29 August 2009
Sandow Birk website:
New York Times, August 30, 2009
Birk said, "I didn't want one photo leaking out and some viral e-mail going
around the Middle East saying, 'Stupid California surfer blasphemes the Koran."
And what if there are charges of blasphemy anyway? To begin with, Mr. Birk
reiterated a disclaimer from his artist's statement noting that his art project
is not meant to be a sacred book. "Really, technically, this wouldn't even
be considered a Koran by Islamic scholars because it is not written in Arabic,"
he said. (Mrs. Shreve Simpson confirmed as much, saying, "The Koran exists
only in the language in which the prophet Muhammad received the revelations,
and he received and preached them in Arabic.")
Mr. Birk also defended his work in terms of freedom of religious expression
-- and interpretation. "The Koran is supposed to be a message from God,"
he said. "If God is speaking to human beings, I should be able to pick up
this book and think about it. I should be able to contemplate what it means
Still, Mr. Madha at the King Fahad Mosque sounded worried. "With all due
respect to people's belief in First Amendment rights, the artist may be opening
up a Pandora's box," he said. "And that's the last thing we want in this
day and age."