Once upon a time, Hollywood producers and studios routinely consulted with Christian pastors and church denominations for script approval on virtually every new film.
Today, they are more likely to consult with Muslim imams and Islamist pressure groups to determine if their movies are appropriate for release.
A new report from the Express Tribune, with the International Herald Tribune, last week said filmmakers working on projects depicting the U.S. Navy SEAL mission to Pakistan to kill terrorist Osama bin Laden are having second thoughts.
“Filmmakers in Hollywood are terrified of inciting further retribution against America over a string of new films showing the U.S. mission,” the report said.
The report said at least “one fearful studio has asked an Islamic cleric to vet its script.”
“Senior executives at another studio have entered into intense briefing sessions with the U.S. State Department officials to minimize or expunge any content which otherwise might be viewed as offensive.”
The report follows the violence that erupted throughout the Muslim world on the anniversary of 9/11, purportedly over an extended trailer for an anti-Islam film called “Innocence of Muslims.”
The White House blamed the video for inciting Muslims who carried out the terror attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
The film also has been cited by various Muslim leaders as a reason that Americans should curb First Amendment rights and impose penalties on people who defame Islam.
The Express Tribune report said the concern has gotten so high that several current film projects are under scrutiny.
Intelligence sources say the Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others was an orchestrated terror attack, probably by an al-Qaida affiliate, and had nothing to do with the film.
Nevertheless, the Express report said, filmmakers are worried that fundamentalists could target cinemas where the films are playing, with one admitting: “We are even asking if we dare release anything on this subject.”
Hollywood, which in its early years often reflected the values of mainstream Christian faith in America, in recent years has taken a turn away from that practice, releasing movies that uninhibitedly mock Christianity, such as “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “The Da Vinci Code,” Bill Maher’s “Religulous,” “The Golden Compass” and “Hounddog.”
Ted Baehr, founder of Movieguide, told WND that there are all sorts of influences in Hollywood, both good and bad.
His organization regularly offers advice about how to treat Christians and Christianity accurately on the screen.
“We do as much as we can,” he said.
His organization also regularly recognizes the faith components of films and honors the best at its annual Faith & Values Awards Gala.
He also monitors the industry, reporting regularly that movies with wholesome family values usually produce the best financial return.
But Islamic interests also have been observing Hollywood. It was a little over a year ago that the AP reported the Muslim Public Affairs Council launched a series of workshops to try to influence movie makers.
Another project was called Muslims on Screen and Television.
“The idea is to really give Muslims an avenue to tell our stories. It’s as simple as that. There’s a curiosity about Islam and a curiosity about who Muslims are – and a lot of the fear that we’re seeing comes from only hearing one story or these constant negative stories,” Deana Nassar, MPAC’s Hollywood liaison, told AP.
AP reporter Gillian Flaccus wrote, “With any luck, Hollywood will listen.”
She quoted Ahmos Hassan, a Muslim-American talent manager who has been in the business for more than two decades, saying the industry has taken more interest in telling “authentic” Muslim stories in recent years.
“There’s a demand for Muslim stories, but whether it’s Muslim writers or not depends on the talent they bring to the table,” Hassan, who owns Chariot Management, told AP. “They need to bring that to the industry … and I think the industry is open to it now, more so than any time before.”
The groups already have offered consultation to TV series such as “Bones,” “24,” “Lie to Me” and “Aliens in America.”
Earlier this year, the New York Post reported a story that reflected some of the confusion in Hollywood about faith.
Sean Stone, son of director Oliver Stone, reported he converted to Islam, but finds it compatible with Judaism and Christianity.
“I am of a Jewish bloodline, a baptized Christian who accepts Christ’s teachings, the Jewish Old Testament and the Holy Quran,” he said. “I believe there is one God, whether called Allah or Jehovah or whatever you wish to name him. He creates all peoples and religions. I consider myself a Jewish Christian Muslim.”