By Zain-ull-Abiddin Daniyal
This week ushered in yet another ”masterpiece” of both thought and artistry by Charlie Hebdo – the French publisher which has in the past published cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him). Another uncivilised rampage by the paragons of atheistic secularism, casting the sword of ”Free Speech” wildly from side to side with no care for ethics or morality.
Referred to here, of course, is the choice of Charlie Hebdo to this week publish the first part of a comic which sets out to serialise ”a” biography of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Yesterday’s Independent included an article covering this story by the writer Jerome Taylor. His piece was rather curious with regards to what it ignored as much as what was included.
Taylor begins his ”enlightened” piece, entitled ‘It’s Charlie Hebdo’s right to draw Muhammad, but they missed the opportunity to do something profound‘, by loosely outlining the tired free speech case in favour of anyone having the right to offend any other. And so today’s civility is again distinguished by a world outlook that allows for the dignity of man and woman to be slaughtered by the sharp edges of ”free speech”.
One supposes this is the same unfettered right which has encouraged so many tabloids to publish nude images of public figures simply trying to enjoy their own private space? Or a right that leaves Christian nations, which take the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) as a god, demonstrate no outward anguish when Jesus’ (peace be upon him) immaculate character is so brutally mocked.
Both Charlie Hebdo and Taylor seem to agree that the comic biography of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is legitimised because it relies only on what ”Muslims” have documented on the Prophet in the past. Taylor even refers to the Shi’a miniature tradition of depicting the Prophet as a legitimising factor. Surely the most comical thing of all.
As Charlie Hebdo and Taylor place great emphasis on ”argument” and ”education”, would it not have been more convincing for them to have presented either of these two? Yet they leave us nothing to work with. In reality, no Muslim would agree to either the intellectual or artistic expression of this comic.
Furthermore, legitimacy is not to be found in Muslim tradition, but rather in a medieval European tradition of prejudice and bigotry that can be traced back more than a thousand years to the dark ages of late antiquity; a tradition that enlightened Europeans left behind long ago!
The title of Taylor’s piece is quite fitting given that both he and Charlie Hebdo, in different ways, failed miserably to do something profound.