PARIS — A French magazine published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday, brandishing its right to free speech amid global tensions over a movie insulting to Islam.
In response, the French government ordered embassies and schools to close Friday in about 20 countries and tens of thousands marched in Lebanon in protest.
The move by the provocative weekly Charlie Hebdo followed days of violent protests from Asia to Africa against the film “Innocence of Muslims” and turned France into a potential target of Muslim rage. Up to now, American government sites have drawn the most ire since the film was produced privately there.
Violence linked to the amateurish movie, which portrays the prophet as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, has killed at least 30 people in seven countries, including the American ambassador to Libya.
The French government ordered its embassies and French schools abroad to close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a precautionary measure in about 20 countries. It immediately shut down the French Embassy and the French school in Tunisia, which saw deadly film-related protests at the U.S. Embassy there last week.
In the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets Wednesday, chanting “Oh America, you are God’s enemy!”
Nasser Dheini, a 40-year-old farmer, said he was angry over the anti-Islam movie and the French caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
“Freedom of opinion should not be by insulting religions,” Dheini said, carrying his son Sajed, 4, who was dressed in camouflage military uniform.
Because we here at FA are rather shameless and irreverent, here ya go, folks:
This isn’t the first time that the French magazine has provoked and awed:
Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy over its handling of the issues relating to Islam.
Last year it published an edition “guest-edited” by the Prophet Mohammed that it called Sharia Hebdo. The magazine’s offices in Paris were subsequently fire-bombed in what was widely seen as a reaction by Islamists.
Charlie Hebdo‘s latest move was greeted with immediate calls from political and religious leaders for the media to act responsibly and avoid inflaming the current situation.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a statement expressing his “disapproval of all excesses.”
The magazine’s editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, denied he was being deliberately provocative at a delicate time.
“The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?” he said.
“I’m not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn’t go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe.”
Dalil Boubakeur, the senior cleric at Paris’s biggest mosque, appealed for France’s Muslims to remain calm.
“It is with astonishment, sadness and concern that I have learned that this publication is risking increasing the current outrage across the Muslim world,” he said.
“I would appeal to them not to pour oil on the fire.”
Depicting Muhammad in art, even if rarely done, still has a long history in Islam. The belief that you can’t draw or depict Muhammad’s likeness because if you do, you are insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad is somewhat of a recent, modern convention than a traditional one.
Washington Times, Feb 2006:
Muhammad has been portrayed in the work of revered Muslim artists and of such Western figures as William Blake, Auguste Rodin and Salvador Dali—as well as the creators of the cable-TV cartoon series “South Park.”
Many of the best-known Islamic portrayals of Muhammad are miniatures done in the 14th and 15th centuries by mystical Persian artists who argued that their small, imperfect efforts could never be taken for the actual prophet, and thus were not blasphemous.
The famous “Book of the Assumption of Muhammad,” thought to have been painted around 1436 in Herat, Afghanistan, shows Muhammad mounted on a human-headed horse being led by the Archangel Gabriel on a tour of Paradise and Hell. The original is in the collection of the French Bibliotheque Nationale.
Even more plentiful are miniatures showing scenes from the life of the prophet with his face and hands covered or his features purposely obscured.
Examples of respectful depictions by Muslims, where Muhammad’s face is blurred and obscurred; sometimes hidden in flames:
ZombieTime has an entire collection of Muhammad art, archived.
Not all Muslims in all Islamic cultures throughout the ages have felt the need to avoid drawing his face in full.
Check the Zombietime category, Islamic depictions of Muhammad in full.
More recently, the Great Satan itself, the United States of America, has an image of Muhammad that is not Muhammad appear on a bastion and symbol of the American justice system: On the Supreme Court North Wall Frieze:
Cass Gilbert (1867-1934), architect of the Supreme Court Building, selected Adolph A. Weinman (1870-1952), a respected and accomplished Beaux-Arts sculptor, to design the marble friezes for the Courtroom. Weinman’s training emphasized a correlation between the sculptural subject and the function of the building. Gilbert relied on him to choose the subjects and figures that best reflected the function of the Supreme Court Building. Faithful to classical sources and drawing from many civilizations, Weinman designed a procession of “great lawgivers of history” for the south and north walls to portray the development of law. Each frieze in the Courtroom measures 40 feet long by 7 feet, 2 inches high and is made of ivory vein Spanish marble.
Muhammad (c. 570 – 632) The Prophet of Islam. He is depicted holding the Qur’an. The Qur’an provides the primary source of Islamic Law. Prophet Muhammad’s teachings explain and implement Qur’anic principles. The figure above is a well-intentioned attempt by the sculptor, Adolph Weinman, to honor Muhammad and it bears no resemblance to Muhammad. Muslims generally have a strong aversion to sculptured or pictured representations of their Prophet.
Should Muslims draw offense at this when done by a non-Islamic society, not to disparage but to honor?
Wikipedia entry elaborates why Muhammad on the frieze is now Muhammad who is no longer Muhammad, but still Muhammad:
In 1997, a controversy erupted surrounding the frieze, and tourist materials have since been edited so they call the depiction “a well-intentioned attempt by the sculptor to honor Muhammad” that “bears no resemblance to Muhammad.” In 1955, a statue of Muhammad was removed from a courthouse in New York City after the ambassadors of Indonesia, Pakistan, and Egypt requested its removal.
The reason why Muhammad’s likeness is not to be depicted in art has to do with the fear of Muslims falling into the trap of idolatry; not in regards to his depiction by infidels as a result of harmless ignorance or due to intentional ridicule and caricature.
In my opinion, the irony is that all this outrage and obsessing over Muhammad drawings by even one person on the planet (especially by a non-Muslim) smacks of worship and idolatry on the part of the follower of Islam. If Muhammad is supposedly regarded by Muslims as a non-divinity, they have a funny way of expressing it when they are as outraged by insults to the Prophet Muhammad as they are with any mishandling or defilement of the Quran (regarded as the literal word of God in the original Arabic). Such defense elevates the status of Muhammad from human to divine being. He’s too holy to have his likeness captured in imitation that is called art.
Muhammad himself warned Muslims against exaggerating his importance:
Narrated ‘Umar: “I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle.’” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 654.)
The issue of idolatry isn’t exclusive, of course, to just the Islamic faith. Its sister religions also warn against idolatry.
And it isn’t just Muhammad, but representations of any of the Prophets in Islam (such as Abraham and Jesus), as well as other holy figures (such as Mary, who is mentioned far more often in the Quran than in the New Testament) that is discouraged.
“Nothing in the Koran is as categorical as the condemnation of imagery in the Hebrew Bible” found in Exodus and Deuteronomy, said French art scholar Alexandre Papadopoulo in his massive 1979 survey, “Islam and Muslim Art.”
But Islamic art scholars say the prohibition against portraying Muhammad has hardened over the centuries, based on sayings attributed to the prophet, on the absence of figurative religious art in the earliest mosques and on interpretations by Muslim theologians.
“One should not represent any religious image because it would ridicule the figure of God, and it would be idolatrous to depict the faces of the prophets and saints of Islam, particularly in mosques, where they ran the risk of becoming objects of veneration or prayer,” Mr. Papadopoulo wrote.
Jesus is mentioned by name in the Quran more times than is Muhammad; Mary is mentioned more often in the Quran than she is in the New Testament. And it is Jesus- not Muhammad- who is foretold to return on Judgment Day, do battle with the anti-Christ, punish the enemies of Islam, and bring justice to the world.
What do Muslims around the world think of Christians and non-Christians alike depicting Jesus in ways holy and in ways profane? If it offends (as it should, if Muslims were consistent and not selective), then why not the rioting rage?
Muslims protesting holy images and disrespectful portrayals of Jesus aren’t completely unheard of, though. This was reported by the AP, pre-9/11:
Visual representation is made forbidden not in the Quran but found in a few hadiths and Islamic traditions; and moreso amongst Sunni than Shia Islam
“For the most part, Shi’ite Islam has no problem portraying the prophet Muhammad in a respectful manner,” he said. “Much Shi’ite art depicts the revered Imams Hussein, Ali and others.”
But, he said, “More conservative strains of Sunni Islam prohibit idolatry in any form, including, in some cases, prohibitions of showing the human form at all.”
In Sunni-majority Egypt, television serials recounting the founding days of Islam will not show Muhammad or any of his closest companions.
Wow. I feel like I’ve learned something here. I no longer feel backlash anger. I no longer feel like drawing disrespectful Muhammad cartoons just to give an “F-You!” shout out at those in Perpetual Outrage who riot and murder for daring to call Islam a violent religion; for daring to treat their faith with the same level of respect and contempt that Christianity and Judaism enjoy in the 21st century amongst a free, peaceful citizenry.
I once was insolent and disrespectful toward Islam and the Prophet Muhammad- Peace be Upon Him. But now I understand.
See? Chip Bok was distorting CNN’s distortion to poke fun at CNN; not…er….at angry Muslims.
I can draw Muhammad respectfully by simply torching his face so as to not be tempted into idolatry of his earthly beauty, mistaking it for divinity. So I’ve taken my original depiction and obscured the questionable body part:
Kinda adds some class and dignity to my art now, doesn’t it? So much less offensive.
Check Wikipedia for more detailed historical accounts on this topic.