Film aims to clarify much exploited religious message

A controversial new short film sets out to show why no Muslim has the right to accuse another of being a non-believer.

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ABU DHABI // A controversial new short film sets out to show why no Muslim has the right to accuse another of being a non-believer.

The six-minute video is called Ya Kafer (O non-believer) – an intentionally provocative title that the man behind the film, Mohammed Al Sakkaf, believes is necessary to attract the attention of audiences.

Takfir, or accusing another of apostasy, was “like a fever within society” – used by extremist groups as an excuse to kill and destroy, Mr Al Sakkaf said.

The video, released on Tuesday, aims to clarify its real meaning, rules and regulations. It highlights the consequences of takfir, Mr Al Sakkaf said. “For instance, a Muslim who officially becomes a non-believer, is divorced from his wife, is not buried with Muslims … this is not a small matter.

“It is unclear to people the weight of that word and its consequences.”

Ya Kafer says no one has the right to stigmatise individuals, groups or sects as non-believers. Even judicial and fatwa authorities do not have the right to take action against someone who publicly announces that they are a disbeliever, before discussing the issue with them rationally or if there is any hope of their repenting.

The film quotes a hadith by the Prophet Mohammed, denouncing a man who starts to practise religion, learns the Quran and then accuses his neighbour of non-belief.

Dr Hessa Lootah, a professor of media at UAE University, said it was important to address, through visual communication, the roots of issues that were a concern for many age groups.

However, Dr Lootah said it was not enough for a production to have noble intentions: there should be more creativity in influencing the subconscious of viewers with the desired message, instead of relying on hard facts.

Mr Al Sakkaf agreed that the tone of his film could be dry to some viewers, but the point was to display solid content visually in a short period of time.

“If we abide by market demand, we cannot produce a solid scientific product.”

Abdullah Al Suwaidi, 27, a government employee who watched the promotional trailer, said the video came at a crucial time. “We find different illegitimate organisations spreading takfiri ideals and norms that are far from Sharia or true Islamic beliefs.”

Young people who saw such videos would be more aware and knowledgable, he said. Because young people were being targeted by extremist groups, it was important to provide a platform for accurate Islamic information.

Ya Kafer is the fourth documentary film produced by Sanad network, an initiative by Tabah Foundation, a non-profit organisation that encourages responsible Islamic discourse.

* This article has been amended since it was first published.