It is not true that nothing good can come out of the “On Faith” column at the Washington Post. I just finished a fascinating article by Omid Safi, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill religion professor, who eviscerates the myth that Muslims are forbidden from making graphic depictions of Muhammad:
When a pair of adolescent and anonymous Muslim bloggers (“Muslim Revolution”) threatened the producers of South Park for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit in an April 2010 episode, pundits responded by saying that the “Muslim Revolution” folks were extremist idiots (true) and that they were offended because Islam bans the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad (not true).
When the Danish cartoon controversies broke out in 2005, many pundits–and some Muslims–stated that Muslims were offended because Muslims have never physically depicted the Prophet.
That is actually not the case, and marks yet another example of what is at worst an acute sense of religious amnesia, and at best a distortion of the actual history of Islamic practices: Over the last thousand years, Muslims in India, Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia and Turkey did have a rich courtly tradition of depicting the various prophets, including Prophet Muhammad, in miniatures.
The unfortunate thing is that there are as many Muslims as there are who either 1) don’t know this, or 2) don’t care, and are willing to use stuff like the Danish cartoons as an excuse for violence. I appreciate Dr. Safi setting the record straight in a very public forum, and hope that Muslims, as well as Christians and others, are listening.