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February 14, 2006

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Sebastian: the first picture you put in is, bar none, my all-time favorite Persian miniature. I love it.

No relation.

And did you see Fafblog? (Variations on a theme. I thought of putting it up here, but it was the same day I put in a whole big chunk of Glenn Greenwald, and I thought there were limits to my pilfering.)

"Sebastian: the first picture you put in is, bar none, my all-time favorite Persian miniature."

Actually I did "Mohammed in Desert" in Microsoft Paint. Oh you mean "Miraj". [face reddens]

:)

"Time is the fire in which we burn".

Good post.

And just so this thread doesn't get too boring, I read that some art historians believe that many pictures of Mohammed with his face blanked out originally had a face, but that the art was changed later. Anyone know of a good comprehensive look at that? Are the two that I posted examples of that?

You absolutely have to read the comments to that Fafblog thread, btw. I'm particularly fond of this (linked) one:

http://docbug.com/blog/archives/000535.html

Also:

"Metablasphemy!" says Giblets. "It is sacrilegious and pretentious!"

needs to enter the public lexicon.

quite well done from an Islamic aesthetic, Sebastian. Geometrical abstraction is at the heart of Islamic arts and architecture.

May I make the observation that your depiction of the Prophet SAW - while certainly to me, a respectful and utterly non-inapproiate one - would become instantly and completely objecctionable and insulting if you were to add a little sword to the side?

Consider that its not the face thats the issue.

My very spotty recall of the Torah tells me that the "flaming face" is one of the attributes of Yahweh in his appearances to humans.

So this is weird. Mohammed is entirely and exclusively human, since there is no Allah etc. etc. But we can't just depict the guy as any regular Joe on the street, because that would be idolatry. However, we can disguise his face by giving it a divine attribute, and that's not idolatry.

Excellent point, Tad, and welcome back. I think I've seen you a few times here in the last few months, but I wanted to thank you for your gracious response (which I'm clear that I wasn't at all entitled to) to my private email to you lo these many months gone by.

I'd guess that the face-blanking was done to avoid having Mohammed worshiped as if he were a deity. If I recall correctly, Islam sprang out of polytheism (if you can call it that; I have no idea if there was some interlocking, organized system of deities or if it was just pick your own), and I suspect that Mohammed was acutely aware of the possibility that he might become transformed into yet another one. Whether he left any sort of instructions in this regard I have no idea.

Some might argue that that in fact did happen with Jesus in Christianity, but that's another conversation altogether.

One of the sad things about this is that those complaining seem not to know that drawing Mohammed with his face obscured has a long history

This article backs that point up, but draws a different (and I think more correct) conclusion. (I don't necessarily agree with all of his other points.) The fact that there isn't really an observed ban on drawing Mohammed isn't an indication that Muslims are stupid so much as that this whole dustup isn't really about theology or blasphemy. It's about a bunch of people feeling personally insulted by a cartoon that was intended to deliver exactly such a personal insult.

However, we can disguise his face by giving it a divine attribute, and that's not idolatry.

Makes about as much sense to me as the Holy Trinity. Or Hell.

"It's about a bunch of people feeling personally insulted by a cartoon that was intended to deliver exactly such a personal insult."

I don't even agree that original cartoons were initially directed at giving insult (at least in focus), but even if so, it's about a bunch of people feeling personally insulted by a cartoon and reacting dramtically and inappropriately by

A) Using violence to protest a cartoon;
B) Holding the government of a country responsible for the actions of a small company in publishing a cartoon;
c) Holding individual members of that country personally responsible even if they had absolutely nothing to do with it such that kidnapping threats and death threats to random Danish people in the Middle East was thought ok in response to a cartoon;
D) Creating and spreading around cartoon depictions of Mohammed that actually were deeply offensive in order to stoke the fires.

By the way, is that last act sort of like treating the prohibition against suicide as an optional rule when using suicide bombers against infidels?

JP: It's about a bunch of people feeling personally insulted by a cartoon that was intended to deliver exactly such a personal insult.

I can't find a single thing in Aslan's analysis to disagree with.

Really, the actions of the several cartoonists and the actions of the different sorts of protesters are entirely separable from a moral standpoint. Each is potentially objectionable to a different degree and for different reasons.

Some of the cartoons might not have been obviously offensive. Some were clearly offensive to devout, nonviolent muslims.

The protests include objections to the cartoons themselves, calls for editors to be fired, calls for boycotts against the nations involved, calls for the papers to be shut down by law, calls for the deaths of the cartoonists and/or editors, calls for the kidnapping or death of citizens of the nations involved, destruction of property, and violence against human beings. Lumping all these things together is as stupid as is lumping together a cartoon endorsing a racial or religious stereotype with a cartoon commenting on the ensuing furor.

I'm not shocked that extremists in the region in question protest violently. The violence should be denounced, of course, but it is nothing new in itself. What surprises me is that there are so many in the west, across the political spectrum, who are willing to pretend that ethnic or religious caricatures are somehow morally justified by the violent acts of extremists, and that those who do not support the violence are nonetheless acceptable collateral damage in this war of ideas.

I think the examples of Islamic depictions of Muhammed are somewhat misleading. For one thing, there aren't that many. Two, they are usually Persian or Turkish/Ottoman (the Shia are a little less strict on aniconism). Three, they are closely related in historical period, mostly preceding the rise of Wahhabism or Salafism in the early 19th century.

If you could find a bunch of SA, Syrian, Egyptian depictions; or if from a nation and culture famous for pictorial art, you could find a bunch of Indian/Mogul representations, I would start to become more convinced.

I am not, of course, defending the rioters, Sebastian. My point is that this episode, while a negative thing, might not raise the huge "clash of civilizations" concerns that people like Josh Marshall have been worrying about, or at least not to the degree that they've feared. It's a lot more mundane than that.

Gromit, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with what RA has to say about the press's responsibilities to promote unity, harmony, etc. I'm not sure I disagree with it, but I'm not sure I agree either. The part of my comment that you quoted was about the part of RA's article that I did agree with.

JP, I take him to mean that it is irresponsible for the press to promote viewpoints that are based on notions of cultural/ethnic/religious superiority, not that the press should abrogate its other duties in that pursuit.

We might have an opening: can you whip up a dozen more for a solo exhibition, Sebastian?

;-)

Heh, don't be cruel. Though I am good and coming up with fun names for works. My roommate paints. You should see the one I called "Crack Whore Peacock".

Hmm, I wonder if there is a niche market for "Artwork Entitler"? I can see it now. Artist: George Glass
Title: Sebastian Holsclaw.

Maybe it would have to be an underground thing. Years later as a footnote to some art book my contribution to the art world could be revealed. (Very) minor scandal ensues.

"Artwork Entitler"

I'm stealing that. Very poetic.

And here, I thought Sebastian was against entitlements.

The cartoon outrage comes at a very convenient time for the Saudis (shortly after 350 pilgrims die in Mecca) and the Egyptians (right after a major ferry accident involving, yes - you guessed it - pilgrims). This is a manufactureed crisis that has taken on a life of its own.

The paper that originally published the cartoons did a bad thing, but the people who rioted and those who encouraged them did much, much worse. We do not owe anyone respect for their religious traditions. All we owe them is non-interference in the practice of their faith.

Anyone here besides me old enough to remember the hoorah over the movie biopic "Mohammed, Messenger of God," made and released back in 1976?

The creators and producers were themselves devout Muslims, and meant the movie to be a celebration of the Prophet. In keeping with the prohibition against showing the Prophet Mohammed, scenes in which he appeared were shot from his pov. The nearest they came to showing him was a shot of him pointing with his walking staff - and even that only showed (IIRC) his arm - and (also IIRC) one shot of his hand pointing to the distance.

It caused a ruckus. Lots of protests, denunciations - and, idiotically, some hotheads decided to occupy a B'nai B'rith office in D.C. (see wiki entry, below), apparently on the assumption that "the Jews" had to be behind the sacriledge somehow. But I don't recall massive riots, burnings, or anyone getting badly hurt, much less killed.

Here's the skinny from wikipedia:

[S]ome cinemas still received threatening telephone calls from those who thought that the film offended Islam by portraying the Prophet in a physical way, even though Mohammed is not shown on screen. On March 9, 1977, a group of Black Muslims, led by Hamas Abdul Khaalis, seized several buildings and took 134 hostages in the District of Columbia.[1] While their actions were related to a sectarian dispute within the Black Muslim community, one of their demands was to prevent the release of Mohammad. One of the terrorists specifically said "he wanted a guarantee from whole world it will never be shown" or they would execute some of the hostages.

While Akkad offered to show the film to the terrorists, and even said he would burn it if they hated it, the damage had already been done. The film was widely panned by critics and became a box office flop, although it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Score."

And this sad addendum (I wondered whatever became of the man who made the movie):

Mustafa Akkad, and his daughter Rima Akkad were killed by Muslim extremists in the 2005 Amman bombings while they were attending a wedding celebration in Jordan.

Doesn't say whether that was related to the movie.

"Anyone here besides me old enough to remember the hoorah over the movie biopic 'Mohammed, Messenger of God,' made and released back in 1976?"

With great clarity. I don't even have to look up "Hanafi Muslims" to remember how to spell it (I'm betting).

"But I don't recall massive riots, burnings, or anyone getting badly hurt, much less killed."

Um.

(DC) Report on situation at District Building 1 of gunmen tells NBC News on phone that he's number 3. Gunfire has occurred; 1 cnclman., Marion Barry, injured along with 2 others; 1 man killed. [DC police information officer Charles COLLINS - describes apparent events on take-over of building]
REPORTER: Charles Quinn

(Studio) As far as known, groups have 2 complaints: (1) that Black Muslims convicted of mass murders of Hanafi members in 1973 be taken from prison and delivered to them; (2) are angry with regard to movie "Mohammad, Messenger of God."
REPORTER: David Brinkley

Similarly, plenty of other sources and cites one can check. (Having made my bet, I checked the spelling, and then reading the above comment, pulled a cite re injury and death.)

I probably should have included:

(DC) Details with regard to mass murders of Hanafi members in 1973 in Washington, DC by Black Muslims from Philadelphia noted. Today Hanafi Muslim accuses Black Muslims of taking money and philosophy from Zionists. Reporter spoke to Abdul Aziz by telephone and asked him if he was aware movie with regard to Mohammad had been closed. [Abdul AZIZ - is aware of it, but must have guarantee from whole world it will never be shown or people will die and it's no charade; says he's like man in Indianapolis who wanted guarantee.] Aziz doesn't directly confirm 3 groups in Washington, DC are members of sect.
REPORTER: John Hart

(Studio) Interview with movie's producer and director Moustapha Akkad noted. Producer is Muslim and says Black Muslims who've seen film raved about it, but he'll show it to Hanafis and if they don't like it he'll burn it; denies depiction of prophet Mohammad in film.
REPORTER: John Chancellor

And it's worth mentioning that Moustapha Akkad was among those blown up in the wedding party/hotel bombing in Amman, Jordan, in November. (I added Lion of The Desert to my Netflix queue when a subscription was donated to me a couple of months ago -- along with 450+ other films and documentaries, to be sure.)

Sorry, you mentioned this already, Casey: "Mustafa Akkad, and his daughter Rima Akkad were killed by Muslim extremists in the 2005 Amman bombings while they were attending a wedding celebration in Jordan."

I'm trying to watch Boston Legal at the same time. Apologies. (And I have to reload this page 3 times, of course.)

Hmm, I wonder if there is a niche market for "Artwork Entitler"? I can see it now. Artist: George Glass

Not only is there a niche market, there's an actual game show in NYC called "Name that Painting" where you can earn big money naming the paintings by Mark Kostabi...see here http://www.markkostabi.com/

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