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Controversy over 17th Century Pulpit Depicting Muhammad Being Trampled

MediaWatchWatch notes that the Turkish newspaper Yeniçag has taken offence to the publication of a photograph of a seventeenth-century Dutch church sculpture of Muhammad being trampled by angels. The photo appeared in the conservative Brussels Journal blog back in 2006, but only now has the Turkish paper taken the obvious anti-Muslim bait. The Brussels Journal crows:

Last Friday the Turkish newspaper Yeniçag reprinted our picture on its front page with the caption “Stop this hideous insult.” Yeniçag demands that Belgium remove the pulpit. The paper writes that “We have had the crusades and now they are still trying to humiliate us. This is as bad as the Danish cartoons and Geert Wilders’s Fitna movie in the Netherlands. Even Pope Benedict does nothing to stop these humiliations.”

Since Friday, we have received threats while the authorities in Belgium, which has a large population of Turkish immigrants, fear that the pulpit and the church may be attacked. The Belgian press reported today that the police is guarding Dendermonde’s Our Lady church to prevent vandalism to church and pulpit.

…According to the Belgian press the pulpit controversy has been deliberately caused by this website, which is being described as “pretending to be neo-conservative” but run by “neo-fascists.” Piet Buyse, the mayor of Dendermonde, told the media that he deplores that the pulpit “figures on websites which aim to provoke negative reactions from Muslims.” The mayor said that the depicted man represents an unbeliever and may also be Luther or Calvin.

Given that the figure does not resemble either Luther or Calvin Buyse’s explanation is not credible; the artist, Mattheus van Beveren, was also at one point the court sculptor to the famously Protestant King William III in London. The sculpture was reportedly made shortly after the Battle of Vienna.

However, if the editors of Yeniçag want the Pope to intervene over offensive church art, there’s a queue; a couple of years ago I noted Magda Teter’s book Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland:

One…controversy centered around a painting, formerly known as Infanticidia or “Ritual Murder by Jews,” in the cathedral church in Sandomierz…Following the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Poland and Israel in the 1990s and the appointment of a Jewish-Catholic committee on reconciliation, a demand arose that this painting be removed from the church, as other paintings of this sort had been in Poland, as in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, near Pope John Paul II’s hometown of Wadowice.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has a good example of a once-popular Christian theme:

Scholar Henry Claman explains:

Ecclesia (the Church) on the left is a nice-looking young woman with a halo, a crown, a cup (the Holy Grail) and a staff and banner. On the right is Sinagoga (representing Judaism) stooped (seductive?) and older, without a halo. Her crown (the symbol of her former authority) has fallen to her feet, her staff is broken, and she cannot see. What is wound around her head and in front of her eyes is a snake, the symbol of evil. The blindfolding of Sinagoga reflects the blindness of the Jews who could not see the truth of Christianity.

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