February 13, 2006

Pretentious PBUHs

Larry notes that many Western news outlets have begun referring to "the Prophet Mohammed" instead of plain old "Mohammed" in their reports.

One thing is certain: it's not due to a heightened sensitivity toward all the world's religions. Otherwise, we'd be seeing similar references to "the Son of God Jesus Christ" or "the Creator Brahma."
A ways back Andrew Sullivan linked to the BBC informational "Religion and Ethics" page on Islam, noting that the deference shown by including the abbreviation "pbuh" (for "peace be upon him") after each mention of the name Mohammed is an odd move for the usually scrupulously secular BBC. (The deference is undeniable, and it's certainly over-the-top, but to be fair the Christianity page, to which Sullivan compares it, does contain statements like "this history of Christianity is focussed on the life, death and resurrection of one person, Jesus Christ, the son of God." And writing of beliefs as though they are true is a common and entirely defensible rhetorical or narrative method when discussing belief - anyone who has ever read much Religious Studies will recognize it. Including "it is thought by believers that" every time a matter of belief is alluded to can be cumbersome and ungainly. Including "pbuh" after each mention of the name Mohammed does go far beyond rhetorical convenience, though.)

At any rate, I'm not sure it's only deference, or fear of being bombed, stabbed, or otherwise murdered that that's at play here, though that may be a factor: it's also a kind of trendy multicultural pretension. (Remember in National Lampoon's European Vacation, where Clark Griswald hands the family matching berets so they will "fit in" in Paris? Same sort of thing.) Anyway, the page has since been "cleaned up," though weirdly, it still includes a few pbuhs. The original pbuh-rich cached version is here. For the full effect of the absurdity of this pretentious rhetoric, you have only to imagine a BBC accented voice reciting this text on a news broadcast; for instance, try the accent of David Frost (who may be doing it in real life by and by - who knows?)

I know Jews who render the word "God" as "G-d," and of course I respect their tradition and their reasons for doing so, as I respect the traditions of the faithful Muslims who use "pbuh." I don't share the tradition, and it would be crazy (and condescending and pretentious) for me to adopt it myself, but it's part of history and culture and civilization: the world is a rich, weird and fascinating place, as they say, I wouldn't vote for trying to make it less rich, less fascinating, or less weird even if I thought it possible. It would certainly be a whole different kind of strange, though, if the New York Times started printing "G-d," or inserting "praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, Lamb of God and Savior of the World" in parentheses every time there was a mention of the historical Jesus. Of course, they'd never do that, and I guess that's kind of the point.

(I know I've set myself up for a full-blown Arya University attack here, and I almost decided it wasn't worth posting on this subject at all for that reason; but then I cracked myself up doing the David Frost accent thing and I found I was powerless to resist sharing it with the world, for good or ill. It's a weakness of mine, I know...)

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 13, 2006 07:46 PM | TrackBack

Larry alleges, based on Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (PBUH) knows what, that the entire mainstream media has, in "near-unanimous" fashion, started referring to Mohammed as "the Prophet Mohammed."

While I'd see no problem with this even if true, contrary to Larry's claims, I have not observed any such deferential behavior towards Islam, in the manner described by Larry, on behalf of the Western media.

Therefore, until Larry provides evidence to support his statements, his claims in this regard cannot be considered credible.

Posted by: Morgan Shuster (The Artist Formerly Known as Aryamehr University) at February 13, 2006 08:39 PM

about half of the world's male Muslim population is named Mohammed. Adding "the prophet" is probably useful in being clear about who a story is about.

PS I heard a reporter on CNN repeatedly say Elijah Mohammed when referring to the prophet. Ignorance abounds.

Posted by: drydock at February 13, 2006 09:09 PM

Now correct me if I am wrong, but "Christ" was not the dude's last name.

Posted by: josh at February 13, 2006 10:23 PM

Josh (peace be upon you), next you'll be telling me that his middle initial wasn't "H.", either.

Posted by: Wesley at February 14, 2006 12:17 AM

Another problem with trying to conform to people's beliefs when they're not your own is that you have to somehow figure out what sect to side with. Not everyone thinks pbuh is the way to go:

Posted by: davebug at February 14, 2006 12:24 AM

When did we all want to start regarding blasphemy as a crime or subject to censorship or something that just ought to be avoided? That would be a serious step backward here in the West.

Posted by: slickdpdx at February 14, 2006 01:14 AM

In sticking with drydock, "Mohammed is the most common name in the world," is one of those useless bits of trivia thrown around all the time. It certainly is the most common name among worshippers of Islam, and people named Brahma, Jesus Christ, or God really aren't all that common to my knowlege (yeah, I know Jesus is popular Hmong hispanics, but not Jesus Christ). So "the Prophet" would seem a practical convention, even if its not intended as such, while "pbuh" is just, well, silly.

Posted by: DNM at February 14, 2006 01:56 PM

I see no harm in paying respect to a prophet by appending pbuh to his name. He's not one of the Christian prophets but the Islam religion respects and recognizes Jesus as a prophet as well. I suspect all the hub-bub has been raised by some angry Jews who believe in neither Mohammed nor Jesus. Who's right? We'll know eventually......

Posted by: Zaphod at February 14, 2006 02:13 PM

Nothing like a little anti-semitism thrown in for good measure.

Posted by: chris riordan at February 14, 2006 03:20 PM

Chris Riordan:

Is alleging any unfairness, prejudice, or wrongdoing on the part of Jews anti-Semitism?

Posted by: Morgan Shuster at February 14, 2006 04:00 PM

I am not one to define such things for the masses, but if you are asking what fits my personal criteria for anti-semitism, blaming problems that have nothing to do with Jews on Jews with absolutely no basis or logic, is anti-semitic.

To answer your guestion directly, and in a word, no. If a Jewish guy cheats at monopoly and you call him unfair, that doesn't make you an Anti-Semite by definition. If the guy who cheated at Monopoly was a buddhist though, and you insist the Jews made him cheat through telekinetic suggestion, I would say you are an anti-semite and fucking crazy to boot.

Is it okay to blame things on Jews but not on Muslims?

Posted by: chris riordan at February 14, 2006 04:11 PM

Oh man! It's starting again...

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 14, 2006 04:30 PM

I don't think it ever stopped.

I tell ya, I was a little rattled to read that you almost engaged in self-censorship to avoid the University's commentary. These Muslims, if they don't shut you up with a sword or bomb, they will irritate you into submission.

For my part, I will refrain from ever arguiing with him on your blog if you are getting sick of this crap. We can take this to the email!

Posted by: chris riordan at February 14, 2006 04:44 PM

Public instigator #1 at your service ;)

Posted by: Zaphod at February 14, 2006 04:51 PM

Yeah, Zaphod, I kind of got the impression you were joking. I was kind of joking when I made my comment, too. It is almost scary how quickly the U. came to defend your slur, though; he posted that before i clicked off dr. frank's page and i only paused to make a quick phone call. it's like he's monitoring... monitoring...

For the record, "Chris Riordan" is a fake name. My real name is David Meldrum and I live in Toronto.

Posted by: chris riordan at February 14, 2006 04:59 PM

Chris and Zaph (and even you Arya Shuster): go ahead and have at. But be aware that irony or sarcasm doesn't always play well in these comments threads. I have no idea why that is, but it's true.

I was thinking about this just yesterday in a totally different context. I have realized that in my attempts at wheeling and dealing (feeble though they may be), self-deprecation, irony, and good-natured sarcasm aren't the best way to go, because there will always be people who will take what you say literally, either because they're a bit dim, or because they're smart enough to feign the inability to understand your meaning as a way to score points. But if I were to strip away the irony from my personality, there would be almost literally nothing left. So I don't know what to do. Why am I cursed with such contemporaries?

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 14, 2006 05:23 PM

I don't know why people are the way they are, but I do know Irony Man would make for a good comic book.

I get into a lot of trouble by writing sarcastically, I think it's because people normally rely on nonverbal communicative hints to convey that they are being sarcastic - even if they don't realize it.

Posted by: chris riordan at February 14, 2006 05:33 PM

Meh, it's just a forum and it's not like what we say will change the world for the better or worse one way or another. I guess this is an avenue where sarcasm and barbs can supercede the PC World that we are forced to live in today. I mean, I would never poke fun at the Jewish faith in the workplace for fear of unemployment or even wose yet, litigation. I'm rather sad that there is rioting, killing and such things going on over a Mohammed-bomb cartoon.

Posted by: Zaphod at February 14, 2006 06:59 PM


Asked and answered. Wierd, I read that this morning.

Posted by: josh at February 14, 2006 10:22 PM

I thought you said, "You're alright, Spider".

Posted by: Tim at February 14, 2006 11:33 PM

All I know is that if Bush REALLY WAS Hitler, there'd be a big building with Muslims going in one end, smokestacks in the middle, and Soylent Green coming out the other end, and the whole PBUH thing would be moot.
Look, I'm just sayin'...

Posted by: Stigfink at February 20, 2006 05:37 PM