Monday, March 15, 2004


before i go into the details of what i thought about "the passion of the christ" which c and i went to see on saturday night, let me shamefully admit first of all that i've never really been too familiar with the bible. or any other holy book for that matter, including the qu'ran (and i call myself a muslim). let me also digress a bit to explain the background of my religious/spiritual beliefs.

the reason i call myself a muslim is because i grew up a muslim; by default of course, having been born to parents who are both practicing (but not fanatical) muslims. while living in the states during our childhood, we (my sister and i) were told not to eat pork, we celebrated eid instead of christmas, we were told that our god was allah, and that we were muslims. and to this day i don't eat pork and i'll be the first to admit that it's a 100% psychological phenomenon. i don't believe i've ever consciously indulged in anything pork related, but the thought/sight of it makes me turn up my nose in disgust and the smell of it makes me nauseous. and that just can't be helped.

i am not, however, what most would call a practicing muslim. i pray to allah, in my own way. i don't pray five times a day, nor do i fast during ramadan. but i still believe in allah, and muhammad and the fundamental basics of islam (which i happen to think are really not that different from the fundamental basics of any religion). there was a short period of time in my life when i lived in bangladesh, when i somehow became uber religious: i prayed five times a day, started to learn to read the qu'ran from an arabic teacher who came to our house once a week, fasted everyday during ramadan, etc. i was headed towards the path of being a good little muslim girl at the tender age of twelve.

but then something happened. i started to develop critical thought.

for those of you unfamiliar with muslim prayers, they involve a variety of ritualistic stances and sayings and motions, and the sayings are all mostly verses taken from the qu'ran, in arabic, which i had to memorize (and did). but soon i started to question why i was memorizing verses in arabic and learning to read the qu'ran when it was clearly in a language that i didn't understand. why should i have to learn arabic in order to read the qu'ran? and why should all my prayers be in arabic when i have no idea what the hell i'm saying in my prayers? why was islam so biased towards the arabic language? i didn't get it.

so instead i started praying in my own language. i would talk to my god in english sometimes and other times in bengali depending on what was at the tip of my tongue. and i knew that my god understood what i was saying no matter what language i used.

so you see, the foundation for my beliefs come from islam. but my spirituality is what brings me comfort on a daily basis.

i do believe in god and i do believe that all the prophets were living beings whose lives were spent spreading religious thought. but muslims don't believe that jesus was the son of god; muslims believe that he was one of god's prophets, like muhammed (who was the last prophet). and while i've dismissed and accepted a variety of the teachings of islam based on my ability to think critically, i've somehow managed to hold on to that belief all along.

so when c and i went to see "the passion..", i was a bit skeptical about how i'd feel about the whole "son of god" aspect of jesus' life. but i knew not to go into it thinking everything portrayed would be the absolute truth. and frankly, i felt a little nervous about the blood and gore aspect of the movie, as most reviews were so adamant about revealing.

but as soon as the movie started, all my inhibitions left me and i found myself very deeply focused on the story being told.

according to c, the entire movie was pretty much depicted right out of the bible. there weren't any surprises (save for the hellish torture that led upto the crucifixion). but to me, a lot of it was a history lesson, again, because i wasn't familiar with the bible and it's stories. and while i didn't cry at all during the movie, i have to say that the torture inflicted on jesus was heart, mind and gut wrenching.. all because he was feared by a group of people for gaining popularity and being able to heal the wounded. ok, so maybe it wasn't quite that simplistic.

but i have to admit that i didn't come away from the movie thinking it was in anyway anti-semitic. i didn't come away from it feeling like jews were 100% responsible for crucifying jesus. in fact, if anything, i think pontious pilate (sp?) had a lot more to do with the actual crucifixion than anyone. he was given the authority to make a decision and he chose to save his own life and avoid an uprising, instead of saving jesus, whom he obviously (based on his portrayal in the movie) believed to be a holy man. and i don't care if he washed his hands of it.. he gave the order and then jesus was crucified.

as for the depiction of jews wanting nothing less than death for jesus.. i have to be completely honest here and say this: you could've put any power hungry religious or political group in there to replace the jews and i think they would've done the same thing. we're talking about a time when "whores" were stoned to death and so-called heretics were burned at the stakes. there was a group of people who feared jesus because of his abilities and his growing popularity and felt threatened by him and therefore wanted him dead. bottom line. insert religious/political group (from that era) of your choice [here] and i tend to think the outcome would've been the same. that's just the nature of power hungry religious/political groups.

and of course that's just my opinion.

while i was disappointed that jesus was depicted as a white man, i was pleased that most of the extras and several characters (including some of the disciples) were indeed people of color (persian, arabian). i also appreciated the fact that the movie was entirely in hebrew with english subtitles. and i truly did enjoy the movie. it was educational for me and inspired long hours of fantastic post-movie discussion between c and i. i don't know that all that credit should go to mel and his movie, but i'm glad i saw it.

the movie didn't change my life, nor did i even fathom it would, and i'm by no means giving up islam, but at least i now know more about jesus christ than i did before. and that's all jood.