In “Islam: The Untold Story” (UK channel 4) Tom Holland, the famous historian and writer presents something that should have been explosive in nature to most people in the West (and the East) today; the notion that Islam was invented (or rather – created) to serve the geopolitical changes in the world at the time of the Arab military expansion. In this documentary one does have the feeling that while this is some kind of common standard notion regarding Islam in the historical academic circles the wider audience had not been introduced to this idea yet.
Tom Holland is a fantastic writer, he delivers historical facts about the ancient world like a very small selected group of writers, and has the ability – and the knowledge – to present to his reader the world as it was thousands of years ago. He is a sharp and intelligent writer, a passionate historian of the best kind – the one who does not let go until he gets satisfying facts, and his criticizers should know that they are confronting a scholar that has nothing in mind but the search for the truth, he is no Islamophobic hate monger or a Saudi backed academic.
It is almost amazing that such an educated man would not know what kind of storm would follow his suggestion, it is virtually impossible to criticize Islam in any way, in any form and on any platform, the rage and death threats that follow each publication of any notion about Islam that is out of the conventional is a testimony to that. It must have been clear to Holland that such anger would follow, and it looks like he prepared for it by interviewing Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr (professor of Islamic studies, George Washington University) who quickly and in a dry manner slaughters any of Holland’s ideas (this is roughly 5 minutes into the documentary) by saying no non Muslim can understand the historical roots of the religion, end of story. Holland gets back to good Dr Seyyed to get his blessing just before the program closes, and asks how should he present his arguments to the public, to which he gets a fluffy, foggy, “honesty is good” type of answer.
And indeed, once the show was on it got it fair share of rage and anger, as anything Islam related does, with the regular and boring “outrage” believers feel when confronted with a thoughtful and deep research presented by a scholar who knows much more about their origins than themselves. The foundation of faith are not to be shaken, even if those foundations might be built on political lies and deception 1,400 years old.