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I will re-post what I replied to Helen on the other thread, with respect to Muslims taking umbrage at depictions of the prophet. I think it may help to frame the debate. (For the rest, and the coming epic slanging match with dear Katrin in particular, we must wait, because I really must do some work today).

It depends which Islam you are talking about. One of the primary difficulties of being a Muslim today is that one is subject to intellectual terrorism by extremists who attempt to dictate what it is to be a Muslim. In my experience, the Salafists who are the worst offenders, are about as representative as Muslims in general as Fred Phelps of Westboro is representative of American Christians.

Certain segments or tendencies of Islam have a big issue with portrayals of Mohamed. This has always been the case, and there has always been great diversity on this issue among Muslims.  Bad taste to quote Wikipedia, but the article is pretty well-referenced :

Depictions of Muhammad - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The permissibility of depictions of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, has long been a concern in the religion's history. Oral and written descriptions are readily accepted by all traditions of Islam, but there is disagreement about visual depictions.[1][2] The Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental teachings) which have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating visual depictions of figures.

Most Sunni Muslims believe that visual depictions of all the prophets of Islam should be prohibited[3] and are particularly averse to visual representations of Muhammad.[4] The key concern is that the use of images can encourage idolatry.[5] In Shia Islam, however, images of Muhammad are quite common nowadays, even though Shia scholars historically were against such depictions.[4][6] Still, many Muslims who take a stricter view of the supplemental traditions will sometimes challenge any depiction of Muhammad, including those created and published by non-Muslims.[7]

The Arabian tradition tended to forbid all portrayal of living things. This seems to have broken down a bit in the TV age. The Turkish pictorial tradition is of course the counter-example.

But the more important thing to bear in mind is that any historical tradition or sacred law forbidding portrayal of Mohammed or anyone else could only apply, by definition, within territories governed by a Muslim political power. Postulating an obligation to accede to demands of non-depiction based on a notion of religious freedom is completely fallacious and baseless. The demand is explicitly political, conceived as such by those making it and claiming to speak for all Muslims, and it is our duty to resist it.


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Jan 3rd, 2013 at 05:25:07 AM EST

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