Is Apple Computer Insulting Islam?
by Kemal Silay
Last month the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported that "an Islamist website posted a message alerting Muslims to what it claims is a new insult to Islam" [MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series, No. 1315]. As reported by MEMRI, the Islamist site claims that the Apple Store, Fifth Avenue "is meant to provoke Muslims" because it is called the "Apple Mecca" and "is intended to be open 24 hours a day like the Ka'ba, and moreover, contains bars selling alcoholic beverages."
This "new insult to Islam" is a cube-shaped building where customers enjoy test-driving the various lines of Apple computers and peripherals in an ultramodern but cozy environment. Within the store, they can even stop by the "Genius Bar," not for a shot of scotch but to benefit from the knowledge of an expert Apple support rep.
Who would have guessed that the Islamist thought police could so foolishly and maliciously interpret this building as too closely resembling the cube-shaped Ka'ba in Mecca, thereby finding in it a "blatant insult to Islam"?
Islamism is the most dangerous global phenomenon of our time, and the Wahhabism within it occupies a special space for its violent and barbaric reactions to objects. We have seen ample evidence of this violence in Muslim lands such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, and Turkey.
I have been researching the "form fetish" preoccupation of personal computer manufacturers for more than a decade now and never have I noticed that Islam or its icons had played an important role (if any) behind the research and development principals of computer hardware or the stores where computers are sold. Among all the key figures in the creation and development of personal computers, Steve Jobs stands out as the most dedicated when it comes to the aesthetic and marketing aspects of the computer. For him, the computer is not just a machine helping the user accomplish a particular task. It is, or can be, a work of art.
The techno-fetish aspects of a Mac are as important to Apple as the functionality and quality of the chips inside it. According to the Silicon Valley biographer Alan Deutschman, "Jobs had an obsession with the visual and the physical"; "he wanted to create the Porsche of computers" and viewed Apple engineers as "artists."
Jobs was obsessed with the design and looks of his beloved NeXT cube, for exmaple. "Even the hidden electronic guts of the Next computer... had to have a clever, visually appealing design. 'Who is going to see the inside?' one of the NeXT designers asked. 'I will,' Steve said." Jobs' obsession with the Cube was an outcome of his love for the "perfect" machine he wanted to imagine and create, and certainly had nothing to do with any kind of religious icons, especially those of Islam. The cube-shaped Apple Store in New York is a reflection of Jobs' artistic and technological endeavor to make the failed NeXT Cube and the G4 Cube a success, at least in the form of a building.
While Western civilization is inventing scientific and artistic marvels, the other wings of Islamism are preoccupied with inventing provocations in the hope of mobilizing otherwise ordinary Muslims. We have seen this before: the Muhammad cartoon controversy exhibited the same faulty reasoning but unfortunately it succeeded in turning thousands of Muslims to violent protests. This latest incident is one more in a growing list of examples of Muslims over-reacting, over- and mis-interpreting, jumping to conclusions and causing controversy over something innocent or innocuous.
Shall we also outlaw the use of the term Mecca in the English language? The Apple company itself does not officially refer to its Fifth Avenue store as a "Mecca" for Apple customers, but should anyone who uses the term be rounded up? Should any and every object in the form of a cube be outlawed, recalled, trashed?
Islamists have been struggling to turn any Western object that they can imagine into a so-called "insult to Islam."
As a Muslim myself, I see no insult to Islam in a computer store but I see plenty of it in Islamism itself.