Muslim review of “The Passion”
The Pros; The draw to this film for me was unavoidable, I have strongly admired Mel Gibson since listening to his surprisingly intelligent commentary on the DVD “Brave Heart” which he heroically directed and starred in.
The attraction to “The Passion” was also strong because in a somewhat sadistic way, I wanted to see all the hype about this film causing a crack in the Jewish-Christian relationship (which is natural I believe since the two groups have been ganging up on Muslims for some time now).
The third magnetism of this film was Jesus himself (who is so important to so many people). Although it is a sin in Islam to see graven images of Prophets, I have been raised in America, thus it is a sin I commit having been most recently impressed by Martin Scorsese’s “The last temptation of Christ”.
I am considered in some circles as a comparison religion scholar and as such, I have been called to and prayed for to accept Christ much more than the average neighbor. I have felt the spirits in Churches and once in a while, the images of Jesus pops up in front of me, all I attribute to the hundreds of Christian scholars I’ve debated, and who pray for Jesus to enter my heart, and I do believe there is power in those prayers, similar to a clairvoyant conjuring the dead.
Of course as a Muslim, it is very easy to reject Trinity, but “the Passion” ambushes a skeptic from an altogether different angle. Mel Gibson’s selective explanation of Salvation through Christ was more powerful and more clear then any Christian scholar I’ve encountered (and I’ve dialoged with Presidents of Christian Universities such as Norman Geisler). Jesus is not referred to as God at all, (so your defenses are bypassed), instead Jesus is portrayed as a beautiful volunteer to carry our burdens.
Yes, some parts were so real, I felt I was looking at Prophet Jesus and yes, I sobbed a few times through the film, which is unavoidable even for a non-Christian to see the pain and suffering of another human paralleled to his mother (Mary) watching her son suffer as well.
Other positive parts of the film were that it was in Aramaic, which if you can speak Arabic, you can understand several words in the film, and one part I was taken aback on was Jesus predicting Prophet Muhammad by saying ‘the helper will come to teach you about “Allah”’ (the Arabic/Aramaic name for God) [Although the overly censored subtitles did not say God, I understood].
I also feel this film will be a good thing for the exterior stereotypes of Muslim men and women. The image of Muslim men; because Jesus is portrayed as a dark haired brown eyed man, as well as his companions, so the myth of a blond haired and blue eyed Jesus is dispelled. Furthermore, it was surprising that Jews in those days wore Islamic caps similar to Muslims today. For the Muslim women, this film reaffirms what modern Christians have evolved into denying, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, wore a veil as well. I would not be surprised if some Christian women revert to wearing veils after this film.
The last constructive aspect of this film is that those who were causing the graphic pain to Jesus were so demonized, that this film may very well lower the rate of violence nationwide. Yes, the message of love was clear in this film as Jesus prayed for his persecutors.
The Cons; Although I went in wanting to see a clean boxing match between Jews and Christians, instead it was overly demonizing Jews, in a “cursing to damnation of Hell” manner, where Judas is chased by demons into his suicide for betraying Jesus and the Jews are surrounded by engulfing fire images after sentencing Jesus to death.
Although I look forward to listening to Gibson’s commentary when the DVD of “the Passion” is released, I would barely be able to stomach or tolerate seeing a man forced to bleed for nearly 2 hours again. The graphic violence added a powerful emphasis on the message like no other Christian film before it, but I believe can be emotionally and perhaps psychologically distressing if viewed more than once.
Lastly, as a Muslim who is active in inviting Jews and Christians to Islam, I believe overall this film is Satanic, yet with the most sincere and divine intentions. As the devil was tempting Jesus throughout the film to loose his faith in God, this film too was tempting to loose my sins in Christ. As we all carry sins, this film was a major invitation to unload your weight on Jesus, as Jesus volunteered to be tortured for our sins in this film so that we don’t incur the torture in Hell.
It is also very tempting to dump garbage in someone else’s property, to blame others for our actions, or to avoid liability. Instead, I will bear my own sins and be accountable for the good and bad I have done in this brief life, and not scapegoat Jesus as I have witnessed why it is so easy to do. Mel Gibson has made the best effort I’ve seen to show how Jesus loved us and died for the sins of the world, and although it is a enchanting thought, it only adds sins to this world because Christians no longer feel responsibility, which is what the Devil wants. Amen.
Mohamed Ghounem is the founder of Jews for Allah and author of200+ Ways the Quran Corrects the Bible.