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Prophet Muhammad film remake

TheMessage.jpgIn 1976 a controversial English language film called The Message told the story of the prophet Muhammad and the birth of Islam. It was so controversial that it prompted a hostage taking in Washington and almost a two day siege.

Now the film is going to be remade as The Messenger of Peace, and the producer and writer have been talking about the plans for the film that promises to be hugely controversial.

The original film, The Message, starred Anthony Quinn as a follower of the prophet Muhammad, with the prophet never actually being shown on screen, instead he was depicted by organ music, light and the occasional point of view shot looking back to his followers.

According to the story in The Guardian, the film was funded by the Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy, and according to the director at the time, Moustapha Akkad, the film was a real attempt to show a Western audience what Islam was really about:

“I think there was something personal, being Muslim myself who lived in the west, I felt that it was my obligation, my duty, to tell the truth about Islam.”

It was a good sentiment, but back then The Message caused a huge controversy when a rumour was going around that Anthony Quinn was actually going to play the role of Muhammad, and this misunderstanding resulted in a dozen Muslims taking hostages in three civic buildings in Washington. One hundred and forty-nine people were taken hostage and demanded that the film be destroyed, despite not knowing the truth about the casting. The siege resulted in a police officer and a radio operator being murdered, while a council member was wounded.

Seems insane when you realise that Quinn was not playing the prophet and this was just a rumour. You might wonder what is set to happen with the news that the film is now being remade as The Messenger of Peace.

A producer from the original, according to the story, Oscar Zoghbi, is producing this new version and explains a little of why he's doing it:

“We have only the utmost respect for [the original film] but technology in cinema has advanced since the 1970s...This latest project will employ modern film techniques in its renewal of the first film's core messages.”

Let's hope that doesn't mean a CGI prophet for that really would be a complete disaster and cause much more than we saw in Washington.

Listening to the writer of the film, Ramzi Thomas, it sounds like they're going to be very sensitive to Islam with the film:

“In the 21st century there is a real need for a film that emotionally engages audiences on the journey that led to the birth of Islam.”

Certainly sounds like they have the right intentions now, but look at the last film, they had the right intentions but a rumour caused two deaths and a deadly hostage situation. Recent events have shown that showing images of the prophet result in larger, but just as direct, retaliation.

The Guardian point out that the Qur'an does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, visual representations of the prophet are discouraged as there is a concern that this could lead to idolatry.

I wonder if the announcement of this remake will stir controversy, and more to the point will the film manage to find backing, cast and crew to ensure it gets made?




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