Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Danish Cartoons

Several people have talked to me about the Danish Cartoons here in Jordan. I have met muslims who are deeply offended (I got a text message in arabic from my former neighbor giving me a list of all Danish products to boycott) and others who think it is wrong to be so upset about it.

Personally, I feel that any word or picture that spreads hate and bigotry shouldn't be tolerated ... though I would stop short at calling for the heads of the cartoonist! As a westerner, I'm not sure I always understand this rule against showing images of the prophet. I fully admit that I only have a basic understanding of the religion of Islam (I think I would have to get to the level of reading the Koran in the original Arabic to make that claim). Part of this ban against images of the Prophet seems to come out of a deeply held belief that one needs to venerate the message (the word of God) and not the messenger (the Prophet). The Buddha is a good example of this problem ... he'd be spinning in his grave to see that people now worship him like a god. Buddhism wasn't meant to be a new religion, like a new flavour of the month.

I recently saw the movie The Message by Moustapha Akkad on TV here in Jordan. There were two versions made of this movie, one in Arabic and one in English with Anthony Quinn. Moustapha Akkad was a successful filmmaker known in the West more for his Halloween horror films. He was killed in the terrorist bombings here in Jordan last year.

In the movie, the character of the Prophet is never seen or heard on camera ... bowing to this belief that no images of the Prophet should be shown. When he is supposed to be present in the scene, he acts as the camera's eye. There is an interesting scene where Anthony Quinn and others are building a brick wall. Quinn's character (Hamza), talks to the camera, admonishing Mohammed to take rest.

(As an aside, this reminds me of a friend's comment upon seeing Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. My friend was upset by the movie. Her main problem? Jackson's selection of Elijah Wood as Frodo as well as other actors in the movie, just didn't fit with the image in her head for these characters. Having seen the movie, the 'taint' of Elijah Wood would forever haunt her once pure imagination. Perhaps this is another, unspoken reason for not showing images of the Prophet?)

There have been many films and cartoons of figures from other religious traditions. As a Westerner, I have often seen humorous images of Jesus or even God used to make social commentary. We generally don't have a problem with this. Afterall, if God created everything, than "she" created humor as well and you would expect "she" would enjoy a good joke just like anyone ... still, in the case of atleast some of these cartoons today, the humor seems to be vicious and mean-spirited ... and I don't see why these should be printed anywhere.

Yes, speech should be free and if you really want to make images the are hurtful, that's your choice ... but my question is, why would a newspaper want to publish hate?


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