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PBS series 'Life of Muhammad' explores diverse opinions of prophet

Life-of-Muhammad-narratorBy Menachem Wecker, Religion News Service, Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2:42 PM

RNS () -- He's born poor. By age 6, he's an orphan. Two years later, he loses his grandfather. Yet he overcomes his circumstances, develops a reputation for business integrity and progressive views on marriage.

Then he becomes a prophet of God.

The portrait of the Muslim prophet, which emerges from a PBS documentary "Life of Muhammad," may surprise some American viewers.

"As major polls by Gallup, Pew, and others have reported, astonishing numbers of Americans, as well as Europeans, are not only ignorant of Islam but have deep fears and prejudices towards their Muslim populations," said John Esposito, professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University who appears in the three-part series that debuts Tuesday (Aug. 20) on PBS.

Esposito praised the series' "balance," and its attempts to describe controversial aspects of the prophet's life with a diversity of opinions.

Produced for the BBC in 2011, the series examines the world into which Muhammad was born and his marriage to his first wife, Khadijah. The second hour focuses on the "Night Journey to Jerusalem," his departure from Mecca and the eight-year war with the Meccan tribes. The third analyzes events during his later life, including the introduction of the moral code known as Shariah and the concept of jihad.

Narrated by Rageh Omaar, a Somali-born journalist, the series presents Muhammad in a respectful, positive light, though it doesn't shirk from the controversies that surround Muhammad, who was born in Mecca in 570 A.D. ...

Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he welcomed educational materials about the prophet's life, though he hasn't seen the series.

"Our research has consistently shown that a knowledge about Islam and Muslims in general is very low in our society," he said. "The corollary to that is that as people know more about Islam and Muslims from objective, fact-based sources, prejudice and stereotyping goes down."

(The Life of Muhammad premieres on PBS from 8 to 11 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, Aug. 20.) (Read the full article)

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