Monday, January 07, 2008

The art of provocation

Times Online brings forth again a freedom of expression limits in the Netherlands. An Iranian artist has seemingly "photographed gay men wearing masks of the prophet Muhammad" and was "forced into hiding and her work removed from a museum exhibit." The journal says: "Speaking on the telephone from an unspecified location in the Netherlands last week, the artist, an Iranian exile who goes by the pseudonym of Sooreh Hera, said she had been threatened with “execution”. She accused the director of the municipal museum in The Hague of cowardice for caving in to Muslim extremists."

My opinion here is two-faceted. First of all, it looks exactly like any other art case involved with religion, no matter which religion: artists that, it appears to me, want to gain hype and recognition just by messing with, be it evangelicals, ultracatholics, islamists, or whatever other fundie religious group. That sort of publicity is free, and though we have in many cases advocated freedom of expression, I should say that, for all those cases and artists, it's a funny thing that you first go and choose your "art" subject then claim that you didn't intend to hurt no religious feeling. Of course you intended, Mr. and Mrs. Artist, and that's precisely where your possibilities of making the headline in The Times, the New York Times or whatever other respectable newspaper are. But you don't want to face the consequences of your action, huh?

Now in this case, there's a second lecture for us Muslims: just because someone claims that some given mask is that of Prophet Muhammad are we going to believe it? Where in the world is there any painting, drawing, or whatever, that accurately depicts which factions and appearance Prophet Muhammad had? Nowhere, right? So when any of these 15-minutes-of-fame-seekers claims that "the mask is that of the prophet Muhammad" how do they know? Because they had a revelation in a dream? Come on, brothers and sisters, if any of you is reading this: that's just provocation, and we'd better not respond to such gross intents. As for the "gay men" part, I didn't know till today that in the Netherlands, there was some sort of certificate that shows one's gay.

I could as well take a picture of someone wearing a mask of Daffy Duck and write over the photograph: "This is a gay man and the mask depicts prophet Elijah". And gain my 15 minutes of shame.

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