13 February 2008

Tempo and the Last Supper

Religious satire and the question of blasphemy rises again in Indonesia. The furore that accompanied the publishing of cartoons depicting the image of the Prophet Muhammad has now turned to Indonesian Catholics being offended by a cover on Tempo Magazine depicting the Last Supper with Jesus and his Disciples replaced by the happy and smiling heads of Soeharto and his kiddies!

This is a case of making a mountain out of a mole hill and the fact that some Indonesian Catholics are forcing the issue by suing Tempo is another attack on the freedom of the press. That said, the cartoons of the Prophet, and Koran / Haddith teachings aside that prevent the rendering of the image of the Prophet in any form, the question of double standard is sure to be asked.

When it is all said and done, and even giving much leeway to the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci, the painting of the Last Supper is no more than one artists interpretation of what might have been. Any reader of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code will probably be able to provide you with all sorts of conspiracy and trivial pursuit knowledge of the coming into being of DaVinci's Last Supper. But it is but a painting.

What is more surpising is the rapid nature in which Tempo backed down and apologized for the offence. There is nothing to apologize for here...

On the cartoon front. It is being reported that Danish police have foiled a murder plot that was being hatched to target and kill the cartoonist who dared publish cartoons depicting the image of the Prophet.

A threat to the freedom of thought and expression anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere -- freedom of thought, expression, religion, and democracy must be defended wherever it needs to be...as Thomas Jefferson once said:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

May we one day find the tolerance that this world will so desperately need to survive its human occupation!

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