Thursday, February 02, 2006

The treason of images?

As the BBC News reports, it seems that much of the world is agog over the controversy of several European papers printing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad. Guys with guns are demonstrating while guys with armies are sending envoys. What is very important and not at all clear from the reports is whether the cartoons merely depicted Muhammad or, whether, they were actually derogatory towards the Muslims. I suspect that the problem is that a number of Muslims think them derogatory while the Europeans just do not see it that way. I guess a first approximation test would be to imagine how we’d react if someone depicted Christ in much the same way. It is only a first approximation test, however, given the Muslim prohibition against depictions of Muhammad. Which makes me wonder why they’d see that prohibition as also applying to non-Muslims – the Jews don’t try and stop non-Jews from eating pork pies or Oysters Kilpatrick.

All in all I can not help but think two things. The first is a sense of amazement that, given the mess that the Middle East is right, anyone there would be bothered enough by cartoons in some European papers to threaten to murder anyone. The second is thinking that this is another example of why religious beliefs are not something that that we can afford to hold on to when we have the capacity to utterly annihilate our species – they are simply another thing that make us unable to be open to debate and compromise.

In the end, I wonder what the reaction would be if someone did a Magritte take on Muhammad and painted a picture of Muhammad and then wrote on the picture “This is not Muhammad”.


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