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Muhammad Depicted in the Supreme Court Courtroom.--

Duncan Frissell has a nice post on the depiction of Muhammad in a frieze on the wall of the Supreme Court's courtroom. In response to complaints, C.J. Rehnquist refused to remove the work, but he altered its description in Supreme Court literature. In response to complaints:

Rehnquist replied that the depiction of Muhammad "was intended only to recognize him, among many other lawgivers, as an important figure in the history of law; it [was] not intended as a form of idol worship," and that "[a]ltering the depiction of Mohammed would impair the artistic integrity of the whole." Rehnquist also dismissed the objection to the curved sword in the marble Muhammad's hand as reinforcing the stereotypical image of Muslims as intolerant conquerors: "I would point out that swords are used throughout the Court's architecture as a symbol of justice and that nearly a dozen swords appear in the courtroom friezes alone." Rehnquist said the description and literature, however, would be changed to identify Muhammad as a "Prophet of Islam," and not "Founder of Islam." The rewording, based upon "input of numerous Muslim groups," would also say that the figure "is a well-intentioned attempt by the sculptor Adolph Weinman to honor Mohammed, and it bears no resemblance to Mohammed."

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