Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

There's no rule against portraying Mohammed

I got a very thoughtful (and polite) comment on my blog from a writer who, while profoundly disagreeing with the violent Muslim response to the cartoons, noted that they go to a core prohibition in the Islamic religion -- namely, portraying Mohammed. That's a pretty good argument, because it's doctrinal, and separates these images from the vile anti-Semitic pictures Arab countries routinely promulgate. The latter are disgusting incitements to violence, but they're not religiously blasphemous. It turns out, though, that all of us may have been led down the primrose path insofar as we accepted the claim that there is an absolute doctrinal ukase against making visual representations of the prophet. As others have pointed out, of course, there is a vast body of images of Mohammed going back hundreds of years. The fact that people -- even the faithful and respectful -- do something, however, doesn't mean it's religiously authorized. The existence of such images, therefore, while interesting, is not conclusive. In a Wall Street Journal Opinion article, however, Amir Taheri explains that there is, in fact, no doctrinal prohibition against images of Mohammed:

The Muslim Brotherhood's position, put by one of its younger militants, Tariq Ramadan--who is, strangely enough, also an adviser to the British home secretary--can be summed up as follows: It is against Islamic principles to represent by imagery not only Muhammad but all the prophets of Islam; and the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. Both claims, however, are false. There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else. When it spread into the Levant, Islam came into contact with a version of Christianity that was militantly iconoclastic. As a result some Muslim theologians, at a time when Islam still had an organic theology, issued "fatwas" against any depiction of the Godhead. That position was further buttressed by the fact that Islam acknowledges the Jewish Ten Commandments--which include a ban on depicting God--as part of its heritage. The issue has never been decided one way or another, and the claim that a ban on images is "an absolute principle of Islam" is purely political. Islam has only one absolute principle: the Oneness of God. Trying to invent other absolutes is, from the point of view of Islamic theology, nothing but sherk, i.e., the bestowal on the Many of the attributes of the One. The claim that the ban on depicting Muhammad and other prophets is an absolute principle of Islam is also refuted by history. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers.
Taheri then proceeds to list numerous historic images of Mohammed (and the Wall Street Journal bravely includes in the article a beautiful Persian-looking print of Mohammed). Tahiri also takes apart the "never laugh at the Prophet" meme on the Arab Street:
Now to the second claim, that the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. That is true if we restrict the Muslim world to the Brotherhood and its siblings in the Salafist movement, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. But these are all political organizations masquerading as religious ones. They are not the sole representatives of Islam, just as the Nazi Party was not the sole representative of German culture. Their attempt at portraying Islam as a sullen culture that lacks a sense of humor is part of the same discourse that claims "suicide martyrdom" as the highest goal for all true believers. The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade. Both Arabic and Persian literature, the two great literatures of Islam, are full of examples of "laughing at religion," at times to the point of irreverence. Again, offering an exhaustive list is not possible. But those familiar with Islam's literature know of Ubaid Zakani's "Mush va Gorbeh" (Mouse and Cat), a match for Rabelais when it comes to mocking religion. Sa'adi's eloquent soliloquy on behalf of Satan mocks the "dry pious ones." And Attar portrays a hypocritical sheikh who, having fallen into the Tigris, is choked by his enormous beard. Islamic satire reaches its heights in Rumi, where a shepherd conspires with God to pull a stunt on Moses; all three end up having a good laugh.
So, not only is this riot a manufactured phenomenom aimed at terrifying the West, it's also based upon some fundamental lies about the nature of the Islamic religion -- lies that are easy to promulgate because our MSM lives from one press release to the next, without any knowledge nor any wish to acquire knowledge as to the subjects on which it reports. Talking to Technorati: , , , , , ,