The Prophet Muhammad (center) is among the “lawgiving” figures that line the North Wall frieze inside the U.S. Supreme Court chamber. U.S. Supreme Court website
Perched above the press seating area inside the U.S. Supreme Court chamber is a marble image of Prophet Muhammad.
Sculpted in a frieze, the Muhammad statue carries a sword and the Quran and stands in the company of more than a dozen other “great lawgivers of history.” They range from Moses to Confucius to Napoleon to John Marshall, some of whom appear in an accompanying frieze along the south side of the room…
…[I]n 1997, some Muslim leaders called on the Supreme Court to remove the image inside the chamber.
According to a Washington Post article at the time, the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] and other Muslim groups wrote to the court urging that the statue’s face be sandblasted. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist refused, issuing a letter that said it would be “unlawful to remove or in any way injure an architectural feature in the Supreme Court building.”
The “controversy was generally laid to rest, in part through a fatwa” authored by Sheikh Taha Jaber al-Alwani, an influential Islamic scholar, according to a 2009 article in Hamline University’s Journal of Law and Religion.
The Islamic legal opinion written by Mr. al-Alwani concludes:
What I have seen in the Supreme Courtroom deserves nothing but appreciation and gratitude from American Muslims. This is a positive gesture toward Islam made by the architect and other architectural decision-makers of the highest Court in America. God willing, it will help ameliorate some of the unfortunate misinformation that has surrounded Islam and Muslims in this country.
In a culture whose literary heritage is replete with disdainful images of the Prophet Muhammad . . . it is comforting to note that those in the highest Court in the United States were able to surmount these prejudices, and display his image among those of the greatest lawgivers in human history. Isn’t that effort a noble gesture that deserves from us, who believe in him as the Prophet and Messenger, every encouragement, esteem, and gratitude instead of disapproval, condemnation, and outrage?
…Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Law Blog on Wednesday that he now considers the matter closed…
Note that The Wall Street Journal is braver than the The New York Times: it actually displays the photo.
In this article from last week, concerning another Mo statue on courthouse in New York, NYT says “The New York Times has chosen not to publish photographs of the statue with this article.”