Just when we thought it was safe to focus on real people struggling to work, keep warm, to stay housed and be fed, despite a war, religion steps forward to cry vengeance and create a fantasy threat of heaven or hell.
The apparently worse than indifferent film (20% on Rotten Tomatoes), ‘Lady of Heaven’. brings a 7th century theocratic blood feud to the door of the 21st century. It’s alleged sectarian blasphemy has led to militant protests leading to its withdrawal by major cinema chains across the UK.
We’ve see this before with the film ‘The Message’ in the ‘70’s; Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ in the ‘80’s and numerous attacks of journalists and publishers culminating most recently in the bloody attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in 2015. That the accusation of ‘blasphemy’ is the ubiquitous tool of cruel extremism was amply demonstrated by the ISIS Caliphate who infamously, on day one of their occupation of Raqqa in 2013, executed a 14 year old coffee seller for telling some holy warriors he ‘wouldn’t give you a discount even if you were the prophet himself’.
The plot of this film is perhaps secondary to the plot of Islam’s historic schism following the death of Muhammad in 632. For orthodox Sunni (meaning tradition) Muslims, the spark of divine revelation, the ‘last testament’, existed only with him. For the Shia, ( meaning ‘party of Ali’, husband of the prophet’s daughter Fatima, the subject of the offending film) it continued through the descendant’s of his bloodline who were robbed of their succession to the Caliphate by his companions.
This is what makes the film different, it is not a clash of Islam and the west, but a more intractable clash of rival Islamic traditions. Islam has no Reformation or Renaissance awaiting it. The word literally means ‘submission’ and orthodoxy IS devotion on either side of the divide. The reason there are millions of good Muslims, as there are in any political, religious, or Ideological constructs, is that those who are subjected to it, the overwhelming majority, neither choosing nor in control, determining nor benefiting, bring their innate humanity to mitigate against it.
It is for this reason no accident that after 4,000 years of organised religion, all have a common variant of the ‘Golden Rule’: ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself’. A minor victory against the theocratic tower of oppression.
The conflict initiated by this film is firmly rooted, long-standing, and set to last as long as states, religions and priesthoods exist. Let us be very clear, we are no way anti Muslim and take on the bigots wherever they organise. We are consequently however unapologetically submission loathing!
It is not for anarchists to lecture people how or not to worship. It is the role for anarchists to demonstrate through the practical implementation of an egalitarian and classless society through social solidarity, that the need for religious mystification and the conflict they cause no longer exists.