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The Middle East as Seen Through Foreign Eyes

Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

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Christus oder Muhammed

Christus oder Muhammed

Karl May was a popular German novelist who wrote many adventure stories set in either the American West or the Middle East. For one edition of the novel Orangen und Datteln, German artist Sascha Schneider illustrated the cover, a black-and-white drawing featuring Jesus and Muhammad standing next to one another. Schneider represents Jesus as placid and virtuous; he stands unarmed, clothed in white robes. The artist’s rendering of Muhammad shows a rather different figure. Clad in dark trousers and naked from the waist up, Mohammed clutches a sword in his left hand with his right hand grasping the hilt. A bald head and thick black beard accentuates Muhammad’s stern countenance, and Jesus appears to be glancing warily at his Arabian counterpart’s austere posture. While reaffirming the association of tranquility and peacefulness with Christianity and violence with Islam, the title of Schneider’s cover illustration “Christus oder Muhammed” (“Christ or Muhammad”) implies that the two faith-traditions are diametrically opposed and one must make a choice between them.

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