The Book of Muhammad – a new musical by the makers of South Park – is taking the world of musical theatre by storm.
Having won over Broadway with record sales and critical acclaim, the satirical show - a larky buddy story about two Muslims chums who go to Uganda in an attempt to engage in dawah to convert the natives - is about to break box office records over here.
The Guardian describes itas “inventive and subversive. A tight, visually popping, roof-raising show”. Amen to that, we say. Consider us converted!
But before we get too carried away, let’s make it quite clear this is a show that does much more than just simply mocking Islam; it celebrates the human need for myths to make sense of the world, even if quite a few Musim myths get a proper kicking: "I belieeeeve," one Muslim character croons in the show, "that God is keeping all the virgins safe until I get to Heaven!"
Nonetheless, Sunni and Shia Muslims are taking a laid back view of the production, as we've come to expect from the followers of the "religion of peace" who have gained an enviable reputation in recent years for their measured and mature reactions to provocation. Rather than burning down the theatre and engaging in mindless mob violence, they have simply and quietly expressed the hope that patrons who see the runaway hit stage musical when it lands in London will also check out the scripture that inspired it.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) which has no involvement in the edgy religious satire, has bought three full-page ads in the Productions program for the show to encourage theatre-goers to read the actual "Book of Muhammad”
"You've seen the play...now read the book," says one ad.
"I've read the book," reads another.
"The book is always better," concludes a third.
Each ad features an image of a smiling Muslim and is anchored by a small image of the sacred text that Muslims believe is the actual words of God and the last revelation to mankind.
"I think most people, when they're going to the musical, they know that they're not going to see an accurate portrayal of what Muslims believe or do," said Yusuf Kelly, national director for the MCBs Public Affairs council.
"The playbill advertisements are really just a way of inviting people that want to know more, showing them where they can get that information”
"I do think that there are going to be some brothers and sisters who will be curious enough to buy tickets but I suspect the majority of Muslims are going to steer clear," said the 34-year-old, who works in communications and marketing and builds websites.
"In general, we don’t go to musicals and tend to avoid entertainment that contains a surfeit of crude, sexual or scatalogical or violent or other vulgar content."
"In addition, this is our faith, or at least the tenets thereof, that are being held up for ridicule, which can be tough to laugh off sometimes, just because there are some things that we hold to be sacred, and when those are mocked it can be difficult," he added.
Still, while "The Book of Muhammad" does have explicit language and satirizes organized religion, "Islam has no interest in being defensive about it," said Kelly
In fact, when the show started running on Broadway, Islam's response was concise and collected.
"The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Qur’an as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to God," reads the official statement on the show.
"It's not the first time that our religion has been mocked or ridiculed publicly, and it's not going to be the last."
"We do have a sense of humour about ourselves but more importantly, I think we aspire to an ethic of Islamic civility in all of our interactions, and I think that includes turning the other cheek. And it is an opportunity to educate, I guess," added Kelly
OH...HANG ON...SH*T - I WAS DREAMING.