Muslims Drew Muhammed

Many people will have you believe that any depiction of Muhammed is unacceptable to Muslims. In 2005, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets and demanded that Denmark, a free and independent Democratic country, violate its own constitution and laws to shut down a newspaper. In South Africa, Muslims demonstrated and tried to prosecute an artist for publishing a cartoon with a normal depiction of Muhammed saying “other prophets have a sense of humor”.

A fairly recent study showed the following about mainstream opinion on freedom of speech in Britain:

Seventy-eight percent [of British Muslims] support punishment for the people who earlier this year published cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed. Sixty-eight percent support the arrest and prosecution of those British people who “insult Islam.” When asked if free speech should be protected, even if it offends religious groups, 62 percent of British Muslims say No, it should not.

We get the point. Drawing Muhammed is blasphemous. It’s insulting. It’s so offensive and dangerous that it’s irresponsible to do it. It might even be justifiable to prosecute people for it. And it might not be fair to the majority of Muslims who are peaceful, law-abiding citizens of the world.

But what about the hundreds of depictions of Muhammed made by artists throughout the centuries?

Medieval Muslim artists often created paintings and illuminated manuscripts depicting Mohammed in full. Several examples are presented here. Other artists of the era drew Mohammed, but left his face blank so as to technically comply with a sporadically enforced Islamic ban on depicting the Prophet.

As we obviously see, such depictions haven’t been thrown away or burned. In fact, many of them are in collections in many museums. The following is one of the better known ones, housed in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

Nobody is protesting in Paris, of course. Because the whole idea is silly. This whole controversy is silly because religion is silly. Muslims don’t know the mind of God any more than Christians or Jews or Hindus. They don’t have any divine knowledge about what is permissible or impermissible according to a divine being (Allah) who has never showed himself, and who hasn’t provided any evidence for his existence.

Muslims can draw Muhammed, and they’ve done so repeatedly in history, without much controversy. They can name their teddy bears Muhammed. They can use art and cartoons to criticize religion. They can make a film about it. Unless they show evidence or good reasons for a supernatural being interested in intervening in the art market, I’ll stick to this position, and you should too.


Posted on May 19, 2011, in Humanism, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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