The Pope and the Prophet

Two bits of religious news and let us see the reactions…

A Scottish art exhibition invited visitors to deface a copy of the Bible. The exhibit, Untitled 2009, is part of the ‘Made In Gods Image’ exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow and was thought up by local artist Anthony Schrag. The intention was for gays and transsexuals who felt left out of religion to write their way back in to the holy book. But visitors offered pens by gallery staff had other ideas, and have scrawled a series of obscene remarks.

Is art beyond the realm of social discourse? Would one consider it as a political commentary that seeks to exclude certain segments of people because of their other beliefs and actions? Have we not heard about incidents of homosexuality within the Church?

The flip side is this: Why does the gay community wish to belong to a faith system that is mainstream when they are not? Does writing obscene remarks lessen their feeling of being left out?

Apparently, after the Pope’s objection, the Bible has been placed in a locked case and visitors can write their comments on blank sheets of paper. They may as well have a meeting or seminar. Incidentally, copies of the Bible, as I am sure other scriptures, are distributed freely. At least, I got several copies from back in my school days to a couple of years ago. How would anyone know whether or not I would treat it with any respect? Do those with evangelical fervour think for a moment that what they deem holy could mean nothing to another and that itself is a sort of defilement?

I don’t find such art particularly interesting or enlightening or even a potent commentary. However, the Church could just have taken up the issue for what it is. Instead, this is what a report states:

The adviser to the head of the Catholic Church said the project was disgusting and offensive. They would not think of doing it to the Koran, he added.

Who are the ‘they’? Who flushed the Koran down the toilet? Who published those Danish cartoons? If people did react, they were immediately termed Islamists, jihadis and intolerant. Some of us who took a view that a religion for its believers must be large enough to withstand such onslaughts were also called jihadis!

So, let us deal with an issue closer to home.

The Prophet’s picture has found its way in a Hindi book chapter in Uttar Pradesh on different religious figures who have contributed to humanity (Manav Uthaan ke Liye Vibhinn Dharmo ka Yogdaan). Islam does not permit publication of the pictures of the Prophet, according to a report. A clarification. There are no pictures available or even ancient artistic impressions. And, yes, the religion does not allow such depictions because it does not believe in iconography. That is the reason I have often mentioned tombs being unIslamic.

Yuvraj Dutt, the writer, said the Prophet’s picture was available on the internet and was downloaded from there. Incidentally, the picture was added in the third edition of the book in 2009.

It begs the question: why now? Obviously, they knew it was not exactly the done thing. What is the motive? Why this desperate urge to give a face to the Prophet? Because politics needs something.

Ex-state minister and SP leader Ujjawal Raman Singh threatened that the party would take to the streets and also raise the issue in the assembly if the photograph was not removed.

Please note the name of this gentleman. He is not a Muslim protecting his faith. Just as the first person to call for a ban on Satanic Verses was Khushwant Singh, a Sikh.

And this is my beef. I may well say that it is no big deal, but once it is made an issue of then do not expect silence. The Pope makes a noise; the maulvis will too. And the saffron guys do it as well when their god images, which are used artistically often, are distorted in any manner.

Oh, we speak about madrassas and how only religion is taught there. Here are students in a Mumbai school praying to the snake god:


  1. yeah, but they are not being taught to perceive their religion as the most perfect faith and run down other religions. I would rather pray to a snake god than listen to the rubbish that one hears from so-called scholars of Islam, a case in point, Zakir Naik. Blithely he goes on pronouncing how in matters of "deen" Islam is superior to other faiths. As far as the reaction to defacing Bible, no one was murdered, no bounty was offered on the offending person, and neither did the Pope issue fatwa legalizing burning and rioting on streets. Save your homilies for a better issue.

  2. Why are schools promoting religion,even missionary schools have morning prayers.No one will think of Pope as intolerant it is different standard for different people.Old Hindu art had lots of depictions of gods,it is only political parties that object

  3. They will go back to their regular math,science courses,once they finish praying to the 'snake god'.Once they grow up,they will aspire to be doctors and engineers.They wont be insisting on words written about fourteen hundred years ago are the ultimate truth,that the koran contains answers to all questions ,that he/she who does not accept mohammd as the last prophet deserves to go to hell..They will never engage in debates like what is allowed in islam,what is not..Instead they will use their brain,education to decide what's wrong and what is not..

    See,the difference between the madarsas and this school are very simple and obvious..for somebody who does not want to be a cry baby..pretty tough to expect from somebody who is a muslim..See the whole world is ganged up against the mullash,is it not?

  4. FV,
    Any GOD anywhere didnt leave behind an authorised signatory or an exclusive dealer, it is up to an individual how he "perceives" his god to be ...Religion is symbol of collection....a crowd... whereas spirituality or whatever u may call it, I call this higher state of awareness or being,,,is an absolutely individual phenomenon.The way I see my god is a 1x1 relationship and not public....Spiritual experinces are like orgasms...they dont have instruction manuals and are not in public domain ...so why should religion be .......let the godmen fight..

  5. The comment on the picture and implying that this in some ways is comparable to a Madrassa is quite inappropriate. The reason being that for these children once the "bowing to god" business is over, they will most likely go to their classrooms and have lessons in Science, Maths, Social Sciences etc.. It is the proportion and relative emphasis which counts and what you just did was comparing Apples and Oranges.. This is precisely the kind of thing I expect from a government statistician/economist and not from you!!

  6. Anon:

    If they are not taught all that, then where does YOUR aversion arise from? You had special schooling? Zakir Naik is a buffoon, but for a believer her/his religion will be the best. Damn, that applies to any field…or organ of the body as well.

    Re. no one was murdered etc, please understand that the fatwa is an opinion of a group of people not binding as per the religion. So diss those groups, not the faith per se and innocents like me who just happen to be born Muslim. I could have been born Rastafarian or have become a Wiccan witch. The Pope is god’s emissary on earth so how can he legalise murders? Incidentally, Islam does not have a pontiff, so people do what they felt they gotta do…it could be wrong, and often it is, but there have been instances when people have run amok because they were protecting this and that religion. Okay? So, take off the blinkers.

    Save your homilies for a better issue.

    I did not know this sounded like a sermon. I have a new career option. Thanks.


    Good you brought up the point. I recall having to sing hymns in my school. At that time I found it terribly sweet but then I was aiming at getting a spot in the choir! It does not take much to figure out the different standards…and you are right about old Hindu artistic impressions of gods. They are all over in the temples…


    Wow, you have the whole schedule ready for them! You seem to believe that every child who prays in a certain way as opposed to another is a good student with aspirations. Get real. India has a great deal of unemployment. And many of these children do believe in mentioning some gods and scriptures.

    I don’t think the whole world is ganged up against the mullahs…but just for your information, I think Osama’s men make some real neat home videos and if guys can fly through buildings, they have got to have some education and professional skills. Unless, of course, you are willing to go along with other theories :)


    Absolutely. Except that spiritual experiences and orgasms sometimes need be enhanced with helpful aids (not aides) and they most certainly are not to be in the public domain. I have often compared religion with sexuality…I think the fight is over whose is bigger…


    I have explained some of your points in reply to JJ.

    Apples and oranges are both fruits with different vitamin, protein and all that jazz…the comparison was of the basic underlying attitude. Madrassas do offer other kinds of education…science, maths, social sciences, computer skills (now if only I had attended one I would have leanred the Arabic script to enjoy some sharaab-shabaab poetry and also how DOS works!).

    This is precisely the kind of thing I expect from a government statistician/economist and not from you!!

    Feeling upwardly mobile these days :)

  7. Ms FV
    Are you sure that first person to ask for ban of 'Satanic Verses' was Khuswant Singh? It is hard to believe that he would ask for such a thing.

  8. Ms FV
    Further to banning of Satanic Verses I came across this:
    What I know is the Khushwant Singh talked about the riots that Satanic Verses might cause to Penguin India. That is not off the mark. His own words:

    My advising Viking-Penguin (India) not to publish the novel in India was
    in pursuance of my duty as an advisor. I warned them that it would
    invite trouble, including violence, on its head. I am totally against
    banning books or films for any reason whatsoever and was against banning
    The Satanic Verses. People who don't want to read a book don't have to
    read it. But what is one to do with religious frenzy and fanaticism? If
    Penguin (India) had published the novel its offices would have been
    wrecked and its staff manhandled. I saved them from taking that risk.

  9. When Khushwant Singh talks about riots, it cannot mean only the Penguin India offices. Besides, he assumes such riots would take place. Remember this was 1988 and there was still hope against communalism. So, on what grounds did he make this sweeping analysis? How many people read such books, and how many who burned copies had read it? Do you know that there was a flurry before it was banned and people were informed and rushed to buy copies? Talk of clever marketing!

    Rajiv Gandhi immediately banned the book because elections were close.

    These are political acts. Btw, 'Nine Hours to Rama' on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination was banned in India. It is a 1962 book and its author Stanley Walpert had no clue why it was.

    PS: Plz could you use a nick for yourself, so I can tell you apart from other anons?


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