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Jordan: Wikipedia and Prophet Muhammad

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Jordan, Arts & Culture, History, Religion, Technology

Another storm is brewing in the Arab world regarding the depiction of Prophet Muhammad in drawings after Wikipedia refused [1] the demands of more than 180,000 people who called for the illustrations to be removed.

According to the Guardian [1]:

More than 180,000 worldwide have joined an online protest claiming the images, shown on European-language pages and taken from Persian and Ottoman miniatures dating from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, are offensive to Islam, which prohibits any representation of Muhammad. But the defiant editors of the encyclopaedia insist they will not bow to pressure and say anyone objecting to the controversial images can simply adjust their computers so they do not have to look at them. The images at the centre of the protest appear on most of the European versions of the web encyclopaedia, though not on Arabic sites.

Roba Al Assi [2], from Jordan, announces her support for Wikipedia, drawing a barrage of comments from readers. Roba explains her stance saying:

History doesn’t just belong to modern-day Muslims, especially if it is related to Islam as done by Muslims of other centuries. After all, modern-day Muslims are a very, very small part of all the Muslims in history, and these modern-day Muslims have absolutely no right to try to negate the history of Islam’s other Muslims.

Historical negation aside, these images were taken from Islamic manuscripts intended to actually SPREAD Islam by using images when most people in the world did not know how to write or read. That actually makes them a pretty lofty cause as far as Islam is concerned, because they did manage to convert some Berber, Persian, and East Asians to Islam.

Commenting on the post, Abed Hamdan [3] writes:

The historical manuscript you claim says that Muslims used pictures of the prophet to “SPREAD” Islam. I still don’t understand how pictures of the prophet would be used to SPREAD Islam.

FYI, in Islam the sketching of human figures is forbidden. That was in Islam, a rule, since the dawn of Islam. “Modern Muslims” didn’t make it up, because Islam didn’t changed since then. Quran hasn’t been tampered with since then.

FYI, “SPREADING Islam” is not the actual duty of a Muslim, “explaining Islam” and “showing Islam” to other cultures IS the responsibility of Muslims. After having this right granted, “SHOWING ISLAM”, then it’s up to people to take it or not. And showing pictures will not spread Islam or any religion. Even if it does, then it’s not allowed in Islam.

So if Wikipedia is showing these pictures of the holy prophet, then it gives a false image about how Islam was “SPREAD”. Even if some “modern Muslims” find it convenient, this doesn’t change the Islamic law.

(…)

I like Wikipedia, but as an honest Muslim it’s very obvious that this is not the correct view of Islam. Islam is different that Christianity in this sense, and to each his own.

He further adds in a follow up comment:

If the pictures are part of a history, then they should be referred to as a history not as a part of Islam as a religion. Some Muslims could’ve used these images, but this is against Islamic rules. So for the sake of intellectual honesty, it must be removed from anything related to Islam, and must be put in context of mentioning those groups who used those images.

Egyptian Sandmonkey [4] tunes into the argument. In his response to Hamdan, he remarks:

I find it hard to believe that the muslims of the 14th and 15th century were less islamic than their 21st century counterparts, to the degree that that they would commit such a “blasphemous act” as to picture the prophet in art, when we, the good muslims of the 21st century, like to burn embassies and kill people when others do that same thing.

(…)

Here is what I propose though: Wikipedia removed the pics from the arabic version, but are keeping them in the english one. Those pictures, whether you agree to them or don’t, belong to the human heritage at this point, and neither you, nor I, nor anyone, have the right to remove them just because we don’t like them anymore or they don’t fit in our current set of beliefs. And even if the entire world turns muslim and believes that those pictures should be removed, rest assured that me, or someone like me, will tell all of them that they can’t. Burning books, removing images, or destroying graven idols of other religions is the stuff of the dark ages. It’s a national shame that such thinking is allowed to exist till today.

A Western By Stander also weighs in, writing:

Why is there a prohibition against having pictures of the Prophet Mohamed?

From my reading of the Koran, it appears to me that Prophet Mohamed did not want be prayed to as an intermediary, as was a common practice in the Eastern Orthodox Church at the time with Christians Saints, Mary and Jesus. Since only God should be worshiped and prayed to, he was preempting the Icons and the practices associated with them.

The Prophet Mohamed stated he was not better than any other prophet such as Noah or Abraham. I felt he was saying – “it’s the message, not the messenger,” or in more colloquial terms “I’m like a telephone. You wouldn’t worship the telephone, would you?”

If this is the case, I think he would be horrified that someone would kill somebody for making a drawing of him, because that would be elevating him to a position that he was trying to avoid.

More on the issue could be found on this [5] Wikipedia page. According to the site:

There has not been an original argument against the showing of the pictures in well over a year. Every point brought up on this page has been discussed in the past to the point of exhaustion and time and time again we have decided the pictures are appropriate.