Equal Opportunity Defenders
By Dr Mahjabeen Islam
Toledo , Ohio


The Smithsonian’s ant-covered crucifix video is not a matter of censorship, only a commentary on our state of desensitized rudeness.

The Smithsonian Institution in its National Portrait Gallery Hide/Seek exhibit featured a video by artist David Wojnarowicz who died of AIDS in 1992. The video has a segment showing ants crawling on a crucifix and was said to be a commentary on the AIDS epidemic. Parts of the video are pornographic and bloody and the whole left me nauseated, unable to connect the parts, primarily the claimed connection to AIDS. 

The video was screened for a day as it was heavily criticized by the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue and House Speaker-in waiting Rep. John Boehner (OH) and House Majority Whip-to be Rep. Eric Cantor (VA). And now the Smithsonian is being soaked in criticism for bowing under the pressure of censorship.

The Smithsonian’s facilities are federally funded but the exhibits are supported by various private foundations. Bill Donohue’s statement that “our tax dollars cannot be used to promote religion and they should not be used to assault religion either” is well taken.  Donohue and others also said that the fear of Muslims and Jews prevents a similar depiction of Muhammad or Moses.

The veneration accorded the Torah by the Jews is similar to the respect with which Muslims treat the Qur’an, taking the verse “which none shall touch but those who are clean” (Qur’an 56:79) very seriously. Believing in all the revealed books including the Torah and the Bible, a Muslim household will have them in a high place on a bookshelf.

Muslims must believe in the unity of God, all the prophets, all the revealed books, angels, the Day of Judgment and fate and predestination. In the hierarchy of love and respect come God (Allah), Muhammad and then parents. Desecration of Muhammad hits at the core of Muslims, true. But Muslims adore Moses and Jesus and many precepts of Islam are illustrated by their lives in the Qur’an.

The Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoons caused an uproar and death threats to the authors. While the agony and protest are justified, the Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) do not condone violence. Muslims must vociferously protest the desecration of all religious figures, especially our beloved Christ.

I remember that image and it seems to be etched in my mind always causing me a gnawing pain. I was doing a Pap on a young woman and as I examined her abdomen I saw a crucifix tattooed on her groin. I lost my composure internally, for more than a few moments, as I hastily weighed my options. My face professionally impassive, I continued my exam as though I had seen nothing. My brain seemed to have walked out on me and my heart  felt stomped on and insistent on answers that I could not provide or ask for. The patient went on her merry way and I remain distressed.

Recently with a bunch of Christmas cards and address labels from the many organizations that now send you unsolicited stationery, came a crucifix locket on a chain.  Respect for religious symbols is so much a part of the Muslim genome that I could not bear to throw it away; I gave it to someone who’d wear it.

Muslims are perpetually blamed for not condemning enough and not doing enough; what Pakistanis lovingly call the “do more” push by the West. A dispassionate examination of ignored journalism will show that hate speech against non-Muslim figures is protested by individual Muslims and Muslim organizations.

The burning of churches and the mistreatment of minorities in Muslim countries is a highly condemnable act and in stark contrast to the fact that Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, was invited to pray in a church in Jerusalem in 637, but chose not to so that it would not be used as an excuse to take a church over by future Muslims.

My un-artsy eye cannot see the celebrated flair in the ant-covered crucifix video, all I see is sick sensationalism. Are we going to sacrifice all-respect, values, basic decency-over that high and holy god called freedom of speech?

(Mahjabeen Islam is a family physician, addictionist and columnist. mahjabeen.islam@gmail.com)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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