Controversy is swirling over an upcoming biographical documentary series on the life of Islam's premiere prophet. The film, which is aptly titled, "The Life of Muhammad," will be aired by the BBC2 later this month. Although it has yet to be viewed by Iranian authorities (or the public at large, for that matter), some government officials are already outraged about it.
The series, which will be broken into three parts, will be presented by Rageh Omaar, a Middle Eastern correspondent for Al Jazeera English. According to The Guardian's Riazat Butt, the show's host has some attributes that perfectly situate him to delve deeply into the subject matter:
...he's a familiar face, an experienced television broadcaster and, crucially, he's Muslim so he can reach parts that infidels can't. Some of the filming takes place in the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, where non-Muslims are forbidden are going.
When reading over information that has been presented about the film and considering that it has yet to be seen, it is difficult to understand the angst the Iranian government is feeling over its impending release. In a press release announcing the film, BBC describes it as following:
In a journey that is both literal and historical. Rageh Omaar travels to the place of Muhammad's birth to re-trace the actual footsteps of the Prophet; from humble beginnings in Mecca, to his struggles with accepting his Prophetic role, his flight to Medina, to the founding of the first Islamic constitution, and his subsequent military and political successes and failures – through to his death and his legacy.
This description, itself, seems benign, but Mohammad Hosseini, Iran's culture minister, claims that he has serious concerns about the film. Last month, he spoke to Iran's Fars news agency, saying (via The Guardian):
"The BBC's decision to make a documentary on the life of [the] prophet Muhammad seems dubious and if our suspicions are proved to be correct, we will certainly take serious action.
What the enemy is trying to do in ruining the Muslims' sanctity is definitely much more than causing us to react and unfortunately, some Islamic countries are not taking this issue seriously. One way to show objections is to express condemnation of the West over their despicable actions."
Some claim that Iran, which has a population that is predominately Shia, may be worried that the documentary will present a strictly Sunni review of Muhammad's life. But, the BBC has squelched these fears, as the network has confirmed that experts from both sides were included in the film's creation.
How the nation's leaders will react once the three-part serious is aired is yet to be determined, but their pledge to "take serious action" is their "suspicions are proved to be correct" is certainly concerning.