December 18th was supposed to be OUR day. After the passing of Eid-ul-Fitr, Muslims across America then marked our calendars for the next big event: the PBS documentary “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet”. Billboards were posted, flyers were passed out, e-mails were sent–all in the optimism that this groundbreaking film by Michael Wolfe would shed some light upon the religion of Islam and how its Prophet (peace be upon him) would be viewed in the west. I alone must have received at least 20-30 reminders that the program would air Wednesday night. None of these reminders, however, resonated in my mind throughout the day than the one from one of the most vocal enemies of the Muslim world, Dr. Daniel Pipes.
One would have assumed that December 18th would go without incident; that maybe the world could learn a lesson or two about a religion and its adherents who feel that they are greatly misunderstood. Maybe those who have heard the countless verbal assaults on prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would somehow tune in, and all these attacks would be finally laid to rest. Even though this program pays tribute to one of the most revered men throughout the history of humanity, it has once again become an opportunity for this particular blowhard to spew his political agenda across the news media. If for some reason one cannot recall Pipes, then they should rewind to the backlash that came after September 11th 2001, and even before that, to the beginning of the Palestinian uprising. Pipes has gained recognition for his “expertise” on the Middle East, heading a one-sided think-tank known as the “Middle East Forum”. It seems as though Pipes has dedicated his livelihood to poison the public’s view of Islam and Muslims appearing in countless news programs on television, in addition to the print media. In one nationally televised interview in 2001 this man actually claimed that it was the “goal of Muslims to make America an Islamic country.”
In the December 17th edition of the New York Post, Pipes sinks to an all-time low: attacking the integrity of the PBS Documentary, while trying to rouse the public into suing the network. Included in this senseless diatribe, this so-called “expert” claims that the network is wasting American tax dollars in an obvious attempt by the producers to convert the viewers to Islam. The dreadful rant continues, and takes the shape of something that more closely resembles that which would be published in a high-school newspaper rather than that of a nationally prominent tabloid. “Legacy of a Prophet” gives evidence as to why Muhammad (pbuh) was a champion for the rights of women. Pipes makes a futile attempt to contradict these examples with the isolated instances in today’s world that in actuality are cultural cases rather than Islamic teachings. He accuses the documentary of being a one-sided showcase, better fit for Islamic Sunday School rather than public television. Although Mr. Pipes claims that the goal of the television special is to proselytize people to Islam, it is interesting to note that there were many Non-Muslims who were featured in the documentary in addition to Muslims. Individuals such as Karen Armstrong, who have dedicated their entire lives acquiring knowledge and writing about the topic of Islam, only to be brushed off as “apologists” by the King of the Middle East Forum.
It is hard to believe that someone as full of angst and fear against Islam can be commissioned to produce work on such a subject. It is nearly as absurd as sending a man with a fear of heights to a skydiving convention. Fear and loathing such as this has not surfaced since the “Red Scare” of the McCarthy-era. Although many individuals agree that Pipes is a divisive force in American society, an equal number more than likely support his views. It is expected that he will continue on with a hardened heart towards Islam its followers, but then again there will always be the Abu Jahl’s – a staunch enemy of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during the prophet’s life-time – and the Pharaoh’s of their respective eras.
As we sat down to watch “Legacy”, we could almost hear Daniel Pipes snicker with sarcasm in the background. Each time a person praised Muhammad (pbuh) throughout the show, we imagine that Pipes was sitting alone in his living room sneering angrily, and most likely adding fuel to his inner fire. This was a day that characters such as him were lamenting, while Muslims all over were rejoicing. Although the special was not perfect, it did not disappoint whatsoever. Two hours flew by, and left us wanting even more. Hopefully this was only the beginning, since the rich and enlightening life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) could easily have been covered in a larger format. But for now, we shall take what we can get. We are optimistic that the non-Muslim world was able to tune in and increase their knowledge about a man and his followers who until this point, have been gravely misunderstood. Even though Daniel Pipes tried his hardest to steal the evening of December 18th from us, he failed miserably.
IMRAAN SIDDIQI lives in Irving, TX and attends the University of Texas at Arlington. He writes in his spare time on a variety of issues concerning Islam and Muslims. He can be reached via e-mail at: UPBhavan@aol.com