Several Days ago several friends and I were sitting around discussing a variety of subjects, the meaning of life and what we had for lunch, you know, just run of the mill stuff, when the conversation got around to Pamela Geller and what had happened out in Texas with the attack on the cartoon contest.
Everyone was pretty much in agreement that Geller shouldn’t be taking any heat for sponsoring the contest, that our right to free speech was important, and if it took measures like that to reaffirm the importance of those rights, so be it.
As the discussion on that subject was ongoing a news report was on the television playing in the background. The picture on screen was of a man that had been arrested who was walking out of a jail building. He was shielding his face from the camera.
As he walked away one of the guys in my group stated towards the man on the television, “Look dude, you can’t hide. We know your name.” Another of the group asked why he would shield himself like that anyway, saying it was in the papers after all.
Someone mentioned that it was probably because if we didn’t know his face he could go about his business in the community and not have to put up with the questions and stares that would surely follow him. He could remain somewhat anonamous.
Something about that brief segment reminded me of the conversation we had just been discussing about the prohibition of images of Muhammad. It stuck me that you can talk about the things Muhammad had done, the marrying of a 9 year old, etc. etc., but those are just so many words. Pictures they say are worth 1000 words. Showing him in the act speaks volumes.
Just as a criminal can keep an amount of anonymity by hiding his face, allowing himself the ability to pass among the masses unrecognized– disassociated his misdoing from his public persona, so too can Muhammad when it comes to his actual life and the faithful’s view of him, so I mentioned to the group that not allowing the imaging of Muhammad was a bit like that criminal. It kept him somewhat anonamous as to his past actions. Everyone understood the concept.
This disallowance of the imaging of Muhammad wasn’t an absolute until relatively recently, Prohibited or not there are many depictions of him throughout history within the Islamic tradition. Painting, murals, tapestries, even illustrations in old Qurans. In 1998 or 99 an Imam drew a picture of Muhammad by a well at an Oasis on a card he gave me for helping organize an end of Ramadan feast. Perhaps he hadn’t got the memo.
I had suspected it had little to do with idolatry, as there are plenty of things Muslins could make Idols out of within their religious sphere but don’t. Prayer rugs, facing east to pray, that building at Mecca they like to march around could all be viewed that way I’d think. However when the fundamentalist within the Islamic movement began to surge to the fore, actions were taken against many things they considered “Idols”. Statuary, Churches, symbols of other religions were deemed worthy of destruction and the ban on images of Muhammad was reinforced.
Anyway, I never claimed to be any authority on the subject, other than the one thing reminded me of another. That just as the criminal wants to be shielded, Muhammad the man is shielded by prohibiting depictions of him as anything other than the persona of Holy Prophet.
I made the mistake of making a tweet to that effect on twitter in response to one by Ms. Geller and I’ve been trolled by someone that can’t seem to fathom the point at all. Oh well.
All this reminds me of something else. I was asked by a young lady the other day if there was anything she could do to keep a photo of her from appearing on a website showing recent arrests. “Why?” I asked, explaining that her name was already in the paper. Her reply: “Cause if people see me they will know who I am.”