with their own version.
Some people think all religion is bad because it can be corrupted and twisted into a tyranny.
But I see that as equivalent to saying all medical professionals are bad because quack doctors exist and some doctors do procedures wrong.
You see, Doctors are fallible and corruptible, but the practice of Medicine itself, the Ideal of health, is not really something that can be bad. Only misapplied.
Religion is no different. It has always been the medicine of the soul.
I don’t agree with Islam, but I take it seriously.
And this begins my main problem with this movie.
I don’t know how the film will turn out, but the trailer is already painting a rather romanticized version of whatever it’s going to talk about.
Islam is not, in any sense, a romantic religion.
There is beauty in it, but Muslims do not worship artistically, they find that irreverent. They respect art and scientist, but is it not a real part of their religion to incorporate that into their worship.
So, making a film about Islam that is not a documentary already has many issues even in the mechanics of it.
Muslims for the most part don’t believe in women showing their face in public. There is variation in that. But, there is some form of head-covering involved everywhere.
The most obvious issue in making a movie about a Woman in Islam is that it involves showing her face. So she is not really representing their belief.
I am not of the school that thinks that doing something in a movie is okay if it is not in real life.
Of course stealing, and lying in a movie is different. You can’t literally steal a prop. It belongs to the studio anyway.
But sex? If it’s really happening, it’s still wrong. And it seems the high divorce rate of actors is more than enough evidence that it’s not the best foundation for a relationship to participate in those films.
I think not following the teachings of your religion would fall under the category of what is wrong to depict. It would be like filming an Amish person…oh, yeah they do that too.
I suppose if the actress is not actually Muslim, that’s a different matter, but I suspect that would not make everyone involved feel better. And, shouldn’t they be using people who actually believe this? Christians use other Christians in their movies…which is partly why they are not very good acting wise a lot of the time.
But then, the actual Christians who make it big time in Hollywood are usually above our budget.
This is the least of my concerns, but it is one worth mentioning.
But even if we leave at aside and assume it’s acceptable to have this. Is this movie a good idea?
Like I said, it’s romanticizing it.
One Muslim gave me imput online about it, and this is what he said.
“The movie tells the story of Fatima from the Shia point of view. Sunni Muslims will be upset about it especially because it paints the early companions in a very bad light and points a spotlight at a very dark moment in Islamic History… Some are afraid the controversy around this film will cause the radicals to target and kill Shias for disrespecting the companions.
it’s a dark period in Islamic history because the companions of Muhammad attacked and killed his daughter and for 1400 years they covered up the event and anyone who talked about it was labeled a heretic and put to death. She is one of the most magnificent figures in Islamic History and yet nobody knows anything about her. We owe it to her and what she went through to tell her story. Out of love for Fatima the sacrifice is worth it.”
” Here is a a quote from the director: “It is a wonderful epic story full of Shakespearean intrigue, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ meets ‘Game of Thrones’, an innovative way of seeing the origins of Islam and the Holy Figures from the point of view of our young modern-day hero Laith. We will be drawn into a world that sees the history of the religion’s birth as a wonderful action-packed story full of color. Juxtaposed against the stark colorless reality of the present-day war-torn Middle East it will be an innovative cinematic experience full of revelations, magic and incredible performances all set in and against the beautiful and dramatic landscape of eastern Georgia.”
For the record. Any time a director uses the phrase in bold up above you can be certain they are not going to be realistic. And Islam has ever and always been a stark, war torn religion, as even the story of Fatima proves. For better or worse. Trying to make it seem like The Arabian Nights is simply disingenuous.
According to this Muslim, it is worth the risk to talk about Fatima (The Lady of Heaven.)
But there are many Muslims, he admits, that are going to be angry about this.
I also found out that the director of this film got kicked out of either his sect or some other organization centered around Islam…which seems like a red flag.
Is it worth it to tell this story?
Well, that depends.
The Shia point of view is one of the two big branches of Islam. I believe it is the more peaceful branch, but don’t quote me on that.
If we could trust this movie to be objective, then perhaps it would be worth while to make it.
Fatima certainly sounds like an interesting woman…but what I am not convinced of is that the movie will show her how she really was.
The overdramatic speech in the trailer is already a huge neon warning sign to me.
I didn’t used to think so, but, in the last decade, every trailer for a “inspirational film” has one of those speeches in it.
Then you watch the movie, and it rarely delivers the impact that it was hinting at in the trailer.
Usually, there are contrived conflicts in the movie.
Which seems stupid, because in a real story like this, you ought to find enough actual conflict, without adding more.
I was less skeptical when I was younger, but I’ve now read too many things that say “well, no, that scene never actually happened, actually it went like this….”
Like in Hidden Figures. I am almost 100% sure she never yelled at her boss and fellow employees over the bathroom situation.
I know for a fact that in the Harriet movie that came out, her telling her white master off at the end of the move never happened.
And even in slightly older movies like Hildago, that lacked controversy. There was no love story, and no final stretch where the hose and rider both nearly collapsed. The horse actually finished a whole week ahead of the others in the race.
Either you can be annoyed by these changes or accept them as just part of what makes the movie “based off” real life, and not actually real.
But it gets a little touchy when we are focusing on a religion, and not just a person in history.
I have the same problem with The Lady of Heaven that I do with The Chosen.
While the Lady of Heaven may be about a regular girl, it is doubtful most of the story will be focused on that aspect of it. Islam is going to have to come into it.
And Islam is divisive. You have schools of Islam that think very, very different things.
The difference between Islamic sects is actually a lot more of a problem than the different denominations in Christian. [I speak on an actual doctrinal level, not people’s personal ways of handling it]
It is more like the difference between Catholicism, Mormonism, and Christianity.
The things that divide those three things are huge. Praying to Mary and other saints is not in the Protestant Bible, Seeing Jesus as equally powerful to the devil is only Mormon (as well as many other belief that I doubt the average practicing Mormon even really knows, as none of the ones I used to know ever mentioned them, but they are in there), and then Protestant Christianity, which claims to follow the Bible and only the Bible for how we base our worship and practice.
Interestingly enough, most of the violence the church has done over the centuries has been in the Catholic church, the branch that differs from the Bible in many ways. Protestants have made their mistakes, but usually we are not organized enough to take over countries like Catholicism did.
In fact, you will not find Protestant Christianity ever mentioned in many accounts of the church.
Corruption in fiction at least. Victor Hugo’s writing comes to mind.
And this is the different between Shia and Sunni Muslims as well as the smaller sects.
They are not simply difference of practice.
Maybe I should explain, because I know a lot of non Christians, or new Christians, will not know this alrady.
Doctrinal vs Practical Differences
Okay, a doctrinal difference and a difference in practice are very different problems.
A difference in practice would be this: The Evangelical movement focused on The Holy Spirit aspect of Christian more. The more Intellectual branch (usually Messianic Jews are this way interestingly enough) of the church focused on science and apologetics, very few churches fall into that category, but I’ve been to a couple. Then we have the traditional Bible believing denominations.
And Foursquare Church basically tried to combine the best of both worlds, and have evangelical, charismatic element mixed in with sound theology based on the bible.
There’s room for overlap in all of this, it really depends on where you go, but all these difference are stylistic differences. None of these churches (unless they are false) are going to claim any of the following:
Jesus is the devil’s twin.
Jesus is not the Son of God.
Our sins can be forgiven by church leaders.
It is acceptable to pray to Mary or a saint
Sins can be forgive through paying money
Purgatory is real
You can change the fate of someone even after death
Celibacy is necessary for the church leaders.
(Celibacy is encouraged in the Bible, but not mandatory, and many passages make it clear most of the leaders in the church were married with children.)
All the differences above are part of either Mormonism, Catholicism, or Judaism.
Orthodox Christian is another issue all on it’s own.
Now for the difference in Islam:
In these ways are Muslims similar (and I speak as a person with a very basic knowledge of it, but this is simplified.)
All Muslims have to believe Muhammad is God’s prophet.
There is no God but Allah
Within that there are a lot of different view on which teachings about Muhammad are accurate. And those are much like the difference I listed above, because there are actually things that could cost you your life.
Christians argue over denominations, more than we should, but we rarely kill each other over it, and we also are not known for persecuting each other (we do, but it is on a smaller scale and does not draw the attention of the outside world as often, there are exceptions to this).
But for the most part, we give to the same charities, uphold the same principles, and lead similar lives. Whether I am Baptist or Foursquare, I am likely to have the same verse highlighted in my bible, the same favorite Worship songs or style and the same basic beliefs about Jesus.
But the different sects of Islam are the ones that determine some major key things that we non Muslims are concerned about:
Is it all right tot kill Infidels?
Is marrying an underage girl acceptable?
Should people be forced to convert to Islam?
Most of the Western Muslims do not believe any of the above are acceptable, but as we all know, many, many Eastern Muslims do.
The precise problem with the movie is that by telling one side of it, it is going to alienate all the other sides.
And I do not think it is on the same level as just telling the Christianity story with a few errors. Christians complain, but we aren’t known for targeting people on the opposing side and killing or maiming them.
When you poke a bear, you should ask first if the bear has claws and fangs and is behind bars. It’s not wise to poke a bear anyway, but it’s even stupider to poke him in his own cave.
That is what I think this film is going to do.
And the people who make it will be partially responsible for any violence that follow, because they already know it will.
A movie about Jesus would not be guaranteed to cause that kind of reaction, but a movie about Islam is almost certain to do so.
That is the difference to me. You have to know who you’re dealing with.
Many, many Muslims are upset with the film, and I think justifiably skeptical about it. Hollywood is like Nazareth these days “Can any good come out of it?”
I am of the attitude that we do not need Hollywood to represent our religion anymore, if we ever did. I don’t trust those money grubbing jerks to portray anything fairly anymore.
I am worried some Muslims may accept the is film as necessary because they get so little representation but that is a very unwise outlook to have, because it leads people to accept even poor representation as better than nothing.
There is no power in Christianity if it is misconstrued, and I would think there is no power in Islam either.
I also do not think this movie is likely to make converts. And what other purpose is there in making it?
Fatima’s story is tragic, but it is also stirring up old grudges that didn’t need more fuel on the fire. It’s like making a movie about Jim Crowe, or Malcom X, or Adolf Hitler and tossing it into today’s political climate….oh, yeah, basically what they already are dong.
Yep, Hitler the story behind the mustache, coming soon to a theater near you, I can see it now. We can always count on Hollywood to see the flame war that is our society right now, and throw a big heaping ton of gasoline on it.
Am I the only who thinks they are deliberately doing this to stay in power over our minds and attention? I mean goodness knows, saying we could be less judgmental and more respectful is out of the questions.
Well the day I let Hollywood tell me how to think is the day you all can unfollow this blog, because it won’t be worth reading anymore.
In short, this movie is, I think, irresponsible. It is being made by a man who’s already caused a lot of controversy in Islam, and seems to see no issue with creating more, even if it could get people killed.
Remember too, this movie is likely to be seen all over the world. So even if violence is not the result in the USA, or Canada or Europe, it could easily be in the East. And we will probably never hear about it on the news which is always faithfully keeping our attention off what it really going on anywhere but here.
I mean, why talk about Islam when you can talk about the umpteenth strain of COVID that we can do nothing about…?
Well, that was my take on it. I’m not telling anyone not to see the movie if they feel it’s a good idea, but I would urge them to be watchful about what happens following it or around it. Maybe I am wrong…I am not usually wrong about things like this, because there are patterns, but who knows?
Until next time, stay honest–Natasha