Prophet Mohammed

Islamic civilizations in Toronto

 Readers will enjoy this piece about the new Aga Khan Museum, in Toronto. It's the first institution in North America devoted to what the museum calls  the “artistic, intellectual, and scientific heritage of Islamic civilizations.” (Note the plural -- civilizations.)

The Wall Street Journal says the museum has "300 or so items on display date from the eighth through the 19th centuries and come from as far west as Morocco and Spain and as far east as India, Indonesia and China, with Egypt, Turkey, Iran and other lands in between.''

The institution sh0ws the diversity within Islam -- something that's particularly important to do in these difficult days.

The Aga Khan, a descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, is the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims.

Llewellyn King: Islamic masses, leaders are enablers of barbarity

A dark shadow passed over Paris, the City of Light, on Jan. 7 .  Well-organized, well-trained killers murdered 13 people in the name of Allah. As Shakespeare said 500 years earlier, about the heinous murder of King Duncan by Macbeth, “O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee.”

Indeed, recent horrors in the name of Allah have been so gruesome it is impossible to conceive the mutilated reason, the perverted concept of God’s will, and the unvarnished rage that has subverted the once admired religion.

The killers are ruthless and depraved, but those who inspire them are evil and those who tolerate them are guilty.

In 2005, when a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed and riots were stirred up against the publishers, a meeting was arranged at a community room in the basement of The Washington Times. It was not organized by the newspaper but, as I recall, by an interfaith group. There were several fringe “let’s be nice” speakers before the main event.

The main event was the Danish ambassador and, to a lesser extent, myself. The ambassador spoke about life in Denmark and what the Danish government would do to understand and listen to the concerns of the Muslim community. My role was to defend and explain the Western concept of freedom of speech and the place satire. The overflow audience, which by dress and appearance was dominated by emigrants from Pakistan, was implacable.

I have spoken to some hostile audiences in my time, but this one was special: no compromise, no quarter. Nor interest in cultures other than their own. Ugly and insatiable rage came out in their questions.

They did not want to know about the values of the country that had given their brethren sanctuary, education, healthcare and a decent life. My audience only wanted to know why the blasphemers in Denmark and Norway (the cartoons were reprinted there) were not being punished. For good measure, they wanted to know why the American media was so committed to heresy against Islam. No thought that they had moved voluntarily to the United States and were enjoying three of its great freedoms: freedom to assemble, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

They wanted absolute subjection of all Western values to the dictates of Islam. They had been fired up and they were angry, self-righteous and obdurate.

In 2009, I was invited to a conference of world religions in Astana, Kazakhstan. There were maybe 100 religions present, but at a featured session the conference degenerated into an Islamic diatribe against sexuality and the treatment of women (mostly in advertising) in the West. No dialogue. No discussion. Absolute certainty.

I mention this because of the reaction to the barbarity in Paris, and to a string of other barbarous murders across the world, from Muslims has been so muted.

Je Suis Charlie” said millions of people in dozens of countries in sympathy with the murdered journalists and with their fight for press freedom. From Muslim leaders in the West, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the United States, there were statements of condemnation but no sense of outrage. From the bulk of the followers of Islam there was nothing. There never is. Not when innocent children are shot in their schools, or when aid workers are beheaded, or when or when satirical journalists are executed. The Muslim multitudes have acquiesced to evil.

When will those who believe deeply in Islam take to the streets to denounce the excesses of the few? After the horror in Paris, British Muslims took to the BBC to mildly criticize the murders, but more to vigorously demand a better deal for Muslims in Britain.

The medieval certainty of the leadership of Islam is endorsed by the silence of its congregants. The silence of the millions gives a kind of absolution to the extremists, intoxicated with fervor and hate. It will all go on until the good Muslims stand up and are heard. The guilt of silence hangs over Islam.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is



Linda Gasparello Co-host and Gene

Paul F.M. Zahl: Movie offers guide to Harvard Black Mass


"Order and chaos'' (mixed media), by LYNDA CUTRELL, at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, June 1-29.


As a Harvard grad and an Episcopal minister, I am dismayed by the prospect of the university's sanctioning a Black Mass for tonight (May 12), within Memorial Hall.

But what I really want to megaphone to all concerned is this: Wake up, Harvard (not to mention the Satanic Temple of New York City), and watch more horror movies!

You could all spare yourselves a lot of trouble if you watched more horror movies. Specifically, you need to see that unregarded but rich Hammer horror film from the early 1970s, entitled Dracula A.D. 1972. For those who care, and this writer cares very much, Hammer Studios in England produced dozens of luridly wonderful horror movies from the late '50s through the early '70s. These immortalized such U.K. character actors as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Fans of these movies tend to regard the instantly dated Dracula A.D. 1972 as the nadir of Hammer's output. But in light of what's slated to happen today in Cambridge, Mass., it's risen to the top of my list.

This is because Dracula A.D. 1972 anticipates in detail a scenario that has already unfolded. To wit, the villain in the movie, whose made-up name in the story is 'Johnny Alucard' (the surname, of course, is ''Dracula'' backwards), looks, dresses and talks like the spokesman for the Satanic Temple of New York City. Secondly, he keeps telling his gullible young friends in the movie to ''Keep cool, birds'' -- the script is deliriously filled with faux-Flower Child and Swinging London colloquialisms. "This happening I'm asking you to jive to is just a stunt. Just a bit of fun, mates."

To their acute misfortune, members of "Johnny Alucard's''' circle believe him when he says: "This is just a re-enactment."

The movie's staging of the Black Mass itself is extremely well done. The director, Alan Gibson, is sure-footed in the blocking and the angles; and during the Mass, which takes place in a ruined Memorial-Hall-type building, a deconsecrated church damaged during the Blitz, in World War II, the movie gets serious. The elements of a real Black Mass are all there, just as they will be, presumably, this evening in Cambridge within the once hallowed walls of the university's memorial to its Civil War dead. The parallels between now and this absurd but tight English movie are breathtaking.

Finally, the church comes into it. But not priest, not bishops, not archbishop.. Rather, old-fashioned religion comes in to Dracula A.D. 1972 through the person of an aging physician named ''Lorrimer Van Helsing". (Who ever thought of that first name? The writer should have been knighted on the spot!)

Anyway, ''Lorrimer Van Helsing'' strides into the movie, an old man poignantly concerned about the well-being of his impressionable niece. (His niece has come under the spell of ''Johnny Alucard".) Fortunately for her, her uncle intervenes, with cross and stake, and Jessica van Helsing is saved.

This is a classic instance, which occurs often in English horror and sci-fi movies, in which wise members of the older generation are the only ones who know enough to save clueless members of the younger one. (Usually, the character actor Andre Morell played these roles, though John Mills did once, too.)

I wish that Harvard University officials would go straight to Barnes and Noble, and buy their very reasonably priced copy of Dracula A.D. 1972. It's in all the stores as I write. (Target, too.)

A personal note in conclusion: Three times during my ministry in the Episcopal Church, I was forced to get up close and personal with Satanists. Somehow they succeeded in inveigling members of our parish youth group in Westchester County, N.Y., to take part in a Black Mass.

They "staged" this on the grounds of a country club up on the Hudson. Two of the young participants -- and I had to clean up the bones of living animals that had been sacrificed during the service (and had to change the locks on the parish sacristy because Communion wafers were being stolen) -- were scarred indelibly by what they were lured into doing. I never of them smile again.

I also got to know a languid old trust fund Satanist, who lived in London and had the most beautiful personalized Satanic stationery.

Harvard, wake up! Buy this movie and watch it. And it may not be quite as campy as it first appears.

The Rev. Paul F.M. Zahl is an Episcopal minister and a theologian.

Addendum by Robert Whitcomb: So will we see the Prophet Mohammed in drag in the next Hasty Pudding Show at Harvard, or indeed portrayed in any public way on Harvard's campus as less than perfect? Or course not -- and not because of any particular respect by a mostly secularized Harvard community but because of the physical fear of offending followers of a religion a few of whose adherents are famously violent.

Fear is a key ingredient of hypocrisy.