Thursday, May 20, 2010

Illustrating First Amendment Rights: Truth, Widsom, and Dignity


*Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami' al-Tawarikh (literally "Compendium of Chronicles" but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D. Now in the collection of the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland. (See link for all photo credits.)

So, by now some of you may have heard about the dust-up from recent South Park episodes titled "200" and "201" respectively. If you click on the links or try to find the episodes, *they have been PULLED*.

The episodes were about a group of religious "friends" much like the "Superfriends" who help mere Colorado mortals stave off an attacks from egomaniacal celebrities and a mechanized megamachine affectionately known in the real world as Barbra Streisand.

In reaction to this censorship of our own sovereign country a Seattle cartoonist suggested a "Draw Muhammad Day" protest. She received many death threats, she back-tracked as have thousands of other Americans, Cartoon Network, and affiliates. The episodes at the center of this controversy aren't even being re-run.

Technically, I am not drawing anything, but have reproduced existing historical paintings. I am not condoning those who have drawn offensive and racist depictions of the Islamic figure, either. I know there are *millions* of people of the Muslim faith who are reasonable, passionate, and devoted to their culture and religion who are *not* hostile. To anyone of that disposition, please forgive the morons who cannot express themselves beyond insults.

"It comes as a surprise to find," writes scholar Alexandre Papadopoulo, "that there exists in [the Koran] not a single interdiction against images, paintings, or statues of living beings."

~And~

In 1999, Islamic art expert Wijdan Ali wrote a scholarly overview of the Muslim tradition of depicting Muhammad, which can be downloaded here in pdf format. In that essay, Ali demonstrates that the prohibition against depicting Muhammad did not arise until as late as the 16th or 17th century, despite the media's recent false claims that it has always been forbidden for Muslims to draw Muhammad. (Full text, click here.)

Museums and galleries *around the world* have been threatened, intimidated, and coerced into hiding images of the historical figure created by Muslims *themselves* throughout Persian history.

I mean no disrespect here to people of Islamic faith. But your own history, as written by your *own* scholars, attests to the inaccuracy of this visual ban.


*Muhammad's birth. Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami' al-TawarikhCompendium of Chronicles" but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D. Now in the collection of the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland. (This image can be found online here.)

4 comments:

Riot Kitty May 20, 2010 at 11:56 PM  

Extremists are to be found in all religions - Christians tend to forget this. Like they forgot the crusades, I guess.

skyewriter May 21, 2010 at 10:19 AM  

So true, Riot. So true...

poietes May 21, 2010 at 3:20 PM  

You know, I was going to take on this particular topic along the same veins: existing works of art, but then I got wrapped up in the merry-go-round of rightist righteousness and well, enough said.

I had heard about the woman who proposed the drawing day, and I was wondering how long it would take before people threatened her life.

Which leads me to this: why are people who live in this country, who are protected by freedoms, being reduced to apologists because of the extremists? Logically, I know the answer: they don't care to deal with death threats. But emotinally, this really burns my effing balls.

skyewriter May 21, 2010 at 4:48 PM  

Nicely put, Poietes.

I do think there were some really shitty renderings that showed the less-than-mature side of the debate. It was interesting reading the Islamic-American take on this, too, yesterday and today.

Cheers!

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