Alagi Yorro Jallow
I have looked at the poster over and over again, and I find it disdainful and unprofessional. It is a mockery and a scornful attack on Christianity and Islam and the power of prayer. The timing and the context does not allow such insensitive behavior. Putting such a poster on social media is callous in the extreme. Whoever prints trying to express his disdain and irrelevant cynicism of religion under the guise of freedom of artistic and creative expression, something he cannot do for his religion. Jesus Christ is a holy man, and a man of God, and a global icon. Artistic ethics dictate one should not engage in religious sarcasm or mockery of any religion.
Our artists must not glorify immorality in the guise of freedom of artistic creativity. The poster by One Pac’s depiction of the Crucifixion of the holy Prophet of God Jesus Christ of Nazareth to humanity is nonsense. It is dirty content, a shallow, bizarre artistic perversion.
There is nothing artistic an creative in that poster. That artist would be ashamed to create such blasphemous crap in a multicultural society; while comic relief is an integral part of art, it does not have to be dirty or blasphemous to be entertaining. That content lacks rigor and defies common decency. At a time of a national crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, our artists should create content that inspires hope and helps society deal with the current challenges. The artist association in the country should take stern measures against artists who misuse digital technology to promote immorality by creating, broadcasting, distributing, or exhibiting immorality and offensive content. Such people should not be considered artists but enemies of society and threaten our children’s well-being.
To poison a nation, poison its stories, and a demoralized nation tells demoralized stories. Anything that affects our perception of the world usually comes in the form of a story. We must be aware of the stories that we imbibe in our society. We must question them. I am against dirty creative expression content. This is one of the fundamental reasons the artist’s level of creativity that is dirty are pervasive in arts and culture and should not be sold as a way of life. It is the reason we want artists and musicians to conform to the dominant values of society. We can celebrate our culture and make extraordinary art, culture, and music work without undermining our cultural, religious, or stifling creativity.
In the light of the recent print of a poster depicting and aimed at mocking the Prophet of God Jesus Christ of Nazareth to the idea of freedom of expression in particular — and the public depicting of hurtful artistic creativity and blasphemy constitute violations of the right to freedom of expression. It is submitted that the limits of the freedom of artistic and creative expression were overstepped by the printing of One Pac’s poster and that such freedom must be limited when it reaches the bounds of hate speech and blasphemy. It is further submitted that the printing of Prophet Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion for artistic and creative freedom infringes the human dignity of Christians and Muslims in the Gambia and the world at large. The poster makes apparent the double standards in respect of blasphemy inherent in the Gambia jurisdictions, with particular reference to its treatment of cartoon caricature of Prophet Muhammad in France and Denmark particularly.
However, One Pac’s poster calls for an urgent need for artists’ and musicians’ commitment to all religions’ mutual respect and a sincere commitment to multiculturalism. Our cultures and heritages are rich and beautiful. We must resist the narrative that we are children of a lesser god, and that content must be dirty to sell. We must give our children artistic creativity and stories of hope and happiness. We must build self-confidence in them and tell them through arts, culture and, music, and general works of art that they are beautifully and wonderfully made.
Furthermore, we must have content that upholds positive social values such as honesty, hard work, perseverance, and patriotism. Content does not have to be dirty to sell! Therefore, I joined the multitude of Gambians to strongly condemn the unholy action of One Pac’s depiction of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, one of the messengers of God to humanity. As Muslims, we must be tolerant and peaceful at all times.
Moreover, I further condemn any inflammatory rhetoric and provocative acts that seek to defame Christianity and Islam’s religion as the world has recently witnessed in the form of populist speeches and publication of blasphemous caricatures depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad. In this context, denigrating and mocking Christian and Muslim’s Holy Prophet and associating is undoubtedly beyond the scope of freedom of expression and artistic and creative expression of such rights. In a democratic and multicultural country with a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, we Gambians must promote and maintain harmonious relations and peaceful co-existence.
Alagi Yorro Jallow