Artist: Hassan Heshmat, liberal intellectuals
Confronting Bodies: Al-Azhar and its Dar El-Ifta, the Islamic Research Academy
Date of Action: May 2006
Specific Location: Heshmat Museum, Egypt
Description of Artwork: Among the Hassan Heshmat statutes destroyed was "The Victory Leap." Heshmat made "The Victory Leap" in honor of the Egyptian troops that fought in the waar of 1973.
Description of Incident: Al Azhar and its Dar El-Ifta issue fatwas which are followed by the Muslim. The fatwa in question, issued by Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, stated that Muslims cannot have statutes of living beings, especially of humans, in their homes. As a result of the fatwa, a Muslim woman destroyed some of Hassan Heshmat's statutes located at the Heshmat Museum. After being arrested, the woman said it was her responsibility to destroy the statutes.
Results of Incident: Because of this incident, Gomaa and the poet Ahmed Abdel Moeti Hagazi engaged in a debate on the Egyptian television show, El-Beit Beitak. Hagazi stated that "In Islam you are supposed to ask your heart for fatwa. No one is allowed to coerce a Muslim into choosing this or that. A Muslim must listen to the sheikhs, but is supposed to exercise freedom of choice at the end." Gomaa stated that the fatwa was based on the majority of the committee and not on his personal opinion. However, Muftis in the past have stated that statutes should not be considered haram (forbidden)which is why there was no fatwa in relation statues. The liberal intellectuals become alarmed whenever a fatwa is issued or a book is censored. In their opinion, the actions of Al Azhar should promote tolerance and moderation because of their influence on the Muslim community. The liberal intellectuals also want the Mufti to update older fatwas to reflect modern societal values. Other liberal intellectuals, such as Salah Eissa and Soliman Fayyad, believe that Al Azhar is a political institution which much power and influence.
Source: Egypt Today, www.egypttoday.com
Submitted By: Danielle Biber