THE Online encyclopedia Wikipedia has again stirred up controversy â€” this time over a biographical entry on the prophet Mohammed.
According to World Wide Religious News, almost 100,000 Muslims worldwide have signed a web-based petition demanding that Wikipedia removes all depictions of the Prophet from its English-language entry.
The creator of the petition asks:
I request all brothers and sisters to sign this petitions so we can tell Wikipedia to respect the religion and remove the illustrations.
Opposition among Muslims to images of Muhammad has its roots in the prohibition of “graven images” in the Ten Commandments, but has varied over time.
Notre Dame history professor Paul M Cobb told the New York Times:
Islamic teaching has traditionally discouraged representation of humans, particularly Muhammad, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. Some of the most beautiful images in Islamic art are manuscript images of Mohammed.
All four images on the English-language Wikipedia page “are rather lovely Persian and Ottoman miniatures from the 14th through 16th centuries”. The two later ones depict Mohammed’s face as covered by a white veil, but the earlier pair show his full face.
One anonymous petitioner from Belgium said:
Please take off those pictures or leave only the digitally blanked out faces please. Thanks for respecting Muslims beliefs. Peace and Light.
Wikipedia has entries on Mohammed in several dozen languages. A quick survey found images of the Prophet on the Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Russian versions, but not on the Arabic, Turkish, Chinese, Albanian, Urdu or Bahasa Indonesia versions.
According to Mediawatchwatch:
To their credit, Wikipedia are standing firm. They have locked down the entry, and put this notice up on the discussions page: ‘Important notice: Prior discussion has determined that pictures of Muhammad will not be removed from this article, and removal of pictures without discussion at Talk:Muhammad/images will be reverted. If you find these images offensive, it is possible to configure your browser not to display them; for instructions, see the FAQ.’
Say what you will about Wikipedia. In this case they are showing more guts and principle than 99.9% of the mainstream media.