Thursday, April 16, 2009

Images of War and War of Images in the Shiite Crescent

Since King Abdallah II’s famous declaration about the threat of the Shiite crescent, tensions become more obvious day after day. After Morocco broke its diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran last March, it is Egypt’s turn to denounce Lebanese Shiite movement Hizbollah.

The coming fights and the secrets thoughts of the political scene could easily find in the “war of images” a very fertile ground as the two main branches of Islam do not have exactly the same doctrine about the question of the representation of human faces.

In modern times, sunnism usually proscribes it when shiism shows a more flexible position. Since the XIXth century at least, Shiite artists commonly represent Muhammad’s cousin, Ali, and his two sons, Husayn and Hasan.

Because of this divergence about the question of representation, the making of Asbat, a kuwaiti financed TV serial about the first Shiites “martyrs”, has created a lot of opposition from various local authorities, especially in Syria where the work is due to be filmed.

Al-Buti, a well-known local imam, has said for instance that such a project was a very first step toward the representation of the prophet Muhammad himself. Something which is not totally unlikely regarding the making of various Iranian movies like the last Jesus, the spirit of God, a film directed by Nader Talebzadeh.

For his defence, Al-Anzi, the Kuwaiti producer, explained that the TV serial describes a period when Islam was united. He also said that distinguished religious authorities do not condemn the use of figurative images, including those of the prophets.

He could have said that even in Saudi Arabia, land of the Wahhabis who profess the more restrictive doctrine on the subject of representation, children books use such pictures, for pedagogical purposes, and that it has been a long time that royal features grace the country bank notes.

But, certainly, all Saudi kings are not holy people.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

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