Friday, November 25, 2005
Mick Hartley brought this one to my attention. You should see it too:
We wait for this same delicate touch to be extended to the treatment of Shylock and other Hebrews in upcoming productions of Shakespeare's plays. After all, it is a worthy goal to avoid upsetting Jews in light of...well, centuries of history. But actually, no. To the best of my knowledge no one is waiting for a rewrite of Shakespeare on behalf of Jewish sensibilities. And they're not waiting for a rewrite of Marlow any longer either. They've already got it.
IT WAS the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims.
Audiences at the Barbican in London did not see the Koran being burnt, as Marlowe intended, because David Farr, who directed and adapted the classic play, feared that it would inflame passions in the light of the London bombings.
Kind of like the way Piss Christ could have been "watered down" to avoid pissing off the Christians, so it wouldn't have look exactly like a crucifix anymore, instead just as easily representing a urine specimen from an NFL lineman being checked for steroids. Who knows? Offending juiced-up NFL players -- heck, our whole modern culture of competition and the self-destructive extremes to which we are all driven in the relentless pursuit of victory -- would have made a much more powerful statement. Too bad. Of such lost opportunities are riots born.
Simon Reade, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, said that if they had not altered the original it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions”.
The burning of the Koran was “smoothed over”, he said, so that it became just the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. That made it more powerful, they claimed.
Sure, it sounds like common sense -- to the unsophisticated. But what you have to remember is that it is much better to insult Marlow than Muslim beliefs. Marlow is already dead. The London artistic community prefers not to be. Life is full of tough choices.
Charles Nicholl, the author of The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, said it was wrong to tamper with Marlowe because he asked “uncomfortable and confrontational questions -- particularly aimed at those that held dogmatic, religious views”. He added: “Why should Islam be protected from the questioning gaze of Marlowe? Marlowe stands for provocative questions. This is a bit of an insult to him.”
First of all, their dhimmitude is so naive. Because to bravely and transgressively demean theism is still an insult to Islam, or are they unaware that "there is no God but Allah?"
Mr Reade said that Mr Farr felt that burning the Koran “would have been unnecessarily inflammatory”. The play needed to be seen in a 21st century context, he believed. He said: “Marlowe was not challenging Muslims, he was attacking theism, saying, ‘I’m God, there isn’t a God’. If he had been in a Christian country, a Judaic country or a Hindu country, it would be their gods he’d be attacking.” He said more people would be insulted by broadening the attack.
Inayat Bunglawala, the media secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, disagreed, saying: “In the context of a fictional play, I don’t think it will have offended many people.”
And again, the pre-emptive dhimmitude exceeds even the expectations of Muslim leaders. While it's reassuring that at least some Muslims are saying the knee is jerking too hard in these cases, it would be more effective if they spoke earlier, louder and more often, so the knee would no longer fear the hammer.
They need to reassure the artistic community that actors and directors and writers won't be killed just for exercising their freedom of artistic expression -- at least as long as they're playing London instead of Amsterdam. After all, the artistic community isn't likely to suddenly grow a spine all by itself, except when it comes to criticizing non-Islamic religions of course.