Religion, eh? Woooh. Tough one. In response to images of Mohammed in a bear suit being snipped from South Park, artist Molly Norris created this:
but then had a change of heart, which she attempted to explain with this:
Now, the most reductive explanation was that she was scared of decapitation, which was the implied threat that had led the South Park episode to get cut. But it’s all a bit more complex than that. Norris’s whimsically satirical suggestion for a ‘Draw Mohammed Day’ was intended to be a statement of support to the beleaguered South Park creators, and a statement of support for free speech; but inevitably it also attracted a fair share of people who just hate Muslims, which made her feel uncomfortable. So in the end she did this:
I wouldn’t presume to tell Molly Norris what she should and shouldn’t do with her pictures; an artists doesn’t necessarily have any social or moral obligations. But I might point out that it can sometimes be more effective to avoid statements altogether, and just to ask questions. Questions such as: “Why are you scared of cartoons?” for example.
Thanks to Dick Headley for flagging this one up. On vaguely related lines, and to show it isn’t just Muslims who suffer from humour fatigue, here’s Cristina Odone claiming that the BBC has it in for Catholics after she was harangued by a stand-up comedian; and yet the self-same organisation tuts at a different stand-up for comparing Palestine to a cake “being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew”. Now, I’d argue that (leaving aside for the moment the uncomfortable status of the word ‘Jew’, as opposed to ‘Jewish person’) Boyle’s line is worthy of TS Eliot, and a far more successful piece of art than the South Park bear or Norris’s doodles or the shrill hectoring of either Hughes or Odone. And one or two Muslims might agree with me. But does that make it OK?
As I said, tricky one.