One could be excused for thinking the press had suddenly caught sight of the Prophet (PBUH) himself. A battle of competing definitions of freedom has broken out , amongst those who believe their faith (or their profession) should reign supreme over all others.
Not even the proverbial Shroud of Turin has stirred up such controversy over the past few years as the thought that some cartoonists (may or may not be) breaking Sharia law by depicting his holiness in ink and paper.
Instead of offering up rational arguments for the taboo against depicting the prophet, or bothering to check whether there is any merit or truth behind such claims, Muslims around the world have predictably gnashed their teeth, spewing hate speech amidst calls for death and revenge.
It is a wonder of the world that local “scholars” are allowed to get away with this kind of offensive behaviour. The fatwas issued literally on a daily basis against those who refuse to accept Islam as the only truth, or Sharia as the absolute law, have become as routine as the bombings and detentions which have marked the forces of the faithful, who now appear to be pitted against freedom and democracy, whilst shoving a one-sided and oblique version of Mohammedanism down everybodies throats, because yes, this really is a battle over competing truths and interpretations of what it means to be a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Catholic, a Muhammadan, a Wahhabist and so on.
To be free in our day and age and to have what we call freedom of religion, which is surely also the right to abstain from having a religion, as well as the right to comment on whatever issue may be relevant on the day, using whatever means one has at ones disposal, has become exceedingly precarious.
Having campaigned against Guantanamo as well as the war crimes committed by the allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and also Israel, I am frankly sick and tired of the propaganda war being waged by those who believe they may simply discern the truth by remote control.
For those “clerics” out there who wish to interdict all and sundry, the genuine image of Muhammad. I repeat, the genuine image of his likeness PBUH, has not been located at Newspaper House or any other such place. Contrary to the rumours doing the rounds, the cartoon caricature drawn by Zapiro does not resemble anything more than an “arab-looking guy on a psychiatrist’s couch”.
If there was any truth to the notion that whatever Zapiro had drawn was actually Muhammad PBUH, then I am fairly positive, there would have been some sign from above. Or the almighty would have drawn up a counter claim himself, relegating Zapiro and his followers to a cartoon hell.
The only sign to emerge is that Zapiro is a sick man who believes such provocation will take him to the next level in the cartoonist’s hall of fame or worse, death by Comic Relief.
One has to admit the man has a point and there is no reason for the Mail & Guardian to back down. Despite the obsequious gesturing and spinless backpeddling by opinion-makers and journalists, one such Mandy de Waal of ITWeb believes the Mail & Guardian could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had refused to run with Zapiro’s cartoon and “if only Zapiro hadn’t done it, we journalists wouldn’t be under threat today,” the story remains as an aside, a comment on the main story which is over a “Draw Mohammed” Facebook page and Pakistani reaction. [Note: Editorial has-been, and former Sunday Times columnist David Bullard, now cynically believes Zapiro did it to increase circulation figures.]
More than a few commentators have also taken time to observe the backstory which the death threats against Belgium cartoonist Van Gogh, and the recent South Park debacle, brings. Please avert your eyes if the image I conjour up is a bit of a hyperboreal fantasy. This story is really not about whether or not Zapiro has succeeded in rendering Muhammad or his likeness to paper, bur rather the vanity of one of the worlds’ greatest religions. A religion which continues to believe in the prestige of its holy cows, Jerusalem included, along with the right to wage holy war against whomever would think otherwise.
A religion which sanctions war without bothering to examine the facts. A religion which has become a form of collective madness. Which burns books, stones women to death and cuts off people’s hands. Let the clerics persuade us then with their arguments, not their anger. Let the MJC show why the particular drawing in question is offensive from an objective framework, or face the charge that the offense is really in the eye of the beholder, and who are we to judge? What do we know about G-D, or what goes on inside the minds of men?
UPDATE: The MJC has condemned the death threats against Zapiro as “unIslamic” following the court application by a group called the Scholars of Truth (SoT) to ban any illustration of the Prophet as unlawful after a failed court interdict by the Jamiat-Ulema late thursday. More