What Does Islam Look Like?
"The West and Islam are on a cultural collision course. That's the best-selling fiction that many people — politicians, religious leaders and the media on both sides of the equation — are working overtime to turn into fact. Actually, it's a very old story, and art is routinely pulled into it."
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"The cartoon issue isn't primarily an art story, any more than the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya in India was an architecture story, or the censure of "The Satanic Verses" was a story about contemporary fiction. It's a political story, an ancient and universal one, about how an image, and almost any image will do, once it is fused to cultural identity — Islam, in this case — can end up being used as a weapon."
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"By far the most prominent exhibition of contemporary art on the subject yet seen in New York opens today at the Museum of Modern Art. You would never guess that subject, though, from its title — "Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking" — in which the word Islam does not appear. All but three of the featured artists were born in some part of the so-called Islamic world: Algeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine and Turkey. "
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"So, is there an "Islamic" to be found in the picture that all these exhibitions together create? If there is, it is capacious, multifold, fantastically detailed and, of course, still unfinished; like Western art, it's a project in progress. The political fictions that have commandeered center stage represent only a part of the picture, though it is easy — and dangerous — to take them, or their Western counterparts, for the whole. If art does nothing else, it challenges us not to look at the world too narrowly. By its very breadth it reassures us that no image is the image. That culture is, always, about change. That sometimes collision courses can turn into open highways."