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Ian Thal

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Blogs by Ian Thal

An Open Letter to Stephen Schwartz
4/3/2006 4:59:32 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

[Edited to repair broken URL]
After reading Stephen Schwartz’ fascinating essay, Muhammad Caricatured , I came away confused by the manner that he could attack the totalitarianism of fundamentalists within his own faith (Schwartz is a Sufi Muslim and a widely known critic of Wahhabi extremism) yet with regards to the Christian world, tends to side with the most totalitarian interpretation of Catholicism and attacks all its critics and dissenters as “enemies of religion” or as being league with communists (see my previous exchange with Schwartz on the subject of Italian playwright, Dario Fo.)
So I sent Mr. Schwartz the following email on March 18, 2006 through the Weekly Standard’s website. As he has not responded, and previous experience shows that he generally responds promptly to me, if an insulting retort comes to mind, I can only conclude that he has chosen not to respond. I will not openly speculate as to why I have received no response.
Enjoy, and imagine what could have been.


Dear Mr. Schwartz:
Since our last exchange of views, I came upon your essay regarding the recent dabacle over the Danish cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. I understand your position to be that a.) the Islamic world is by no means in universal agreement that pictorial depictions of Mohammed are forbidden; b.) even if this ban were universal, there is strong historical precedent that Islamic law is understood by Muslims not to be binding on non-Muslims, and c.) that satire of a revered figure is not tantamount to an incitement to violence.
Despite our earlier quarrel, I found your presentation well argued. However I was struck by the seeming contradiction between these positions and the one you took in our dispute regarding Dario Fo, so I wish to pose some questions so that may be further enlightened:
1.) Given that you advocate an Islamic world that respects, even honors pluralism, both among the different branches of Islam and between Islam and other faith traditions, how is it that your conception of pluralism does not extend to the Christian world, and more specifically, the Catholic Church and Dario Fo, whose written work indicates that he is a Christian of a sort, albeit, a "heretical" Christian?
2.) You equate satire directed at the institutions of the Catholic Church with opposition to religion itself-- what was once called "atheism." The only way this equation would work is if one regarded the Roman Catholic Church as the one true faith, and its institutions and hierarchy as being theologically ordained-- that while Dario Fo's satire is so often aimed at such institutions as the Papacy, the Inquisition, and the Autos-da-Fé, this satire makes him not a protester but an enemy of religion itself. My question is: how can one who claims to be a Sufi Muslim take such a Thomistic argument on behalf of the Catholic Church? If you insist on such a theology, can you be a student of Islam? Are Protestants who choose a different ecclesiastical order than that of the Catholic Church, yet claim to be Christians, “enemies of religion?” Is the Catholic faith so weak that it is threatened by a few plays?
3.) Why is it that a Danish cartoonist ridiculing Mohammed is to be tolerated, yet an Italian actor and playwright ridiculing the Pope and the Inquisition not to be tolerated? Indeed, a major target of Fo’s ridicule of the Catholic Church (for which you call him an atheist) is its history of sponsoring violent persecution of the Jews of Europe. Does ridicule of anti-Jewish violence make one an “untiring enemy of religion?”
4.) The only example of violent persecution associated with Mr. Fo's plays to which I was able to find reference was the 1973 abduction, torture, and gang-rape of his wife, the actress Francesca Rame, by a Fascist terror cell, so why do you insinuate a linkage between the persecution of the Catholic clerisy by Communist regimes or paramilitaries and Mr. Fo's satirical work? Why do you insinuate such a linkage between Communist regimes and my own opinions? Do you condemn violence and threats of violence against Mr. Fo and his family?
Have recent events caused your views on the relationship between satire and established religion matured in the last few months?

I await your response.
Sincerely,

Ian Thal


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More Blogs by Ian Thal
• September 2007 Blog - Saturday, October 06, 2007
• August 2007 Blog Index - Sunday, September 02, 2007
• July 2007 Blog Index: - Wednesday, August 01, 2007
• June 2007 Blog Index - Monday, July 02, 2007
• May 2007 Blog Index - Wednesday, May 30, 2007
• The Adventures of CMYK - Tuesday, May 01, 2007
• April Madness - Tuesday, May 01, 2007
• Walt Whitman and I - Friday, April 20, 2007
• Breaking with Bread and Puppet - Thursday, April 12, 2007
• American Dissident Outs Stalinist Clown! - Saturday, February 24, 2007
• The Last Days of Judas Iscariot - Wednesday, January 03, 2007
• My First Feature Film Shoot - Monday, September 04, 2006
• Into the Station” at Boston City Hall - Saturday, July 08, 2006
• Becoming Fire - Friday, June 09, 2006
• Bill and Ian See Blue Man Group - Monday, April 17, 2006
•  An Open Letter to Stephen Schwartz - Monday, April 03, 2006  
• My Quarrel with The Weekly Standard's Stephen Schwartz - Saturday, March 04, 2006
• Bread & Puppet Journal, 2005 - Thursday, December 29, 2005
• Teaching mime with Open Air Circus - Friday, August 05, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VIII - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VII - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VI - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part V - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part IV - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part III - Friday, December 24, 2004
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part II - Friday, December 24, 2004
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part I - Friday, December 24, 2004
• The Dresden Dolls show - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Waltzing to War @ Out of the Blue - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Word Play on SCAT - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Autographs & Interviews - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Beacon Hill Panorama @ All Asia Café - Monday, October 04, 2004
• Trip to Providence - Monday, October 04, 2004
• Interview in Providence Phoenix - Thursday, September 02, 2004
• Activists Vs. Artists - Friday, July 30, 2004
• James Van Looy Interview - Thursday, May 20, 2004
• The Perils of a Political Humorist - Wednesday, May 05, 2004
• On Display - Wednesday, May 05, 2004
• Whimsy: 4/29/2004 - Wednesday, May 05, 2004
• Self Criticism - Wednesday, May 05, 2004
• From The Archives: A Misreading - Tuesday, March 09, 2004
• Our National Anthem/Back in the USA - Friday, January 30, 2004
• Notes on the Confederacy/Back in the USA - Friday, January 30, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Epilogue - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XVII - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XVI - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XV - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater, Part XIV - Tuesday, January 20, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater, Part XIII - Monday, January 12, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater, Part XII - Monday, January 12, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XI - Monday, January 12, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part X - Friday, January 02, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part IX - Friday, January 02, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VIII - Friday, January 02, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VII - Saturday, December 20, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VI - Tuesday, December 16, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part V - Tuesday, December 16, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part IV - Monday, December 15, 2003
• Two Weeks With Bread & Puppet Theater: Part III - Sunday, December 14, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part II - Friday, December 12, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part I - Friday, December 12, 2003
• Flux Concert & Lunar Eclipse - Friday, November 28, 2003
• Squawkings, Hexings and Sonny Holiday - Sunday, November 02, 2003
• On Groupies and Bloggers: Part II: The Blogger - Monday, October 27, 2003
• On Groupies and Bloggers: Part I: The Groupie - Monday, October 27, 2003
• First Ballet Lesson - Sunday, October 26, 2003
• Economics of Art - Wednesday, August 13, 2003
• An artist at work - Tuesday, August 05, 2003
• Performance @ Large - Tuesday, August 05, 2003
• Friday, July 18th, 2003: - Sunday, July 27, 2003
• Trip to NYC, part II - Sunday, July 20, 2003
• Trip to NYC, part I - Sunday, July 20, 2003


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Winner Silver Quill award from American Author's Association and Best Mountain West book from Readers Views. It is 1964, 10 years after Gary Blanchard’s high school adventures in T..  
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