Thursday, June 09, 2005

Korans in the Can?

Recently, a friend of mine asked for my opinion on the so-called "abuses" of the Islamic text known as the Koran and why I wasn't writing about it here. As Admiral J.T. Kirk will put it in about two hundred and eighty years, "Here it comes." My opinion is best put it in the form of a question: Why is it that I'm supposed to suck it up every time that some half-wit artist slurs my faith on my dime, but yet I'm supposed to understand and approve of Islamist "rage" when there are allegations that maybe a copy of the Islamic central text got flushed? I sense a great dichotomy in the Force. Ahem. I'm not writing about it because I don't care. A loathsome "artist" named Andres Serrano used Federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to create a work named "Piss Christ", wherein he filled a glass with his urine and then dipped a Roman Catholic crucifix into it.1 There was of course outrage at this work, apparently led by Senators Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Alphonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.). Naturally, the defense was centered around "artistic freedom" and the like; those who opposed this blasphemous and vile work were labeled as neanderthals who wanted to crush the freedom of expression, or something like it. It's been nearly twenty years, but I daresay that the New York Times et cetera were in the vanguard of those howling "oppression" because Helms et al suggested that perhaps the Federal dollar should not be spent on such things. The "artsy" types back in my home town certainly would have rallied in defense of the artist, because there's a hidden clause in the Constitution that says that art, so long as it is offensive to Christians, is always good. That which offends the public morality of Christians is good, if you will.2 The same controversy arose in the City of New York back in 1999, when Chris Ofili produced and exhibited a work that consisted of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, festooned with elephant manure. Then-NYC mayor Rudolph Guiliani publicly suggested that the grant for the Brooklyn Museum ought to be pulled. The American Civil Liberties Union of course swung into injunctive action, doing its evil best to defend this blasphemous work.3 Once again, the refrain was that Christians should get over it, that it's no big deal that two of the more central figures in the Christian pantheon are defaced for the sake of art. "Deal with it, you silly Christians! It's not important!" It is with the memories of this in my mind that I approach the stories of Koranic desecration and the reports of rioting.4 Much has been said by a variety of people about how it is a great tragedy that the Islamic central text. This has come from curious quarters, indeed. The same quarters that would suggest that I, as a Christian, have no right to complain about the "Piss Christ" are now suggesting that the Koran deserves some sort of protection because a bunch of suspected terrorists and/or Islamist combatants consider it an important text. In other words, I am supposed to shudder with rage because a guard at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, might not have treated this text with appropriate deference.5 I think not. If I'm supposed to applaud and genuflect my deeply held personal beliefs to the altar of artistic freedom when important aspects of my faith are tarred in the manner of Serrano and Ofili, then the "Arab street" can kindly do likewise. Therefore, I offer the following advice to the Department of Defense: Find a Mason jar amongst the troops at Guantanamo Bay. Fill it with urine, then dunk the Koran. Dub it the "Piss Koran", and have someone claim it as their artistic work. Give them some money from the NEA, get some general officer to write a memo opposing it, and talk Sean Hannity & Bill O'Reilly into attacking the work on their national radio programs. I guarantee that within a day, the intelligentsia of this nation will be defending the right of our warrior artists to their artistic freedoms. Moreover, the inevitable riots in the Arab world will be met with a sneering "tut tut" from the opinion-makers on high. It will allow us to make use of previously unexploited resources in prosecuting the war effort, and I would think that such would be a good thing. To rip off a quote from Admiral Motti, "Artistic freedom is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it." ---- This post was inspired by the following entry at SoxBlog. I really need to find that song he's referencing. 1 Roman Catholic crucifixes in general (and this one in particular) consist of a representation of the cross along with a figure of Jesus Christ. This is of course different from those that Protestants would be more familiar with, which do not include a figure of Jesus Christ. 2 Additional witness to this is born by the divergent reactions to Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The former was hailed by the cultural elites, while the latter was reviled. 3 In the process of researching this piece, I ran across an article from Inkwell relating the story of how the work no longer exists, due to a fire in a storage house. Ha ha. 4 I am unmoved by riots in response to the so-called "desecration" of the Islamic central text. These people will riot for any thing at any time; they have effectively cried 'wolf' ten or fifteen too many times. In retrospect, I would suggest that the the Islamic demonstration probably lost its moral effectiveness some time around the publication of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. As P.J. O'Rourke (approximately) put it, "A book critical of Islam was written by an Indian national and published in the United Kingdom. Naturally, the demonstrators burned the American flag outside American embassies." 5 When news of this broke, I asked myself the following question: "If someone was trying to interrogate you, and urinated upon a copy of the King James Version, how would you respond?" After a few seconds, it occurred to me: "I'd shrug. If they want to go ahead and punch their tickets on the Express Elevator to Hell, then let them. Considering what I know about torture methods used on prisoners, that's pretty tame."

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