I received this email today from Kåre Bluitgen, the Danish author who wrote a biography of Muhammad in 2005, and then went in search of an illustrator for it. No one would dare, so finally the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten saw the artists’ fear as an attack on the freedom of speech, and published a group of cartoons of Muhammad, all of which were innocuous and some mildly satirical. In response, Muslims rioted and killed, and fulminated against the freedom of speech. The international media obediently fell into lockstep, refusing to republish the cartoons, as they should have done to show respect for the freedom of speech. Instead, they declared that they would not do so, out of “respect” for Islam that was really fear of being targeted in a jihad terror attack.
Instead of standing up for the freedom of speech and rejecting violent intimidation, the media kowtowed to that intimidation, thereby only encouraging more.
Now Kåre Bluitgen is again looking for an illustrator. But in this age of cowardice, is he likely to find any takers? Here is his email:
In an advertisement and essays in Scandinavian papers and internet medias, I have unsuccessfully tried to find an illustrator for my forthcoming book, The Children’s Picture Quran. It was my biography of the Prophet Muhammad (Koranen og Profeten Muhammeds liv) which, in 2005, triggered the worldwide Muhammad crisis. The Muhammed crisis became, at least in Denmark, extremely important and is seen as the biggest foreign policy crisis since the Second World War.
However, my call for artists to create illustrations for a rewritten Quran has achieved no response in Scandinavia. Therefore, I hope that you will spread my message even further, so that the world will experience the first illustrated Quran. I attach an English translation of the text published in Scandinavia.
Why has the world history of art never produced a version of the Quran with glorious images of God and the prophets? The ban on images in Islam led to global riots in the so-called Muhammad cartoons crisis in 2005-6 – a crisis that emanated from my illustrated biography of the Prophet Muhammad (Koranen og Profeten Muhammeds liv). However there is no prohibition in the Quran against depicting either God or prophets. There is too much ignorance regarding Islam. Some two hundred years after the Quran was revealed to Muhammad the expanding Islamic world needed answers to many questions which there were no answers for in the Quran. Then the exegetes turned to the hadiths, the sayings of what Muhammad was supposed to have said and done in concrete situations. Among many thousands a few mentions Muhammad’s resistance to imagery. A few hadiths are very hateful towards the illustrators. They will be the hardest punished in Hell. There are also no examples of depictions of God in the Islamic world, nor of an illustrated Quran. The lack of depictions is hardly out of fear of Hell’s fire, but rather the result of the rising pressure upon people criticizing religion. The secular democracy is challenged by increasingly warlike demands not to violate religious feelings and demands not to interfere with others interpretations, practices and taboos in their religion. But it is precisely this interpersonal exchange of views that bring us together on an increasingly informed basis. The art has penetrated everywhere, but there is one last white spot on the world’s art map: A Children’s Picture Quran. An easy reader edition with glorious images of God and the prophets, of the speaking ants and the Jews turned into apes. It is time for me to call for an illustrator, who, in an enriching manner, will illustrate my coming Quran. Both Muslim and non-Muslim children deserve this opportunity to converse on the most controversial book of their time. And for the last white spot on the world’s art map to be conquered.