Friday, February 24, 2006

The Cartoon Controversy

A Dubai newspaper, The Gulf News, asked for opinions about the Danish cartoons:

It is now the 15th Islamic century. In the 15th Christian century, all the Christian European nations promised that the artists of any drawings considered irreverent in the slightest would be feted at a big barbeque, called an auto da fé. To my knowledge, there were, at the time, no drawings as obviously disrespectful as some of the Danish cartoons, but some drawings which the artist considered harmless were declared irreverent by the Inquisition and were burned. Along with the artist.

Then came the Enlightenment.

Forward to the 20th Christian century. A few years ago, in Brooklyn, Christians protested at an image of Christ displayed in a specimen bottle filled with urine. The same exhibition also displayed a portrait of the Virgin Mary covered with pornographic images and elephant dung. But the art show, which had already appeared in England, continued, supported with public funds.

Today, Western Christians may not approve, but they sadly expect their secular governments to not only allow, but endorse and sponsor such attacks on Christianity. Liberal Western Christians felt that Islam is very similar to Christianity, and expected that Muslims would respond no more harshly than they themselves would to such exhibitions mocking their religion.

Another problem is that Western Christianity has, for the most part, been iconophilic, while Islam has, for the most part, been iconoclastic. Many Christians venerate (not worship) images of Christ, and of the other prophets and saints. The museums in the Catholic countries of Europe are full of such images. It is difficult for a Christian to understand the concept of iconoclasm.

A few years ago, I was very interested in learning more about Islam, and was delighted to see that there would be a movie about the Prophet (pbuh). Since I had seen many movies about Christ, I was confused that the Prophet (pbuh) never appeared in the movie, we only saw the reactions of his companions as they gazed on him and listened to him. This seemed strange, since movies about Christ almost always show Christ (a few do not, fearing that no image could do Him justice). I asked, and was told, 'Out of respect, we must never show an image of the Prophet (pbuh).' I still found it strange, as do most Europeans. If devout Christians always keep (respectful) images of Christ prominently displayed, why would Muslims be offended by all images of the Prophet (pbuh)? (In fact, the Muslim author Amir Taheri states that Islam does not actually prohibit images, that this is just a misinterpretation of Islam held by many Muslims.) But, as I now understand, the overwhelming majority are offended by such images.

This is an understanding which came rather too late to the Danes.

As Strother Martin said to Cool Hand Luke, 'What we have here is failure to communicate.'


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