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Home | 2016 | January

Mohammed: not my prophet

Posted by Thersites on UTC 2016-01-17 13:50. Updated on UTC 2016-02-06

Isn't it irritating hearing non-Muslims use the term the 'Prophet Mohammed'? Isn't it even more irritating listening to the moderators of public broadcasting programmes in the West do the same? Unless they are Muslims he is not their prophet, and even if they are Muslims they should use the religiously neutral form 'Mohammed' (or 'Muhammud' or… whatever).

Non-Christians are not expected to refer to the 'Lord Jesus [Christ]'. Devout Christians might do so, but even they would probably temper their language when speaking in situations requiring religious neutrality (such as news broadcasts) by speaking of 'Jesus' or 'Jesus Christ' or just 'Christ'.

It is true: there are an awful lot of Mohammeds in the world, but in practice I have never experienced an occasion when I would have confused the founder of Islam with the fella in the corner shop. If I wrote on Twitter that 'Mohammed married a nine-year-old girl', Mohammed in the corner shop would not expect a dawn raid – whereas I probably might.

Jesus is not a rare name either, but again, I have never experienced an occasion when I would have confused the founder of Christianity with some South American footballer.

Yet I have the feeling that Hell will freeze over – to use a theological phrase – before Muslims either speak of the 'Lord Jesus' or accept the use of the bare 'Mohammed' for the name of their founder.

As so often these days, western civilisation has voluntarily entered into an asymmetric deference. No one at all – Christian, atheist or Muslim – will complain about 'Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus', whereas the BBC feels obliged to write 'Prophet Muhammad cartoons – right or wrong?'. Imagine the confusion if they had just written 'Muhammad cartoons – right or wrong?'. Er… none whatsoever.

Let's stop this insidious cultural appeasement right now.

If this seems too disrespectful, perhaps we can find a solution in Donald Trump's current campaign for the Republican nomination as their Presidential candidate for the upcoming elections.

As a reflection of his iconic stature he is frequently called 'The Donald'. This epithet avoids all possible confusion with people and ducks. What about 'The Jesus', 'The Mohammed'. We have 'The Buddha' already, so the job is partly done. Unfortunately this helpful and well intentioned suggestion probably belongs in this website's list of hopeless causes, a list growing longer by the day.

Update 06.02.2016

BBC Style Guide Tells Journos: Mohammed Is 'The Prophet', No Mention For 'Son Of God' Jesus
Nick Hallett, Breitbart: The BBC Style Guide (5 Feb 2016)

Under the section labelled 'Muhammad', the guide says: 'For the founder of Islam, our style is the Prophet Muhammad; at second reference Muhammad or the Prophet.'

This advice is repeated in the sections on 'Arabic names' and 'Islam'.

The assertion that Mohammed is 'the Prophet', with a capital P, will likely cause controversy. While followers of Islam believe him to be the last prophet sent by God – Christians, Jews, atheists and followers of other religions do not regard him as a prophet at all.

There are also questions over whether Mohammed and Islam are being given special treatment in the style guide, which does not tell journalists how to refer to significant figures from other religions.

It does not, for example, tell staff to refer to Jesus as 'Son of God', 'Our Lord' or 'The Messiah', nor does it say to call the Buddha by any of his Ten Titles, or offer any advice on how to refer to holy figures from Hinduism or Sikhism.