Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful
A recent exhibition in New South Wales which featured photos of a naked child has stirred much debate. Police seized more than twenty photographs from the gallery, all of which displayed a naked girl believed to be around 13 years of age. Prime Minister Rudd referred to the photos as revolting, and others have described them as pornographic.
As a Muslim I obviously disapprove of any such art, and I use the term loosely. However, in a way I can understand the frustration of the artist in question. Firstly, the man in question has displayed many similar photos in previous exhibitions and not only it did it not make the news, but also during the course of the exhibitions no complaints were made – all suggesting that the photos were acceptable. Same photographer, same type of photos, similar aged children. It begs the question, why this time? If he is breaking a law, was he not breaking a law previously? I find it strange that something can be considered art one day, and that very same thing can be considered dirty and shameful only a few years later. Have we changed that much in a few years? Or is it that we are succumbing to the whims and desires of a few in power? It must be confusing to have the rules constantly changing – to have the line constantly moving. One can see how this would cause confusion and frustrating.
Even more confusing, however, is our society’s view on pornagraphy. So is nakedness in art pornography? If a naked child in a gallery is viewed as pornagraphic, then surely the same should be said about a naked adult. I fail to see how ones age should alter the classification. If anything a naked adult body is almost always seen as a sexual image, as opposed to that of a child which would only be perceived as so by a minority of deranged individuals. Admittedly the child in question was a bit older than a mere child, but I still don’t understand why the pictures of the child would be considered pornographic but that countless other pictures and drawings of naked adults are considered to be ‘tasteful art’. Some may argue that the lack of consent would make it immoral, that children are not old enough to decide such decisions, and there is merit to this argument. However, as far as I understand, this is not a factor in classifying whether or not something is pornographic.
A quick look at the various definations of pornography contain different aspects. First that the subject matter be arousing, secondly that it be perceived as offensive by public opinion at the time, and thirdly that it contain no artistic merit. Its quite interesting as it seems to suggest that a) some level of pornography is acceptable in the name of art, and b) the definition can constantly change based on what society’s definition of acceptable is.
The above definition begs the question, who decides what carries artistic merit and what is acceptable? The problem with definitions that are constantly changing based on public opinion it generally becomes more and more lax as society generally feels the need to move ‘forward’ and outdo their predecessors lest they be viewed as old fashioned and backwords. As such, it is possible that eventually in the future we see a display of two naked adults engaged in a sexual act hung up on the walls of a gallery, and eventually even two children, perhaps even an adult and a chid….all in the name of ‘tasteful art’. When society decides what is right and what is wrong, it opens a pandoras box that we are not equipped to deal with. After all, if it is the will of the people, shouldn’t the leaders elected to represent them follow suite?
The problem is that society’s definitions of morality are constantly changing. And as the rules become more relaxed society becomes faced with more serious and severe problems. On the other hand, who decides what morality should be if not the people? To me the answer is crystal clear. Who is in a better position to know the optimal set of rules under which humans would thrive than He who created us. Whenever I reflect on such problems and issues that plague us it always leads me to the same place. My faith is strengthened as the answer to all our problems becomes even more clear to me. It is Islam of course. There is no substitute for the guidance of God. If only we weren’t too arrogant to accept it.
“O mankind, there has indeed come to you an Exhortation from your Lord and a healing for whatever ills there are in the hearts, and a guidance and a mercy for those who believe.” (Quran 10:58)
Indeed Islam does have that effect. It heals my heart and provides guidance in an ever changing and confusing world – it is a mercy for those who believe.