Most comments about the Danish cartoons of Muhammad assert that Muslims believe it is completely taboo to depict him, period. But is the ban on depicting the prophet really so severe? At
From the Middle Ages on, Muhammad has appeared in Western art not in frequently–in drawings, paintings, book illustrations, comics, advertisements, and on the covers of books and magazines, including arecent issue of Le Nouvel Observateur.
Muhammad has been portrayed by the cartoonist Doug Marlette and has appeared on South Park. And get this: Muhammad appears on the North Frieze in the courtroom of our very own Supreme Court! He's the man withthe scimitar, between Justinian and Charlemagne.
Some of this art is respectful; some fanciful and playful; some satirical or even crude and vicious. Only once, however, has any of it seemed to bother believers: in 2002 police uncovered a jihadist plan to blow up the church of San Petronio in Bologna, site of a fresco by Giovanni da Modena showing Muhammad being tortured in Hell (this scene,from Dante's Inferno, was also depicted by Gustav Dore, William Blake,Auguste Rodin and Salvador Dali).
I don't know where exactly this clarification takes us. Maybe I'm just irked by lazy pundits who talk about the global uproar as if everyoneshould have known this is what happens when you draw Muhammad: Naturally, believers would go round the bend!
But wait, a solution may be at hand to this whole clash of civilizationsthing. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly which reprinted the Muhammad-mocking Danish cartoons, says it will publish cartoons satirizing the Holocaust. I guess they didn't want to be upstaged by Iran, where President Ahmadinejad an announced a a contest for Holocaust-mocking cartoons. (This is an advance on his previous position, which was to deny the Holocaust occurred. Now, it happened, but it's funny.). At last Muslim fundamentalists and free-speech-loving Europeans have found common ground: Anti-semitism!