Sympathy for the Belgians


I love Belgians, and it hurts me to think they only just nearly escaped a major terrorist attack. Belgians are warm, fun-loving, unpretentious people. Belgium, together with Italy, was the birthplace of European painting. Patinier, Jan Van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Juste de Gand, Hugo van der Goes, Hans Memling, Dieric Bouts, Gérard David and all the early Flemish paintings offer a good reason for God to restrain from destroying this planet even if he was very, very angry with us. There is so much tenderness in these “Virgins with child” or in the “double portrait of Arnolfini and his wife” (link here), which heralded the invention of intimacy. And then there is Hieronymus Bosch with his terrifying visions, and there are the Brueghels whose images are bursting with life, and if that is not enough there is Hergé, there is Tintin et Milou, and Captain Haddock, and the Dupont brothers. In the early albums, Tintin sometimes had incredibly racist remarks, but how on Earth could anyone possibly want to hurt the country of Milou?

There is a strong connection between Brussels and Paris. Before being the capital of E.U-Absurdity, Brussels was the place where Victor Hugo and other freedom-loving French escaped when the king’s or the emperor’s police were chasing them.

So, in the name of all the French people, I want to apologize for allowing the world to believe that we invented the French fries. We did not. The Belgians did. And so, we should launch a global campaign for the proper-renaming of the French, I mean, Belgian fries.

Otherwise, if you can read French and you are interested to know more about the representation of the prophet Muhammad across the Centuries, you may read this interesting article in Le Monde (link here) : “under which conditions does Islam authorize the representation of the Prophet”? In this article, we learn that the Sunna does not so much forbid representation as the worshipping of idols.  According to Silvia Naef, of professor of Arab studies in the university of Geneva, “what is being held against makers of pictures is that they are pretending to imitate (in French, “singer”) the work of God: the painter pretends to breathe life into matter that has been shaped by hand.” This would explain why photography is allowed, but not the re-creating gesture of the draftsman.

There is also an article in English about the same topic in Newsweek : link here.

I will not dwell into the comparison between Western painting, cartoons and Orthodox icons, which have different intentions, but clearly, neither Western paintings nor Tintin ever aspired to the status of idols. There is no real presence in them. They connect us with emotions and with life in the same way as a song may remind us of a beloved one.

Clearly, we are in the presence of  two very different, irreconcilable conceptions of the very act of creation, and this is fair enough. As the British say, let us agree to disagree on this. But let us also be clear about what we stand for.

I, with much gratitude, stand for Belgian fries.

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