PBS’ “Islam”: Slanted View of History has Modern Implications

RL preface to Lazar’s post: Elias Bickerman, one of the great historians of the last century wrote the following:

    Communities “cannot survive the present without knowledge of the past… Thus, a historian can serve his group either by falsifying the past or by telling the truth about it. Dishonest history can ruin the group, and ruins the historian himself.” When Bickerman wrote this in the 1973, he still lived in an age when historians lied to strengthen their own group and demonize their enemies. Now we know better: our historians think they tell the “truth” by whitewashing hostile forces.
    I recently viewed the 2001 PBS documentary Islam: Empire of Faith. I was immediately struck with how uncritical the series was, sounding more like an advertisement for the religion than an honest inspection of the history of Islam. The overarching argument of the program was that the West and Islamic culture are similar traditions that share common heritage and values. The implied commentary on the modern world was barely concealed.Much of the series rightly praises Islam’s contribution to math, arts, and the preservation of classical knowledge. While Europe languished in the Dark Ages, the Islamic world was a relatively progressive, innovative civilization that valued learning, whose standard of living was higher than that of Christiandom.
    But the creators of Islam ignore the controversial aspects of Islamic history.The documentary covers Muhammad’s time as an arbitrator in Medina, siege of Mecca, and focuses on his pardoning of the defeated Meccans.

    Muhammad’s early followers are presented as poor victims of pagan Meccan persecution. There is no mention of the Muslim’s attacks on Meccan caravans as a means of subsistence, drawing the Meccan attack. The battles between Muhammad and Mecca are presented as a struggle between a peaceful, innocent montheistic movement and a pagan power attempting to silence them.

    Discussing the victory of Muhammad over the Meccan tribes, one of the experts says:

    “In the very founding of the religion, one finds episodes of great generosity, often extraordinary acts of kindness, mercy.”

    Muhammad’s brutal treatment of Arabia’s Jewish tribes is totally omitted. There were three major Jewish tribes in Medina (Yathrib) in Muhammad’s day. After the battle of Badr (624), the Banu Qainuqa tribe was expelled from Medina. A similar fate awaited the Banu Nadir tribe after the battle of Uhud (625). They were accused of plotting to kill Muhammad and cooperating with his enemies. The tribe escaped to the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, where they joined with the Meccans in besieging Muhammad in Medina. After his victory, Muhammad sent a delegation to the Nadir chief Yusayr ibn Zarim asking him to a meeting where they could work out an alliance. After a fight along the way, Muhammad’s messengers fell upon the Jewish chieftains and killed 29 of the 30 men.

    The Banu Nadir tribe came to a violent end under Muhammad. After the battle of Khaybar in 629, Muhammad had all the Banu Nadir men beheaded and the women taken by the Muslim men. According to the Muslim historian Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad ordered the torture of Banu Nadir treasurer Kinana ibn al-Rabi, who knew the whereabouts of a certain treasure. Al-Rabi was then beheaded, and Muhammad took his widow Safiyya as a wife.

    After the battle of the Trench in 627, the powerful Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe fell under Muhammad’s sword. The men who would not convert were beheaded, the women and children enslaved (Sunan Abu Dawud- Book 38, Number 4390).

    As one of the featured experts explains,

    “The idea that Muslims were going across the world saying, ‘Convert, or die,’ is really not accurate-not at all.”

    The slant of the documentary is similarly evident in the treatment of the Dome of the Rock. The city of Jerusalem is described as holy to Christians and Jews, but the Temple Mount is not. But the expert’s enthusiasm for the mosque is overt-

    “What’s extraordinary about the Dome of the Rock is how perfect it is.”

    The closest mention of the site’s importance to Judaism is a mention that “it is holy to Abraham and Isaac”. Beyond that, the construction of a mosque on another religion’s holiest site is described only in glowing terms-like ‘perfect’.

    Islam drives home the message in the final segment. The series finishes thus:

    Islam and Western civilization have the same roots…in the fertile crescent, the monotheism of the Jews and Christians, the mutual culture of the ancient Greeks. The two traditions are kindred spirits- alike, yet very different…”

    The PBS website has a more balanced view of Islamic history, but the documentary reached far more people.

    The documentary, through an uncritical view of the past, uses history to make a case for how its creators want the West to behave and think today.

7 Responses to PBS’ “Islam”: Slanted View of History has Modern Implications

  1. Eliyahu says:

    by the way, the Dome of the Rock was copied from a Byzantine church, also octagonal in form, called the Kathisma. Remnants of this church have been found between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Most likely, the builders were local Christians, probably still speaking Aramaic and Greek at that time. The Dome is built over a huge rock called by Jews the Rock of Foundation [Even haShetiyyah]. In popular tradition this rock was supposed to lie under the actual Temple building. Apparently the PBS’ experts didn’t want to mention that rock.

    It is outrageous that PBS’s “experts” didn’t mention the Temple Mount as the site of the two Jewish temples.

  2. S. Weasel says:

    Seriously, if you have to go back to Medieval times to find a positive contribution your religion has made to world culture, isn’t that sort of…pathetic?

  3. Michael says:

    PBS = Palestinian Broadcasting Station

    I have no idea why you would expect anything approaching balanced from PBS. Their track record is abysmal.

  4. […] PBS’ “Islam”: Slanted View of History has Modern Implications […]

  5. Bruce Kodish says:

    Muhammad , a power hungry thug, scavenged bits and pieces of Judaism and Christianity and Arab idol worship to elevate himself to ultimate power.

    Islam, a doctrine with blood and conflict and intolerance at its core, was built on Muhammad’s fakery and violence.

    We must remember that not all Muslims are terrorists…but also that the Muslim terrorists are the ones who remain closest to the original deadly doctrine:
    “I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah.” –Muhammad’s farewell address, March 632

    We are all in for a long and bloody fight for survival. PBS shows like this are deadly propaganda for one of the bloodiest, most intolerant doctrines that has ever existed on planet Earth.

    May G-d help us!

  6. Seymour Paine says:

    Just for the heck of it, I sent to PBS.ORG and looked for Islam. Before I got into their stuff on it, they had a link for a test to see what religion is best for you. So, I took the test. Lots of so-so questions, but when you’re finished and give them your email address, etc., you get a page which says:

    Complete the information below to learn more about living with Bipolar Disorder and later on asks:

    Are you currently taking Seroquel?*

    What a sleazy organization.

  7. fp says:


    by all indicators the fight for survival is pretty much lost. and to be honest with you, the west does not deserve to survive, it commits suicide.

    there is, though, poetic justice. let all the lefties live as dhimmis under sharia, and let allah take care of the planet.

    god, a human invention to help man cope with the infantile fear of death and pain, has nothing to do with it. if one existed what happens would not have ever happened. so if we’re gonna rely on god salvation, we’re finished.


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