Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Virgin Mary Controversy in 1999-2/8/06

The current rioting over the Danish cartoon has been featured on all the cable shows ad-nauseum.
Interestingly the NY Times and most major American papers have not reproduced the cartoon. Certainly a victory for fear and Political Correctness. They certainly have no compunction about printing the “Pentagon Papers” or leaking the wiretap story-which could harm our national security.

Very few people ask why with each Islamic suicide bomber we don’t have similar outbursts for the insult that such an barbaric attack has on the honor of the Prophet.

No religion or religious person enjoys seeing their holy beliefs being either ridiculed or insulted. However, freedom of the press and free speech are paramount in our culture.

Had no riots or protests occurred, surely the cartoon would have long been forgotten.

I recall the Brooklyn Museum exhibit in Sept 1999 which featured a painting called “the Holy Virgin Mary” in which artist Chris Olifi had a clump of elephant dung smearing one of her breasts. The Church and Mayor Guliani were furious calling it “Catholic bashing”.

As President of the OU, I felt that though it probably had no discernable artistic value, the artist certainly was free to express his opinion, but not in a publicly supported institution, meant to serve the entire community. The artist certainly had the right to go to a private gallery and exhibit his paintings. I urged that a more sympathetic Lay Board be appointed. to oversee the Museum.

Despite its incendiary nature, there were never riots or threats to property or persons. This type of violent reaction we are now witnessing, with the encouragement of radical elements, certainly makes discourse all the more difficult if not impossible—unless we abstain from all critical remarks, editorials or cartoons. But then, we wouldn’t be America.