Just a Little Common Sense

For a life based on reason, ethics, literature and art.

Mohammed Cartoons

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Mid-1700s, by German artist Johan-Jacob Haid

German depiction, mid-1700s, by Johan-Jacob Haid

The fuss about depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad doesn’t seem to die down. A couple of weeks ago it was sparked again by an Episode of South Park depicting the prophet, that triggered protests and death-threats from muslim extremists. There are two points I have to make. The first one has been made by a huge number of people already, but I’ll have to say it again: It’s just a cartoon. A drawing. A picture. Try to keep a little perspective. It doesn’t matter what rule you brake in drawing it, it is still only a picture. Lighten up.

Afghan depiction of Muhammad, 1436

Afghan depiction of Muhammad, 1436

The second point is less common, and that’s because the fact is both little known and largely ignored – Muhammad has been depicted before. I am not talking about the 2001 episode of South Park, “Super Best Friends” (which did not stirr protests, nor cause censorship or threats of violence) – He has also been depicted countless times by medieval artists, both muslim and christian. Throughout history, it doesn’t seem to have been any trouble at all. I get the impression that the people so offended by depictions of their prophet don’t have a clue about the history of their own culture. The picture of the right-hand side stems from the book “Apocalypse of Muhammad”, written 1436 in Afghanistan. It is still intact, free of censorship and on public display in the French National Library in Paris, without a doubt only because hardly anybody who isn’t a student of classical art from the middle east has ever heard about it.

In the sidebar, I provided a link to a great site called The Mohammed Image Archive, which lists an immense number of depictions of the prophet, both classic and modern, including recent responses to the controversy and the oh-so-offensive Jyllands Posten cartoons that sparked it.

Not only is this site culturally interesting, it also helps to shed a new light on the ignorance and intellectual dishonesty of the people who think it’s appropriate to set fire to the embassies of a peaceful democracy over images published in a private(!) newspaper.


Written by Phil

May 16, 2010 at 20:38

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