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2006-01-27

For while now, I have tried to understand just why the 12 relatively harmless pictures (see the right column for links) could cause so much commotion. Today, almost four months after the pictures were published in a far-away country, just as you thought it might be over, Saudi-Arabia launches a boycott of Danish goods:
Boycott of Danish Goods Over Blasphemous Cartoons
.

The new book about Mohammed. Illustrated anonymously

It is still stated matter-of-factly that Islam forbids people to portray the Prophet, but is this true? I stumbled over an interview from September 17th 2005 - after an artist had agreed to illustrate a forth-coming book about Mohammed anonymously. (Danish article, my translation).

The first interviewee is Jørgen Bæk Simonsen, PhD., author of the book "Islam i Danmark" and daily leader of the Danish Institute for Culture in Damascus:

The postulated prohibition against images has never been a general rule for the Islamic world as a whole. 56.000 interpretations have been construed, and there as never been any general agreement.

[. . .] The prohibition against images has never been enforced with the rigor that is being contended. For this reason it is also moderately hysterical when Danish artists state this as a reason for not wanting to illustrate a book, which a Danish author for some strange reason has decided to produce.


So the Danish artists who were too scared to illustrate the new book, were "moderately hysterical". What are we to say about the 57 Muslim countries who threaten to boycott Denmark four months later?

The next quote is by Imam Fatih Alev - born in Denmark of Turkish descent.

"There will always be Muslims who by virtue of their Islam-interpretation will oppose any depiction of humans. Then there will be others who'll think that the Prophet shouldn't be depicted, while others may. Myself, I lean towards that the Prophet shouldn't be depicted, but that others may" says Fatih Alev. He thinks that both views clearly are equally valid within Islam.

Fatih Alev adds that rules are necessary lest the images should become objects of adoration, and he adds that the rules only apply to Muslims: "This here is a rule for Muslims. Non-Muslims can do as they please, just as I cannot be offended by non-Muslims drinking, eating pork or having sex outside the marriage".

JyllandsPosten, the original page

Thirdly comes Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen:

We have a prohibition in Islam against depicting living humans, animals and especially prophets, because this would be an attempt to imitate the Creation. But this prohibition only applies to Muslims, it doesn't apply to non-Muslims. Therefore I'm bound, but my neighbour is not.


Thus were the words back in September: There is no general agreement against drawing Mohammed - or why it might be prohibited. The only thing that these three learned men could agree on was that any prohibition there might be, wouldn't apply to non-Muslims.

To clarify: the three wise men were discussing the upcoming book about Mohammed - and not the 12 pictures in JyllandsPosten, which had not yet been published.

I dwell on this point because even today we're told in the media that drawings of Mohammed are prohibited in itself. As the above quotes show there's no clear decision.

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