Wrestling with Mohammad

March 1st, 2006
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

A Renaissance fresco in a Bologna's Church portrayed Mohammed tortured by Satan in Hell. In 2002 a plot to blow-up the church was foiled.

A Renaissance fresco in a Bologna's Church portrayed Mohammed tortured by Satan in Hell. In 2002 a plot to blow-up the church was foiled.

Nothing hurts as much as truth does and cartoons have a particular ability to get to the truth’s heart of the matter faster, with more wit than other media.

In September 2005, a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten contacted 40 artists and asked them to contribute drawings of how they see a modern Mohammed. Jyllands-Posten responded to a story about a Danish author who couldn’t find illustrators for his book. Five months later, the twelve artists that offered their contribution live in fear for their lives.

I found two of the 12 cartoons funny, several thought provoking, others of poor journalistic quality, but none of them offensive. Journalists by definition tackle subjects that some people can find disturbing or offensive. Journalist’s responsibility is not towards not offending anyone, but to report the truth and challenge the status quo in accord with their conscience.

By publishing these images Danish paper raised an important question: are Muslims able to critically look at ideas expressed in the Koran and discuss the imperfect life of their prophet? And, how far are non Muslims willing to go to subjugate themselves to the Sharia law forbidding portraying, especially criticizing their prophet? What the discussion has focused on recently is whether non Muslim societies choose to discuss these topics and face the Muslim wrath.

A two foot high frieze bas-relief sculpture of Muhammad on the US Supreme Court building.

A two foot high frieze bas-relief sculpture of Muhammad on the US Supreme Court building.

If any Muslim could be offended by a journalist, writer or an artist challenging him to think critically about their religious beliefs- that is to bad.

I felt offended many time as well. Still, I will not kill, burn down or threaten people who do these actions.

I find it offensive that writer Salman Rushdie remains in fear of his life 18 years after he wrote critically about Mohammed. My sensibility is offended every time I see a video of Muslims decapitating a hostage in front of a video camera shouting “God is great.” They are calling to a different God than I do.

I found it offensive to see Palestinian Muslim crowds applauding on the streets as the twin towers fell on September 11. I find it offensive when Islamists blew-up world’s biggest statues of Buddha. I find it offensive for a Muslim to cut a throat of Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh on a street in Amsterdam. I find it offensive for anyone to attempt to intimidate me, boycott me or threaten me to give up my rights to critically analyze any subject.

A Salvador Dalí painting of Mohammad suffering in hell.

A Salvador Dalí painting of Mohammad suffering in hell.

We don’t accept that Hindus, or Christians burn cars in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh where they can’t practice their religion in freedom, but we accept Muslims to be violent, burn embassies, churches (Nigeria, Lebanon), cut-off heads, call to killing of Danes, and kill priests (Turkey). “There just has to be a reason why they do it,” many in the West think and say. “Its something we did.”

Islamists have for decades developed the concept of being victimized and few have called them on it. This strategy that paid off as many people now see Muslims as the oppressed minority… beyond criticism, last it offend.

Still criticism of Mohammad is as old as Islam itself. Mohammad himself ordered a murder of two poets in Mecca who criticized and mocked his actions and Muslims today practice only what their prophet taught them to do.

Mohammad’s preaching, actions and subsequent interpretation of his spoken message attracted criticism in Europe for centuries. Dante portrayed him in eight circle of hell in ‘Divine Comedy,’ as one of the “Sowers of Discord.” More recently Mohammad appeared in TV show South Park and Spike TV’s parody advertisement for an imaginary video game called ‘Holy War.’ In 2002 Mohammed was depicted in a cartoon, published through the US print media, driving a truck equipped with an atomic bomb. The Middle East didn’t fallow with the boycott of American goods.

A 2002 Mohammad cartoon  published thought the US media.

A 2002 Mohammad cartoon published thought the US media.

Despite the focus on Islam’s clash with the West, free societies are challenged by Islam all over the world: in Thailand, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Georgia. There is a growing fear amongst artists and journalists to criticize or even analyze Islam. “Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear,” wrote Albert Camus. Succumbing to the fear, to false understanding of religious correctness, there is a danger of appeasing Islamists to the point that we lose our own freedom. [/private]

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