“Portraying prophet from Persian art to South Park”

An interesting article from the The Times Online:
"Portraying prophet from Persian art to South Park"

While I am not particularly interested in seeing the Prophet (peace be upon him) depicted at all, I do not agree that it should be strictly forbidden.  To the extent there is a prohibition–and this can be debated–it is ultimately a matter of personal conscience.

As offensive and distasteful as I find them on a personal level, my grievance against Jyllands-Posten‘s cartoons is their political message, not the fact that they ignore the traditional Islamic ban.  I don’t expect non-Muslims to observe Shariah.

[See all my posts re: the Danish cartoons on a single, long page.]

  • anonymous

    Hi,
    I am a newcomer to your blog, and have found it quite thoughtful, informative, and (at times) insightful.
    I know nothing about Danish politics (e.g. the political leanings of the newspaper), and so I don’t know how much of a “front” their story on media self-censorship is for actually stirring up xenophobic sentiments. But as opposed to the newspaper’s intention, I do feel somewhat more qualified to assess the meanings of the cartoon(ists). My question has to do with the offensiveness and distastefulness of the cartoons themselves.
    For example, (I presume) the most offensive cartoon is that of Mohammad with the turban as a bomb. This is not, as far as I can tell, a humorous caricature. It is a scary vision.
    If I thought that this cartoon conveyed the message that Islam is a violent and scary religion, I would agree that it is a patently offensive and designed to inflame passions.
    But it seems to me that this cartoon has an equally (if not more) plausible meaning: That those who advocate a bomb-wielding Mohammad advance an illegitimate and scary interpretation of Islam.
    And it seems to me that this is exactly how satire works: Satirical offensiveness provokes a reaction against what has been satirized, shifting debate. A mainstream Muslim in Denmark might be offended by the vision of Mohammad, and think “Hey, Mohammad has nothing to do with bombs!” The offensiveness of the image would derive from its inconsistency with their Mohammad, not from the fact that someone has blasphemously published an image of Mohammad (whether accurate or not). It would reinforce a non-violent Mohammad, and delegitimize the subject of the satire: a violent Mohammad.
    This provocation that satire causes could, if promoted and discussed, shift debate and make it increasingly difficult for fringe clerics to re-create Mohammad in their own violent image. The satire would have worked to reinforce the illigitimacy of their violent image.
    So, my question is: why ignore the satirical content of this political cartoon? Political cartoons have a long history of satire, and most – if not all – could be deemed unpardonably offensive if we lose the ability to distinguish between a satirical treatment, and a literal portrait.

  • http://akramsrazor.typepad.com Svend

    Thanks for the thoughtful feedback, anonymous.
    My short answer is that I believe that, thanks to a nasty brew of cultural hangups and religious misconceptions, a lot of Muslims today DO have a problem undertanding and reacting appropriately to satire, and religiously themed art in general.
    In my opinion, though, Jyllands-Posten made this an attack rather than a parody or critique, so that’a bit of a non sequiteur for these purposes. When you attack, people are going to attack back, and often in overreaction. That’s not unique to Muslims.
    I think a lot of Westerners hold Muslims to standards that they often don’t apply to the West when it deals with Muslims. We stir things up and then same “Shame!” when Muslims react predictably to our actions.


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