Thursday, February 09, 2006

Good try...

Over on Reclusive Leftist there are comparisons of the infamous pictures of Mohammed that are causing so much controversy and similar satirical pieces involving Jesus. Dr. Socks points out the similarities between, say, the "bomb in the turban" Mohammed and the joke about "Republican Jesus". He/she/it also notes that for some of the drawings (particularly a first one featuring Mohammed in the desert) the dark hair and aquiline nose prominent in the picture are accurate to the time, and another picture showing him wielding a dagger is accurate because "he's a warrior".

The problem with this, however, can be ferreted out if you look at the comparisons closely. In each case where Jesus was featured as opposed to Mohammed, the point of the cartoon was either a relatively harmless joke or an indictment of how Jesus' followers pervert or ignore his teachings, rather than the teachings and the man himself. "Republican Jesus" isn't supposed to be Jesus, but a representation of the selectiveness of his followers.

The representations of Mohammed and Muslims, on the other hand, have the clear implication not that Muslims are betraying their prophet's teachings, but that both the prophet and the followers are intrinsically ridiculous, and monstrously immoral to boot.

As for the drawing of Mohammed? It's not that he has an aquiline nose or black hair, but everything else- he has tiny, squinting eyes, what appears to be a low forehead, and a distrustful expression. The "warrior" picture is much the same, with a reference to the treatment of women under Islam to boot: represented by the fearful, full-body veiled women standing behind the prophet, and the protective stance that he has in front of them. The compared depictions of Jesus (a nearly angelic picture of Christ with a gun, and another joke about hypocrisy with a picture of Jesus riding a bomb saying "what would Jesus bomb") aren't really comparable.

There's more, but it comes down to a simple problem: for each picture, Socks has picked the most forgiving interpretation of Mohammed's pictures, and the most critical interpretation of the Jesus pictures.

I realize that he's trying to defuse the tension, and none of this justifies the violence going on because of these pictures. No speech act could. In order to defend freedom of speech, though, you need to be able to accept what it actually is.

No comments:

Post a Comment