“Islam: Empire of Faith” Program aired on public television May 8, 2001, 8-10:30 p.m. (Chicago, WTTW) -- By: Bassam M. Madany

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:1 (Winter 2002)
Article: “Islam: Empire of Faith” Program aired on public television May 8, 2001, 8-10:30 p.m. (Chicago, WTTW)
Author: Bassam M. Madany


“Islam: Empire of Faith” Program aired on public television May 8, 2001, 8-10:30 p.m. (Chicago, WTTW)

Bassam M. Madany

In his foreword to Bat Ye’or’s book, The Decline of Christianity Under Islam: from Jihad to Dhimmitude, Jacques Ellul was concerned about what he called the “Dhimmitude of the West.” He was referring to those Western writers and intellectuals who would adopt self-censorship when dealing with Islam. Such a behavior is similar to that of the Jews and Christians who came under Islam in its early days. The conquering Arab Muslims called them, Dhimmis. This status conferred upon them the freedom to practice their religion on the condition that they refrain from any criticism of Islam. Furthermore, they were not allowed to propagate their faith; and once a Dhimmi embraced Islam, he could no longer go back to his former faith. Apostasy was punishable by death.

I could not help thinking of these words of the late French Protestant scholar when viewing a Public Television production, “Islam: Empire of Faith.” The majority of the speakers and commentators are Western, and are associated with such institutions as the Saint Louis University, Columbia University, Boston College, and Edinburgh University. At several intermissions during the two-and-a-half-hour show, we were informed that the documentary was being made available “through viewers like you.” I doubt the veracity of this statement. How could such a lengthy program, that took us to

three continents, covered more than a millennium of world history, showing the viewers a multitude of people in movement, as well as great architectural monuments, have been realized through the mere contributions of viewers?

At this point, someone may question whether I am eligible to undertake a review of “Islam: Empire of Faith.” After all, I am an Eastern Christian. How could I be free from the prejudices that my people have harbored regarding Islam ever since the conquest of their homeland in the early seventh century? I admit that I am not entirely free from some bias. But it is not a bias that has no legitimate and reasonable foundation. Furthermore, I do have the credentials to make an assessment of this documentary. I lived a good deal of my life in the Middle East. I experienced some of the great upheavals that took place in that area in the aftermath of World War II. Even after moving to North America, I kept up my studies of the history of the Arabs and of Islam, both in Arabic and in English. My credentials are just as valid as those of the speakers who contributed their comments on “Islam: Empire of Faith.”

As the show proceeded, I felt I was watching a...

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