In Iran it’s totally cool to show images of Mohammed as long as the portrayal is “respectful”. They even have a museum in Tehran with a few famous paintings of him. Hell, here’s an Iranian film from last February about Mohammed as a child. (Iran in particular is known for having a really strong film tradition, with some notable directors you probably haven’t heard of if you don’t care about the stuff that wins awards at international film festivals. Depicting Mohammed isn’t, like, the most common thing ever, but him appearing is not really remarkable.).
Generally, I understand that whether it’s okay to show Mohammed is generally considered a Sunni/Shia doctrinal difference, but even within both and within various subsects of those, there are large degrees of variation, from ultra-orthodox “no depicting people” to “no depicting the form of Mohammed” to “it must be respectful” to, I’m sure, a few “I want to satirize my own religious figurehead” people.
That said, the “no depicting Mohammed” viewpoint seems to be the norm, roughly speaking, and is retained largely in Sunni Western culture (that is, American/British etc Sunnis), so it’d probably be read as disrespectful if you tried to make a film about Mohammed.
It definitely varies wildly, though, the country of Saudi Arabia has a single movie theater. At least it’s an IMAX. Though there are a few films made with the involvement of SA nationals, and some people definitely do watch things on DVD/digital video/etc there, so please don’t take that to mean that nobody in Saudi Arabia has ever seen a film or anything like extreme like that, it’s just that there appears to be no market for theaters for whatever reason (or at least nobody has bothered exploiting that market). Exactly how much of that is inertia or failure to capitalize on opportunity, and how much that ties into local religious and cultural mores is something I’m not qualified to answer. Maybe someone asked and they just said “Najd, we’re good, man.”*
I’d wager that, except perhaps for the very narrow “depictions of Mohammed” issue, it’ll probably go the way of Christian iconoclasm eventually. It seems to be moving that way already.
- If you’re only going to take one thing away from my post, please let it be that terrible pun.