Queensland artist Priscilla Bracks’ three-portrait painting of Osama morphing into Jesus is an interesting subject for a work of art on many spiritual and political levels.
Both Islam and Christianity revere Jesus Christ in their own way, including the extremists among their many factions. While both faiths recognise the Old Testament as part of their sacred scriptures, their differences were the basis of the Crusades where Christians aimed to destroy Islam, “the infidel”.
Today, Islamic extremists and moderate Christians invoke the name of Allah or God in their quest to kill each other off. Osama bin Ladin’s crowd killed 3000 people on September 11. George Bush’s war on Iraq has killed some 650,000 people. And more again in Afghanistan. By any stretch of the imagination, Bush is the winner!
The demonisation of each other clearly drives the hatred between Islamic extremists and the so-called Christian west.
Western colonialism, especially American neo-colonialism, has long been deeply resented in the Middle East (as well as other parts of the world) and we need a better understanding of how America is viewed. England’s T E Lawrence was part of the British Empire’s push in the Arab world, but there was a man who endeavoured to understand the Arabs. He saw much to admire as well as to decry.
But such understanding is long gone.
In the 1950s, the English television series The Adventures of Robin Hood featured an episode entitled “The Infidel”. Here, Robin Hood rescues a Moslem from a beating by some English countrymen. It transpires the Moslem had been kidnapped by the English and brought to England to be a pawn in a complicated ruse to remove a landowner from his property. He was beset by the countrymen after escaping his captors.
Robin Hood and the so-called “Infidel” engage in an illuminating discussion about each other’s leaders. When the Infidel hears that Robin is loyal to King Richard, he speaks glowingly of the king and shares an anecdote about his great courage. Likewise Robin admires Saladin for his great qualities.
Maybe the TV show played loosely with the truth, but the very easy lesson to glean is the importance of honour, including honour in war. We have seen something of this in the American Civil War and World War I. But the time of Hitler, demonisation of each other’s enemies and their leaders became the preferred strategy. America used extremely racist terms to describe Germans, Italians and the Japanese. It may have helped win the war, but the racial vilification still lingers to this day.
America honoured the Russians in their films, on the battlefield and in diplomacy when they were allies only to prepare for demonisation of the communists in the post-war cold war.
America likes demonising people it calls its enemies, including such great progressive and benign leaders today like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales who advocate for peace and good-neighbourliness. America does not understand why and how they are perceived so badly around the world. John Howard does not understand this either even though he is from Australia where we value the “fair go”. They don’t want to understand it because cultivating hatred is more effective to their dubious cause and ends.
The morphing Osama-Jesus portraits are important because they force us to look at ourselves. The art work strips away the demonisation of both Islam and Christianity and confronts us with the truth that there are similarities between the two faiths.
If there were more honour in the world, there would be less extremism. Anybody who thinks the Bush-Howard war in Iraq will resolve the problem of Islamic extremism and terrorism are laying the groundwork for a blundering hateful world of war and chaos. Perhaps eternal conflict is their ultimate aim. In any case Bush and Howard are responsible for the deaths of 650,000 people in Iraq. That’s a lot of killing in revenge for September 11, especially as Iraq had nothing to do with those deadly terrorist attacks in New York. The war has, in fact, has given al-Queda a foothold in Iraq that they never had when Osama bin Ladin’s enemy Saddam Hussein was the Iraqi leader.
I am more worried about Christian “moderates” than I am about Islamic terrorists. Look at this painting so you can look at yourselves.
Courier Mail: Jesus-Osama artist says work not meant to offend