Saturday, November 27, 2010

Artist Mark Sinckler, 7/7, Islam and the West

In Western democracies like Britain, artists are overwhelmingly expected to condemn Christianity but remain completely uncritical of Islam. Artists should also demonstrate that even if they are appalled by the actions of Islamist terrorists, they still acknowledge that they have "legitimate grievances".

It usually doesn't go much further than that. But here's a case in which it does: A Muslim artist from Bristol called Mark Sinckler has unveiled an artwork that exploits the 7/7 bombings in London. It seems to celebrate these acts of violence, and appears to represent the terrorists as angels.

The unveiling has been timed to coincide with the Coroner's Inquest into the bombings, which has brought the issue into the media spotlight once again. Needless to say the artwork has caused much outrage and condemnation.

A lot of people think the work should be banned. But I don't. It reveals not only Sinckler's craven, malignant mindset but also the cowardice and hypocrisy that pervade the arts world. While some surely think of him as a hero bravely championing freedom of speech, it just reveals him to be a cynical opportunist.

I mean, if an artist were to draw or paint a kind of anti-Muslim mirror image of Sinckler's work then not only would his career be toast, he'd probably be prosecuted for hate speech by the state - not to mention marked for death by crazed Islamists. Now, why aren't the so-called freedom of speech advocates in the arts world even grumbling about that?

Because of his attitude and allegiances, Sinckler can exploit Britain's pervasive cynicism - not to mention evil capitalism - to flog product and fill his bank account. He's also taking advantage of that nation's great tradition of protecting free expression (at least selectively), as well as the rule of law. He can't lose.

A lot of pretentious arty types are surely rolling their eyes at the outraged reaction to his work, saying: "But can't these philistines see, he's being ironic. He's just trying to make people think."

But the irony it truly reveals (and that he seems oblivious to) is a much bigger one. It's the irony of Islam in the West. He clearly sympathizes with al-Qaeda's agenda (or at least doesn't seem to have any problem with it). But what if their ultimate aim of establishing a very severe form of Islam in countries including Britain were to become a reality? His freedom to offend - along with a whole lot of other freedoms - would simply disappear. (Actually, he'd probably disappear too, after being tortured for a few days!)

It always amazes me that people like Sinckler don't actually realize this. Even if they do, they don't seem to be worried by it.

I suppose that's the reaction you have if you really don't believe in anything much - aside from the right to annoy and offend, of course. But what a sad place to be, particularly for an artist. Aren't they supposed to have integrity, and be passionate, engaged, and courageous?

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