News You Really Need To See: “Attack Raises Questions on Roots of Muslim Objection to Image-Making”

“Attack Raises Questions on Roots of Muslim Objection to Image-Making”

The New York Times, January 15, 2015, p.A12

“Many Muslims upset by the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, argue that the issue is not free speech but the insult to a religious figure revered by roughly a quarter of the world’s population.  Less clear are the precise origins of the Muslim objection to visual depictions, insulting or otherwise, of the prophet and holy persons of any faith.  That objection, which Islamist militants have cited as a reason for their deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris last week, has some roots in the Quran, which discourages image-making as a form of idol worship that demeans God.  But Islamic scholars and legal experts say that the Quran does not explicitly prohibit image-making, and that while the act is considered a sin in some branches of Islam, in others it is not — and certainly not one deserving of death.  Moreover, these experts point to a rich history of Islamic art forms that include celebratory depictions of Muhammad.  The objection to images of the prophet, positive or negative, as well as all depictions of any being with a soul, animal or human, has evolved over time and has been interpreted in diverse ways.”

Quickie Analysis:  Interesting article on the theological and cultural bases for some Muslims’ objections to the depiction of not just Muhammad but any divinely associated figures, including God, Jesus, Moses, and angels (which, by contrast, were the only acceptable subjects for much of European art through the Renaissance)

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