Saturday, February 04, 2006

Where's Mohammed?


I share the distress of the Muslim friends, who feel that the cartoon offends their religion. I also respect the right of freedom of speech. But of course freedom of speech is never absolute. It entails responsibility and judgment.
—United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, on the publication of the cartoons representing Allah


I totally get why Islam doesn't want images of Mohammed floating around, cartoons or otherwise. Heading off idolatry and commercial exploitation and all that — although I might suggest that severing the heads of those responsible, as one preacher in Gaza advocated, as somehow lacking in responsibility and judgment, too.

Now, I'm pretty confident most of us could pick Jesus out of a lineup, but how — after millennia of being deprived of Mohammed likenesses — can Muslims be sure the offending images were really the prophet?









And if a newspaper cartoon qualifies, what about other images that look even less like the original, whatever that was? A Mr. Potatohead Mohammed, for example. Or bad Indentikit composites based on very, very sketchy eyewitness testimony? Or publicity shots from a movie in which Felicity Huffman plays a guy who thinks he's Mohammed, but he's too self-conscious to wear the turban?

You see how it can get complicated pretty fast. Hard to know where to find the balance, respect-for-religion-and-freedom-of-speech-wise. So I'm not saying whether Mohammed's image is here. Maybe, maybe not. Use your judgment.

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