Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Modern Media/Modern Responses


When I read in the Herald Tribune about an online petition that lists about 80,000 supporters asking Wikipedia to remove images of Mohammed (the venerated religious icon of the Muslim people) from the english version of Wikipedia, I began to wonder what is really going on in this debate.

The Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco have noticed an increase in e-mails that dissuades the public display of Mohammed's images. Among the comments, one individual expresses that the Wikipedia article shows a lack of sensitivity to the beliefs of the Muslim followers.

But Wikipedia explains its refusal to remove the images: "Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with the goal of representing all topics from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group."

Paul Cobb, who teaches Islamic history at the University of Notre Dame in Indian, said, "Islamic teaching has traditionally discouraged representation of humans, particularly Muhammed, but that doesn't mean it's nonexistent." He added, "Some of the most beautiful images in Islamic art are manuscript images of Muhammed."
The idea of imposing a ban on all depictions of people, particularly Muhammed, dates to the 20th century, he said. With the Wikipedia entry, he added, "what you are dealing with is not medieval illustrations, you are dealing with modern media and getting a modern response."

This story reminds me of another incident that occured last summer about a British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, who was found "guilty of insulting religion and inciting hatred after allowing her class of primary school pupils to name the teddy bear in September".

I urge you to go to the BBC website to read the mixed opinions on this incident:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7115400.stm

I had never been moved to look for images of the prophet Mohammed, but now that someone is telling me not to look for it... I begin to wonder why.

I would agree with Mr. Cobb that the issue is closer to modern media and modern responses than a religious stand versus the media.

-Analyn Revilla

4 comments:

Wendi Muse said...

this is a super interesting topic. i think it's troubling if one group were able to completely force wikipedia and/or other encyclopedias to rid themselves of images of mohammed, especially as so many muslims disagree on whether or not he or even living humans should have things made in their images (i.e. photos). this discussion reminds, on a much smaller scale, of the cries of blasphemy against author salman rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses (article on the issue here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article1951462.ece). Censorship is pretty bad no matter what group is stems from, especially if it's censorship of subject matter or images that could be informative to an audience seeking to learn more.

islaminhistory said...

hi, it is not just one group but nearly 1/4 of the entire world population

Wendi Muse said...

i don't mean that muslims are only one group. i recognize that muslims have a large population worldwide. i am referring to the one group that has been calling for wikipedia to take down the images.

Analyn said...

To islaminhistory: Please educate me on the reason why the portrayal of Mohammed's image is deemed wrong?

What potentially negative consequence could it have?

Indeed there has been mockery made of other religion's iconic figures; any form of authority figure or pop icon has been subject to one form of caricature or another (political leaders, religious figures, celebrities.)

As humans we have this innate nature to observe, study, and make a decision to imitate or humiliate. It's how we learn about our nature, and that is study others' natures.

Depicting Mohammad in a image for preservation and education is also part of the learning process. Learning from our history, and I sincerely mean it when I use the word "our history".

How we deal manage the information generally determines the outcome of our actions based on intent and thought process.

I have learned more about Islam, and myself in writing about this topic.

Thank you for your feedback.

Analyn