Friday, February 03, 2006

Are those beams in their eyes?

An overwhelming part of the Muslim world has been in a rage for a week now over the depictions of Mohammed in a deprecating fashion. The 12 cartoons published by the Jyllands-Posten were the spark for this current controversy though this is not the first.

The source of the rage is the Muslim belief that any depiction of Mohammed or Allah is strictly prohibited. The BBC provided a brief explanation in Q&A format of why this is so, quoting verses of the Koran from which this prohibition springs. So, too, but in a general and unrelated context to this current controversy, did Islam Online in their "Fatwa Bank" with this question and reply on the Drawing and Photography, reprinted in full below:

Question: Is photography allowed in Islam? Bearing in mind that it is not the same as painting or recreating a being, it's rather a capture of image through light and lens.

Reply: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for showing keenness on knowing the teachings of Islam, and we appreciate the great confidence you have in us. We hope our efforts meet your expectations, yet we apologize for the late reply.

With regard to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, answers:

"Photography as a medium of communication or for the simple, innocent retention of memories without the taint of reverence/shirk does not fall under the category of forbidden Tasweer.

One finds a number of traditions from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, condemning people who make Tasweer, which denotes painting or carving images or statues. It was closely associated with paganism or shirk. People were in the habit of carving images and statues for the sake of worship. Islam, therefore, declared Tasweer forbidden because of its close association with shirk (association of partners with Allah). One of the stated principles of usul-u-Fiqh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence) is that if anything directly leads to haram, it is likewise haram. In other words, Tasweer was forbidden precisely for the reason that it was a means leading to shirk.

The function of photography today does not fall under the above category. Even some of the scholars who had been once vehemently opposed to photography under the pretext that it was a form of forbidden Tasweer have later changed their position on it - as they allow even for their own pictures to be taken and published in newspapers, for videotaping lectures and for presentations; whereas in the past, they would only allow it in exceptional cases such as passports, drivers' licenses, etc. The change in their view of photography is based on their assessment of the role of photography.

Having said this, one must add a word of caution: To take pictures of leaders and heroes and hang them on the walls may not belong to the same category of permission. This may give rise to a feeling of reverence and hero worship, which was precisely the main thrust of the prohibition of Tasweer. Therefore, one cannot make an unqualified statement to the effect that all photography is halal. It all depends on the use and function of it. If it is for educational purpose and has not been tainted with the motive of reverence and hero worship, there is nothing in the sources to prohibit it."
So, it is understandable that Muslims are upset at the depictions of Mohammed published by the Jyllands-Posten and outraged all the more so by the deprecating nature of him in many of them. I, myself, am a little perturbed by the mocking nature of them, mild though many of them are. I had been not altogether convinced, however, that Muslims as a whole are honest with their efforts to resist the compulsion to idolize that this prohibition against making images of Mohammed emphasizes. In fact, I felt that this honorable religious tradition was merely being used for their own selfish purposes of making war, verbal and physical, on anyone and everyone who disagrees with their world view.

Having thought about all this, a question came to my mind. What exactly does constitute idolatry in the Muslim world? In keeping with Islam Online's explanation, how broad is the range of that taboo?

Did any of these go too far?

If so, and as Amir Taheri, points out,

The charge includes the cult of personality that Saddam built for himself, thus setting himself as a rival of God in seeking men's devotion. And that, of course, is a form of sherk (idolatry). Saddam could also be accused of having fought against the will of God by triggering wars against Iran and Kuwait and leading his people into decades of suffering and sorrow.

Once again, the punishment in such cases is death by beheading.
it likely does, then where was the worldwide Muslim outrage that would have toppled this regime long ago?

Let's take a look next door. Did these give rise "to a feeling of reverence and hero worship, which was precisely the main thrust of the prohibition of Tasweer" when they're happened upon so frequently in the public square?:

If so, where was the outrage? Why are they still there? Where have the throngs of protestors of this hero-worship been?

Moving west, what should we make of the self-worship of this man?

"To take pictures of leaders and heroes and hang them on the walls may not belong to the same category of permission." I wonder if maintaining pleasant visual symmetry overrides hanging pictures of a mortal on a wall above and not below that of a revered mosque. I wouldn't think so, but I am not a Muslim. (Don't tell me these are the only reverent depictions of Arafat, either.)

Or how about this man?

As one enterprising adventurer has noted while sitting in a hotel lobby with Qaddafi's portrait hanging behind him, "That's everyone's pal there on the wall. The people love him so much they put up his portait everywhere. They just can't help themselves. He is the sun of Africa. At least that's what he says."

I don't think I would be exaggerating to say the hero-worship Qaddafi tries to foster is second only to that of Kim and son. Why have Muslims no beef with that?

Okay, I'll acknowledge these men know they are mere mortals and their only wish is the power of men. Rarely, as far as I can tell from the distance of my little hovel, did I see or read of them cloaking their desires for power in the trappings of Allah and Mohammed. These images hardly provoke thoughts that they are trying to elbow either from the minds of the religiously minded and it might be reasonably said that Muslims didn't take too seriously their egotism. It still doesn't explain, though, why Muslims would tolerate this type of idol worship, second rate as it is, considering their taboo about erecting graven images.

But going back eastward, I cannot help but think that the religious minded have, in their great with Ayatollah Ruollah Khomeini, truly latched onto someone to idolize.

I suppose they could have carried a lot more images of him:

but I've never read of a maximum allowed threshold.

Why do efforts to portray him border on omnipresence:

What's with this channeling of transcendence:

I'd love to know issued the A-OK fatwa for depicting Khomeini's power over Saddam like God's power over Satan:

And last, but not least, I don't care whether the creator of this was thinking of God, Zeus, or just Mr. Billowy Cloud:

all I wonder is whether the powers-that-be have gotten around to lopping this artist's head off, yet.

I didn't even bother to look for the photos and images of paintings, sculptures, and t-shirts to show the degree of worship given to Osama bin Laden. He is Islam's anti-thesis, yet Muslims venerate him. Or maybe it is that they fear his wrath. Like they fear Allah's.

I must say, having heard Muslims speak incessantly about how much Mohammed and Allah represent peace and love but watch how they act because of what their leaders preach and teach, I think Muslims might think about making a lot of images of Mohammed and Allah and ditch the images they have now. It's just a suggestion.

In the meantime, I'll support free speech and Buy Danish.

Posts in this meme:

6) Are those beams in their eyes?
5) tongue of the snake is also called two
4) Bordering on the sacrilegious
3) Let them eat butter cookies
2) Preach the word ....
1) Buy Danish!

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