Friday, September 21, 2007

Viks' Roundabout Dog

On June 11, 2007, Vilks was invited to participate in an art exhibition on the theme "The Dog in Art" (Swedish: Hunden i konsten) that was to be held in the small town of Tällerud in Värmland. Vilks submitted three pen and ink drawings on A4 paper depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a roundabout dog. (Wikipedia) Controversy has followed.

This controversy is a kind of Koan - a putting together of two mutually irreconcilable principles. We in the West regard freedom of expression as inviolable, while Muslims regard the image of the Prophet as sacred. it is the irresistable force meeting the immovable object. Who gives way?

There is no answer that can satisfy both sides at this point in time. In years to come, Muslims will absorb a more Western approach, tolerating the views of others, accepting that not everyone believes as they do, and accepting that living in Western societies, they have to live with provocationists like Viks.

Meanwhile, Viks' action is probably setting back the day that Muslims learn to be tolerant. He is almost certainly strengthening the attitudes and influence of hard line Islamists, and weakening the position of Muslims who are learning to relax. This is not to say that Viks should not have done what he did, because in the same way, to say this would simply provoke him to do it again in spades.

What we can say is that if we value toleration, perhaps we should try to tolerate the sensitivities of Muslims with regard to the image of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him and upon all the world including provocationist artists).

No comments: