Sarah Maple defines herself as an artist To use my definition of identity she feels to be an artist. Some would recognize her as such and invite her to expose her works Other, as often is the case for contemporary at, would consider her ‘art’ as another pice of junk. Sarah Maple was born in 1985 and grew up in Sussex. The daughter of a mixed religious and cultural couple, she was brought up as Muslim by her mother.Let me say that I do not find Sarah Maple’s work interesting or original at all. For somebody born in Florence, tolerance for contemporary art tends to end with Kandinsky.
I tend to find Miss Maple’s artistic expression too childish and simplistic, when not overtly vulgar or distasteful without being even too original. Her work it seems often more the production of a school girl with too many hormones in her blood. Indeed it does not reach the artistic power of an unique scandalous artist affected by genitalphilia such as Francis Bacon. I have also the impression that as other artists and writers today, she is trying to find an easy route to fast success by playing with controversy surrounding Islam and Muslims.
This surely has had a great impact on her identity, since much of the theme of her work focuses on Muslim women in a controversial style. Recently, SaLon gallery in Notting Hill, where she is exposing her work, had its door smashed and received violent and threatening emails because of her representation of Muslims and Muslim women in particular. One of her works exposed in the gallery portrays a woman in hijab cuddling a pet-pig. Who knows why, I am not surprised about these attacks, I would have been surprised if the usual violent imbeciles whom for ‘feeling to be Muslims’ need to show their small brains and alleged big muscles, would have spoiled this tasty occasion for gifting us with their anti-social behavior.
Yet, Sarah Maple loves jihad (as we can see from the picture above) and I am sure that she thinks that she is fighting her own towards success. At the same time it will provide the same five percent of ‘facinourous’ at both sides of the spectrum (i.e. the ‘Muslim Zealots’ and the anti-Muslim Zealots) another occasion to spit their venomous words, or in the worst of the case, use their irrational violence. The ones who pay for all this are often the millions and millions of Muslims and non-Muslims who really do not care because they have already too much to care about in their own lives. This ordinary majority ends up being put on the spot because of the games being played today around the support, or the fear, of Islam.
But as an anthropologist I have the impression that this game is more than just a ‘game’ and more like a form of gambling. To understand this we have to start from the famous, or infamous, Rushdie affair. Although Rushdie when he wrote ‘The Satanic Verses‘ (by the way, how many of you have really read the book and finished it?) could not expect Khomeini’s death sentence (technically it was never a fatwa), it had surely an impact on Rushdie’s future career and success. Khomeini has his political, and financial, reasons for asking for Rushdie’s head. Rushdie found himself in a gamble which probably he did not fancy, but, the more he won it, the more he played it. Of course, Rushdie, as many others, could have lost the gamble and with it his own life, but Rushdie without the fatwa would not be Rushdie.
Yet we have to notice that after the example of Rushdie, many other, successful, and this time planned gambles took place. The dynamic is very simple: say something really controversial (but after 9/11 you do not need even to be too controversial) and, because of the existing dynamics started with the war on terror, somebody (or hopefully more than one) who fees to be Muslim will misbehave, scream, burn flags or photos, raise fingers shoutting “Allahu Akbar” while hysterically jumping around. Meanwhile another competition starts: some self-appointed or minority-acclaimed shuyūkh, who compete among themselves more with the length of their beards than theological knowledge, will, with that typical arabic-urdu-ized English (or more often only in Arabic or Urdu) contend for the most shocking and crazy fatwa or condemnation. They also love jihad and like Sarah Maple, the money, or value, it can bring.
Again, on the other side, some of the best known self-proclaimed crusaders (see for instance SIOE and similar organizations and individuals) will use the long bearded fatwaers and the ‘Allahu Akbar’ screamers to bless their wallets (through books, commentaries for the mass media, political careers and so on).
Both these extremist sides gamble on the skin of ordinary people like you and me. They steer emotions, create futile debates and often violence, and in this process harm and endanger both the Muslim communities as well as non-Muslims. Indeed, at the end of the day, while they gamble with at least a chance to win their reward, we can only lose within this vicious new financial game of hate.
It is interesting that no real research has been conducted on the economy behind this process and I really invite scholars to consider this as a new field of investigation. I am sure that we may understand much more of the economic reasons behind the lucrative clash that exists between those whom declare to ‘defend Islam’ when actually shaming the majority of those whom believe in it, and those whom claim to defend the Judeo-Christian imaginary world while actually denying with their empassioned rants many of the liberal-democratic values they claim to stand for.
Both sides are affecting our societies and lives and becoming a dangerous a cancer. Indeed, the great majority of the population (Muslims or non as they may be) apply Dante’s famous advice to the long bearded screamers, the jihad lovers, the jihad gamblers as well as the Jihad crusader ideologists (all only interested in power, success and money): “non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa” (Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass).