Don't Even THINK About Mohammed
Possibly for the first time ever, a cartoonist was able to piss enough people off to cause massive rioting. I think all of us are most shocked by the fact that it came from Denmark.
The thing that strikes me about these cartoons (see them here) are how some of them are really pathetic-looking. Some seem tastefully drawn, some maybe not so, but none seem to be very funny. As a cartoonist myself, I look at these and say "why bother?" And yet, the Islamic world is going nuts over this. The issue, at least what started all this nonsense, is that extremist Muslims forbid the depiction of Mohammed in artwork of any kind, or even the depiction of any living thing. According to a few articles I've read, the Qur'an says nothing about this, except for a few words on idolatry, but people have interpreted these passages for centuries to mean anyone who draws Mohammed must be beheaded. The issue has snowballed into more powerful questions of Islamo-Western relations and immigration in Europe, but months ago this was just about visual representation.
Representation has been a huge topic in art for many years now. What constitutes a representation? Is a representation as "real" as the real thing? Is the concept of the representation as "real?" Perhaps this is all just semantic nonsense, but to me there is an important question. These angry Muslims feel it is somehow blasphemous to represent Mohammed in pictures. But at what level? Obviously, drawing a Middle-Eastern-looking guy with a beard and labelling him "Mohammed" is pretty clear on what it wants to be. But is a representation of Mohammed a representation just because you say it is? Or does he have to look Middle-Eastern-y?
For example, are all these drawings to be considered a representation of Mohammed just because I say they are?
Do extremist Muslims want to murder me over such awful, awful drawings? The second to last one is just a tiny line. The only reason you would think these terrible drawings are Mohammed is because I labelled them as such. But if that's the case, then I can absolve myself the same way:
What if I had labelled the drawings "moohamed," or "nohammed?" Same drawings, different spelling. What if I labelled them "polecat" but then told you that secretely, they are drawings of Mohammed? If a Muslim can look at these ridiculous "representations," each more ridiculous than the last, and tell me that each one blasphemes Islam, then where does one draw the line? It seems as though the label, not the picture, is blasphemous. So is it then blasphemous to write his name? What if I just read his name? What if I THINK about a picture of Mohammed, or the word "Mohammed?" What if I think of the CONCEPT of Mohammed?
The only place one can draw the line is to not even acknowledge the existence of Mohammed. Anything less is still representation in some way or another. If your real objection is against people insulting your religion, that's up to you. I have no intention in this post to insult Islam anymore than I would insult any other way-out and wrong religion like Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism. It's all mumbo-jumbo to an atheist.
And just to prove that I'm not disproportionately biased against Islam, I'd like to offer my entry to Iranian newspaper Hamshahri for their "Holocaust-denying cartoon" contest. Entry to follow. Please send my prize gold coin to my agent in Tehran.