Monday, November 06, 2006

3 Monotheisms = 3 Militarisms

The Iranian so-called "Holocaust cartoon contest" recently announced the winner of a $12,000 sum, for penning the most clever retort to the series of Danish caricatures of the Muslim uber-prophet, Mohammed. Jabbing at the Jewish faith in response to a secular Christian Western European nation's bold assertion of press freedoms, this Iranian contest allowed for supposedly intelligent people to continue lambasting rival monotheistic creeds. All have missed the point! My cartoon collage to the left makes use of a range of critical images designed to unify the collective absurdities of the contemporary inter-religious discourse and its undying strife.

A violent international controversy was unleashed in February 2006, months after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten (and subsequently several other Western newsdailies) published inflammtory cartoons depicting Mohammed, which Islam explicitly forbids (called aniconism, the absence of representations). As a result of the Danish failure to apologize for the publication of the hyperbolic and vitriolic representations, the Muslim world rose up in protest. This map shows the distribution both of re-publication and of violent reaction to the depictions. Altogether at least 139 people were killed in the riots, Danish/Norweigan embassies were set ablaze across the Middle East, and Danish companies lost approximately 134 million euros as part of the Arab economic boycott. However, Wikipedia reports that Danish exports to the U.S. climbed 17% in the U.S. for the 1st Quarter of 2006, as rightwing consumers snatched up Bang&Olufsen stereos and Legos galore.

It would seem that this whole mess, which pitted virulent Western Islamophobia against a vengeful "Arab street," ought to have been avoided at all costs. Yet, flying the sanctimonious flag of almighty press freedom, Western media outlets pushed the limits of tolerance. Perhaps humor and satire should be acceptable means of critiquing all religions. Ideally, cartoons would never provoke such a response. But, given the current climate of tense relations between Islamists and Christian-Western nationalists, this quixotic desire to publish cartoons whimsically and successfully just could not be fulfilled.

In my humble opinion, all of these militant monotheists are fools and hyprocrites. None of the three faiths actually represents the virtues it purports to embrace. And, all of them clearly violate, on a daily level, the most basic tenets of the Abrahamic creed, which forms the basis of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. In a show of solidarity with the Muslims worldwide who suffered more from pens than they did from swords, the Iranian contest (sponsored by Tehran daily Hamshahri and displayed in Tehran's Contemporary Arts Museum) aimed to place Jews squarely in between the original Danish offenders and the offended Islamic audience. The entire spectacle becomes a celebration of Holocaust denial, in which there is a range of blame and negation for the Nazi victims and the Palestinian oppressed, who seem to have received the brunt of the historical karma that the Holocaust initiated. No Iranian media outlet actually published any of the winning entries, which were announced on November 2nd. Also, very few Iranians have apparently visited the exhibition, which featured a range of artists from around the world. The official sponsors claim that they wanted to test the West's tolerance for drawings about the Holocaust.

The winning entry (to the right) shows the landscape of the Auschwitz concentration camp etched into a separation wall being constructed around the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's third-holiest site. Another of the most notable toons also uses Holocaust imagery to project the suffering of the Palestinians. However, this cartoon also introduces the downtrodden Palestinian as the latter-day Jesus, since he is ostensibly being crucified by the historical Holocaust. Jesus was indeed an original Palestinian and a Jew, but Jesus would most likely not endorse the absurd set of cartoons that have been launched towards all of the three monotheisms.

Clearly, none of the three stands for the heinous violence and blatant lack of compassion that adherents to these faiths display without fail. While the Pope is able to apologize for offending Islam, why can he not simultaneously apologize for the fact that his religion has often acted as malevolently and disturbingly as the religion that he insulted? When will Jews realize that the Holocaust does not give them free reign to condemn Palestinians to an eternity of injustice and segregation? When will Muslims admit that their religion, among many others, was engendered by an agressive conqueror? The jingoistic/monotheistic deity that all 3 of these religions embrace is the same male, exclusive, and singular godhead. None of the three faiths is any better at carrying out the spiritual tradition of peace, tolerance, and freedom, while all three engage in perennial violence, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness IN THE NAME OF GOD.

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