Sunday, February 17, 2008

In Defense of Wikipedia's Decision to Keep Images of Muhammad

So, according to this article:

hundreds of thousands of Muslims are calling for wikipedia to remove images of Muhammad from their servers. The putative offense is that making images of living things constitutes idolatry, for this reasons, the fine arts of the Muslim world have typically been works of elaborate geometric design and exquisite calligraphy. These prohibitions haven't always been in force; for example, during the centuries of Ottoman rule, the wealthy commissioned illustrative art of the "restoration" of Islam, including images of Muhammad. In its effort to become a truly universal encyclopedia, Wikipedia has images of some of these depictions of Muhammad on their article about him.

There are billions of Muslims in the world, just as there are other billions of adherents to Christianity, and other religions. I fear that things can get blown out of proportion sometimes. The Muslim world must understand that Western culture is one of personal freedoms. We cherish intellectual freedom, especially freedom of and from religion along with freedom of expression, above all others. Therefore, the prohibition against an image of an otherwise revered figure is completely foreign to us, and anathema to our standards of personal liberty. Intellectual curiosity demands that historical images of Muhammad be available for study.

I think Wikipedia is totally justified in standing firm against the challenge to intellectual freedom from our Muslim brothers, for they truly are our brothers--not our enemies. There should be no invective, no intent to anger them in publishing the images. Rather, by standing firm here, we can begin setting the precedent that our liberties are as sacred to us as any religious image, and that we will not cave to bullying. This is the right thing to do.

This whole situation leaves me wondering about a few things.....if the prohibition against the reproduction of living things is so important to Muslims, wouldn't this preclude the use of photographic reproductions of living things as well? In all seriousness, what is the difference between a drawing and a photograph of a person? I do know this, having read it myself, the answer to those question is not to be found in the jumbled mess that is the Koran. Hopefully, within my lifetime the Muslim world's loudest proponents will mature enough to respect the practices and liberties of other cultures. Here's hoping.

Muslims are not our enemies; they are our brothers. We can get past this rough spot if we let our humanity unite us.


chattypatra said...

Well, I believe we are about to have a Black Muslim President. My fear is that he'll be assassinated by a crazy Christian fundamentalist or an Arian/KKK nutcase.

In other news, Mac, a new post on Cuba is up on my blog. Also, you might be interested in reading the following commentary:

Thewmes said...

How would we feel if wikipedia refussed to take down pictures of the mormon temple endowment?

Mac said...


It's already out there on wikipedia. While we hold it sacred, if someone else wanted to talk about it, and wikipedia wanted to display it, then even though it bothers me, it's still their right. Now if it were a business, then we could boycott, but it's not. Therefore, we can choose not to support it with donations, or we can just not worry about it. I'll choose the later.

Of course, we probably hold a copyright on the text, so we could fight that battle, but that's not the way we want to be portrayed.

thewmes said...


Raight as I finished that post I thought to myself, "this stuff probably is on wikipedia already". I decided to post it anyways.

I agree with your response about the subject anyways. Although I hold some things sacred I don't require others to feel the same way. Of course understanding and respect for others, I think we would all agree is desirable.