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Inconvenience Store

by Brandon Edmonds, images by Filipa Domingues / 28.05.2010

I live quite happily in Woodstock for the moment. It has about equal amounts of dogshit, dreadlocks and dreamcatchers. It also has people of the Islamic persuasion, Muslims. I just felt a chill writing that. Not really. Journalists love to imply that it’s dangerous and edgy to go there but, really, Salman Rushdie’s ordeal is a flare long since sputtered into tedium. Which brings us to the supposedly outlandish size of Zapiro’s balls. He just got the Mail & Guardian into more of the kind of rinky-dink uproar they clearly court, by publishing a cartoon of Allah on the analyst’s couch in heaven, saying, “Other Prophet’s have followers with a sense of humor!” The inevitable patter of ire and death threats rained down on that paper’s well-situated offices. Lawyers were engaged. A council of Muslim whatever got involved. Well-paid men uttered into top notch cell phones and the name of God seemed to have conjured a cyclone as ominous and elemental as the bravura ellipsis in the Coen Bros nervily bleak disquisition on faith, A Serious Man. Then nothing else happened. No divine intervention. No word from above. Just more hours billed. As a thoroughgoing disbeliever may I remind you that there is no God – Allah, or otherwise. Only cartoons, yummy Marlboro Lights, old carved chess pieces, bobbly breasts, and other good things – things that exist.

Anyway, it’s certainly one of the cartoonist’s weaker conceptions, unfunny, straining to be provocative, poorly drawn, and drearily calculated. It doesn’t work because it has too many bristling subtexts that go unacknowledged by the image: other Prophets (Jesus, Buddha) each have strains of evil in their faithful, there are killers, haranguers, and maniacs, in the mix of most any religion’s flock, for one. Plus the premise itself is weak. It values something it shouldn’t: an invitation to literally contravene one of the tenets of a faith. In this case, the prohibition against creating or distributing images of the Prophet Mohammad. The cartoon was inspired by “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” (May 20). Another pointless evanescent online ‘meta-cause’ apparently in the name of freedom of expression, tolerance and blah blah. But really a time-wasting little aggregating meme, amassing all those who think a censored episode of South Park matters more than the outrageous BP oil spill, made possible by the deeply disappointing Obama regime’s easygoing approach to drilling protocols, belching death into the Gulf coast as you read this, or that Detroit police murdered a little black girl for no apparent reason (as if there could be). The cartoon is a plea for laughter but it’s half-assed execution is just laughable. But back to Woodstock.

Shops tend to shut down around here an hour for prayer between 1 and 2pm daily. It’s occasionally inconvenient. You get there and the door is closed. A hand-written sign declares “Closed for Prayer” or more brusquely: “Sorry back at 2”. In the grim instant it takes to internalize the smack of rejection, being on the outside looking in, money redundant in my hand, commerce foregone for faith, I’m replicating on a small scale larger currents at work in the ‘clash of civilizations’ – the intense 21st Century arm-wrestle between Islam and the West. I want to trade. But the door is closed. I want to know what prayer entails in the family space hidden behind and above the shop. Yet I resent the imposition of “another world” (the world of adherence and belief) onto my own, a life very much depleted of credible spiritual options. I want to cross the threshold into “Muslim ritual” and get to know the Other. I’m envious of devotion more than I’m wary of blind faith. The closed door symbolizes a series of closures.

There’s the closed door on refugees and “economic migrants” heading with little more than hope and hype daily for countries alien to their faith and habits. There’s the closed door on rational constructive dialogue in the Middle east (thanks chiefly to Israeli bellicosity and the Papa Bear backing of the United States). There’s the closed door of fundamentalist leaders in ‘arab countries’, indifferent to the populace, perpetuating ancient prejudices holding back progress. There’s the closed door of racism and ‘structural violence’ which ensures jobs and opportunity, education and remuneration, sail suspiciously close to ethnicity. There’s the closed door of belief and what I have. The other thing: a dreadful, pitiless nothing which turns being into a kind of game of distractions before the grave.

Then the door opens, and I’m let in.

All images © and courtesy Filipa Domingues.

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RESPONSES (25)
  1. Anonymous says:

    The photos are great. The entitled, pseudo-intellectual tone of the article, not so much. A pity, really.

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  2. Niel B says:

    Love this.

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  3. brandon edmonds says:

    Oh fuck off, Anonymous.

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  4. rich says:

    ^ second that. love woodstock too, and the cornershop that closes everyday at 1. thanks brandon.

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  5. Jem says:

    i love the way that islamic people dont just go to mosque and talk about faith, its more of a culture even, than a religion, its about daily prayers which involve breathing and kneeling and are not dissimilar to the effect of yoga.

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  6. MSP* says:

    Um I think that Zapiro drew Mohamed and not Allah? Anyhoo Filipa Domingues very nice.

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  7. brandon edmonds says:

    Oh fu…oh wait you’re right MSP!

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  8. MSP* says:

    how about you mothe…oh wait… hahhaaa

    Mr Edmonds i like your articles i dont know why people give you so much kak? But i have a solution, just post Mohamed drawings after their comments and ta da…

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  9. brandon edmonds says:

    You want me killed…you bloody agent!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    ya…like… cool story bro.

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  11. mjg says:

    Nice.
    Love my Woodstock.
    Good piece and rad pics.
    Nice.

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  12. Banger la Ham says:

    Brandon Edmonds is clearly a smart guy and good writer, but he lives in some shithole in Woodstock in his mid-30s… a scary note to aspiring journalists and writers – quit the country or you’ll end up like Edmonds, a talent peddling his works to barely-read online publications.

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  13. brandon edmonds says:

    Is that you, Caitlin, you evil witch?

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  14. Carol Reed says:

    One must suffer in order to write.

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  15. sweat-face mcgee says:

    photos are awesome!

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  16. Andy says:

    you’ll just end up living in a shit hole in England… that could be worse

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  17. alexd says:

    a short poem for banger la ham:
    no grit, no grace
    no grime, no sublime

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  18. sam says:

    did no-one get the ending? …a dreadful, pitiless nothing which turns being into a kind of game of distractions before the grave. how do you reply to something like that with “nice” or “rad pics”. here’s a better reply:

    Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
    before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”-

    before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;

    when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
    when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;

    when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
    when men rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;

    when men are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
    when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags himself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
    Then man goes to his eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.

    Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    or the golden bowl is broken;
    before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    or the wheel broken at the well,

    and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

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  19. Genny says:

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz cool pics though..

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  20. brandon edmonds says:

    That’s strong stuff, Sam. Thank you.

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  21. no actually this is caitlin, thanks says:

    brandon does that sound at all AT ALL like something i would say? no i don’t think it does. i was going to write something nice here till i saw that. arsehole.

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  22. brandon edmonds says:

    This is not my favorite week…so far.

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  23. no actually this is caitlin, thanks says:

    you spelt ‘favourite’ wrong.

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  24. Andy says:

    it’s not wrong… just American

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