In Search of Prophet Muhammad’s Picture - We Op-Ed - A Community for Political News and Civilized Debate
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We Op-Ed - A Community for Political News and Civilized Debate

In Search of Prophet Muhammad’s Picture

If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him - James Baldwin


One of the reasons why Children of a Retired God did not win awards was my decision to exclude the piece, In Search of Muhammad’s Picture.

Just before the Danish cartoons emerged, I had given up the fight to include the piece if that would help get the editors to agree. Though it wasn’t pleasing to the proponents, the real troubling part of that compromise was my readiness to give up that search for Muhammad’s picture.

All that changed with the publication of the Danish cartoons. I have seen the picture of Muhammad and I do not like what I saw.

That was a vindication of my argument in that piece.

Initially, the reaction that followed the publication of the cartoons irritated me. It brought me back to my original stance that the piece, In Search of Muhammad’s Picture, must be included in the book. The Muslims must present the true picture of Muhammad or others are bound to do that for them.

I do believe that freedom of speech should be an inalienable right. I do not believe that your belief gives you veto power over where my freedom ends. I fear that giving up rights over some religious taboos or political pretensions will deteriorate into censorship of thoughts.

As the wise one said, your right ends where my right begins. My right not to put up a picture of Muhammad ends where your right to put up his picture begins. My right of vigilance in pursuit of “never-again” ends where your right to deny the Holocaust begins. My right to heal my painful past ends where your right to use the word Nigger begins. Subjecting freedom of speech to a veto by fundamentalists is establishing a new path to an old bondage.

Unfortunately, the world does not work like that. Justice has continued to be screwed on its head especially in relation to things religious.

For both the Christians, the Muslims and all those in between, religion is an extension of politics. The battlefront in the conflict is currently on the cultural space. In today’s world, educated men are always doubtful while ignorant men are cocksure. It is the first sign of human failure that we have not founded enough religion to give each family sufficient number of religions to ensure peace and tolerance.

Is reason as diverse as religions? Is goodness as varied as religions? If they are, are we not doomed? We hold on to religion because we discovered that we must die. If all of a sudden, we do not have to die, what use will religion be? A dead religion, like a dead sea, is a religion that is not moving – not modifying. You will know that it is dead when it is finally classified as a myth.

If you ask about the meaning of life and the answer you get does not humble you – make you pensive, peaceful and ponder, you obviously got the wrong answer. A religion is nothing if it is not love. It will not endure if it will not embrace love. The story of each religion should be nothing more than the story of that religion. It should not be the history of the world. Remove emotion from religion and you will have philosophy.

When a religion advocates the destruction of God’s ultimate creature – man, that religion is a disgrace to God. The war dance of religion is most adorable to those who cannot stand the true letters of its principles. If your life does not espouse the beauty and grace of your religion, you have essentially betrayed that religion you hold so high. As religion wears off, new moral codes come in the form of ideals like freedom of speech. Like religious ideals, they have to be sacred and self evident.

Is God seen on your face? Will God fear to step into your heart? What is your truth? What is your beauty? Can they stand along others without feeling insecure? Worldwide, the cartoonist’s goal is to intentionally ridicule its object. Can your prophet withstand ridicule? Can you?

According to Robert M. Pirsig, "You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it is going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”

For me and my Children of a Retired God, it is preposterous to think about the Nigerian, the African, and the Black race in terms of the retirement of their original chi without dealing with the forces of Christianity and Islam that instigated such. Dealing with the Christian angle is easy not because the pictures of Jesus Christ are clear but because they are easily available. But the real challenge remains in finding any available picture of Muhammad, if we discount those of a Danish cartoonist.

Views: 3

Comment by Justin on June 27, 2008 at 3:42am
Excellent piece, Rudolf! If there is more writing like this in your book, Children of A Retired God, then I look forward to reading it.

The notion that you raised in reference to the Pirsig quote is very interesting, and I think that it pertains to matters outside of religious faith as well. Blind, fanatical patriotism is often stimulated in populations of countries who need not be so proud of their actions. In this light, it's almost as if fanatical faith is a defense mechanism, covering the doubts we harbor, concerning our gods, our religions, and our nations.

Can't wait to read your next article.
Comment by Katie on June 28, 2008 at 1:34pm
The Danish cartoon controversy really did highlight the double-edged sword of free speech. It’s a shame it didn’t ignite the kind of discussion in America that it did in Western Europe though. Even with such a sensitive subject as religion, I feel it’s definitely best to have all opinions protected by freedom of speech. Only then can we have an honest discussion.

The thing that scares me though is when two opinions or theories on the same subject are presented as equally valid. Intelligent design vs. evolution: equally scientifically sound? No. Just because there are two views, doesn’t mean they are on par with each other. Those of us who are intellectually honest object when Holocaust denial it pitted against the facts as just another opinion. “Well, historians say 6 million Jews were killed, but these people over here say it was only 1 million.” Holocaust denial and intelligent design are not just “other options.” We should absolutely be free to deny the Holocaust or advocate creationism or intelligent design or draw cartoons that depict Muhammad (well, that’s freedom of the press) so we can know who objects and on what grounds. Violence or criminal action on behalf of these positions is a completely different story.

As Bill Maher said in the final rant of a 2005 show, “No, stupidity isn't a form of knowing things. Thunder is high pressure air meeting low pressure air. It's not God bowling. Babies come from storks is not a competing school of thought... in medical school. We shouldn't teach both. The media shouldn't equate both.”

We should be free to be intolerant, stupid, uniformed, just as others should be free to slap us in the face and tell us what’s up.

By the way, very excellent article indeed.

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