Why I Painted the Prophet (Not Satire)
Between June 2017 and October 2019 I worked on a painting portraying the first revelation of Mohammad: while meditating in a cave, the prophet is surprised by the angel “Gabriel” who hugs him and tells him to start writing the Koran. My intention was to create a painting that was reminiscent of western religious art. I incorporated some “fan fiction” elements into the painting, suggesting a romantic component to the encounter. There is some precedence for this in western art, such as in Bernini’s “Ecstasy of Saint Theresa”. In early drafts of my painting, the “angel” sported a reptilian tail to indicate my belief that the creature which Mohammad encountered was most likely a demonic entity rather than a real angel.
In 2015 cartoons portraying Mohammad with a bomb in his turban prompted a terrorist attack on the French magazine that published the images. Soon afterwards, various free speech advocates like Ezra Levant and Steven Crowder made a point of promoting the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Other artists followed suit, and produced similar satirical artwork, such as Bosch Fawstin. In the biggest twist of all, various western governments, such as the government of Canada, decided to adopt Islamic blasphemy laws and began penalizing anyone who distributed the artwork.
Taking this into consideration, I thought it was possible that when I released the painting it would cause an uproar, but this did not prove to be the case. I posted the image on public internet venues and sent it to various individuals who I thought might be interested, but I did not intentionally send the image to any Muslims, not even the handful of free speech Muslim radicals you can find on Twitter. I received almost no online feedback. The image remained online for a few months until Twitter removed it.
But even with the limited exposure the painting received, I received a variety of negative reactions, not all of which I anticipated.
This may surprise some, but I am not a free speech absolutist, so I will not be using this argument to justify the release of this painting. All I would point out in this regard is that as a citizen of a western country founded by Christians, I should be free to mock false gods and their prophets given the Biblical precedence for such things.
My primary argument involves Biblical precedence. When the Old Testament prophet Elijah confronted the priests of Baal, he viciously mocked them, suggesting that Baal was not answering their prayers because he was “on the toilet” (1 Kings 18:27). Some people might consider such language to be a little too spicy for one of the good guys, but it’s right there in the Good Book. (Technically another euphemism is used for “on the toilet”, but it’s still pretty insulting.)
I view my Mohammad painting more as an act of protest again the government of my country rather than an insult to Muslims. It is ridiculous that a western government should adopt Islamic blasphemy laws.
I am not without concern, however, regarding the appropriateness of this painting. The fact is that the Western World faces much greater threats than Islam. Secular humanists, neo-cons, civic-nationalists, globalists, Cultural Marxists, and other internal destructive forces are ultimately a much greater threat.
A possibly valid criticism would be that I should have focused on attacking these things rather than Islam.