Muslims and cartoons: do they never go together?

A general overview, analysis and critique of the relationship between Islam and Art in modern times contrasted to the Art that has highlighted Islamic history.

Scratching Islam’s  surface

It’s such an easy thing to talk about. Writer’s block? No no no. Easy. Islam and Art mentioned together in the past few years points to one place, cartoons of a controversial nature, controversial masked men at those cartoons. The two don’t go together, that’s what we are led to believe, and so, they never did; but is that really true?

The first common ground that I’m just gonna throw out there is that both Islam and Art are vast in their scope, one being a religion that covers and lays out guidelines for all parts of human life, from social to military to financial regulations. The other, an expression of the human mind with no limitations, showcasing where the brain’s creativity can take us, we have music, painting, poetry, design, architecture, and of course, the art of the elite, graffiti. The list is endless of what humans have gone to do in order to express, well, humanity.

To some though, religion imposes restrictions, and they don’t like that. Art, the opposite, seen as a way to free your mind. It’s easy to see why that has caused friction between the two.

Charlie Hebdo

The horror and chaos that we saw at the start of the 2015 was the result of disrespect on one side and complete ignorance on the other. To be used interchangeably.

That combined and prevalent thought process is what leads to repetitive news of clashes between religions, not only Islam, and art. True Islam is at the forefront of modern news when it comes to it, but most religions have had their ‘beef’ with art communities, present and past.

‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image’ 2nd commandment, Moses.

Painting : The Adoration of the Golden Cow, Nicolos Poussin

The Golden Cow

So let’s start here, let’s start with that controversial topic.

The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) has been drawn by a cartoonist, somewhere. Riots are happening across the Muslim world, sales of American flags have tripled overnight as people burn them out the streets creating a smoke rife with the aura of the ignorant. Riots worldwide (certain villages across Pakistan). Death threats are made. Shit’s gonna hit the fan. Someone got shot. Denounce this violence. Peace rally. Go home.


Flags Burned at Anti-Imperialist Demo

That’s just what it is. A repeat process.

It had an origin though, and that origin was not too long ago lest we forget. I mean when South Park first aired an episode featuring the Prophet Muhammad, people just watched it. He was like a pyromaniac and then got squatted by Abe Lincoln, a colossal statue of Abe and that’s how it went. They just watched it.

South Park
South Park

He could fly too.

They don’t get South Park in some parts of Pakistan, I get that, but then again they don’t get Charlie Hebdo either. How come no one wanted to burn something that night?

When the Persians painted beautiful works depicting the Prophet, albeit veiled, yet still depictions, no one seemed to want to kill anyone. The hashashin were not sent to work to kill the painter. No. They just chilled.

It is true that these paintings and similar depictions of the Prophet throughout history have been suppressed, knowledge of them was not mainstream up until the violence of late times, where few voices in the Islamic communities did use these examples for calming quickly rising tensions, however no amplitude was given to those voices and no support, because of well; Saudi Arabia.

That’s another long story though. Saudi. We’ll leave it at that for now.

Written by Hamza Asghar

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Hamza Asghar is a 26-year-old who's currently teaching English in China. He's interested in art, culture and cooking.