About that Ban on Drawing Muhammad... | The Nation


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About that Ban on Drawing Muhammad...

Most comments about the Danish cartoons of Muhammad assert that Muslimsbelieve it is completely taboo to depict him, period. But is the ban ondepicting the prophet really so severe? At Zombietimeyou can view dozens of images of the prophet, including some from theMuslim world: medieval Persian miniatures; a portrait of Muhammad as ayouth by the contemporary Iranian woman painter Oranous (okay byShi'ites because he wasn't the prophet yet); posters being sold in Iraqright now.

From the Middle Ages on, Muhammad has appeared in Western art notinfrequently--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 hasappeared on South Park. And get this: Muhammad appears on the NorthFrieze 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; somesatirical or even crude and vicious. Only once, however, has any of itseemed to bother believers: in 2002 police uncovered a jihadist plan toblow up the church of San Petronio in Bologna, site of a fresco byGiovanni 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 justirked 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 theMuhammad-mocking Danish cartoons, says it will publish cartoonssatirizing the Holocaust. I guess they didn't want to be upstaged byIran, where President Ahmadinejad an announced a a contest forHolocaust-mocking cartoons. (This is an advance on his previousposition, 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!

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