On Everybody Draw Mohammad Day

As you would all be aware by now, the recent depiction of Mohammed on South Park resulted in numerous death threats against the producer, with the result that Comedy Central pulled the remaining episodes off air, the latest installment in a saga that began with the infamous cartoons a few years ago.

In response, a Seattle cartoonist has declared May 20, 2010 “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day,” as a way of supporting Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and showing opposition to religious thuggery, an event that that has drawn support from conservatives and libertarians around the world.

This is not, however, an event I shall be participating in. This is not because I have inherent sympathies to Islam (I don’t), nor because I am squeamish about political correctness (I most certainly am not!)

Rather, it is for a more simple reason. It’s just that, if I were to do so, it would go against what I consider one of the cardinal rules of blogging (and indeed politics and life in general), that being “don’t be a d**k”.

See, here’s the thing. If I were to post a Mohammed cartoon, I would certainly be highlighting my defiance against extremist radicals and standing up for free speech. But I would also be offending the Muslims who are not fanatics. And why on earth would I want to do that? Like really, why on earth I would want to offend so many people, just to prove a point? For I have always felt we can always argue, we can always debate, we can always disagree, without, well, being d**ks.

Every year, so-called “artists” wanting their 15 minutes of fame create something attacking  Christianity, an act of sacrilege with no other purpose in mind other than to offend. Such actions deeply, deeply offend me. Now, I would never call for such things to be banned (and certainly wouldn’t threaten their creators), but I still think it’s a shitty thing for people to do. And I think it demonstrates their true character (or lack thereof). And this is what it comes down to – character.

So why would I stoop to their level? Why gratuitously insult millions of people just to prove a point? Sure, standing up and defying terrorists is morally satisfying, and sure, I have ever right to do so, but is it really necessary for us to take advantage of that right? Just because an action is morally justified, does not mean it is the right thing to do. Indeed, there are many things we can do that are perfectly acceptable from an ethical standpoint that we choose not to, for the simple reason that we are actually nice people. In the same way that true leadership is demonstrated by having power, and choosing not to exercise it, having the freedom to offend, and choosing not to, is just as powerful a statement.

So, as much as I can sympathies with the motives of those who shall be, I will not be drawing a cartoon of Mohammed on May 20. Not because I’m ‘caving’ to religious thuggery, but rather, because for me, freedom is intertwined with choice, and I choose not to offend. And because having the power to offend, and choosing not to exercise it, sends the strongest message possible.

To those issuing such threats, I can do little more than echo the words of John Stewart and say “go f**k yourself”. You have intimidated no-one, you have succeeded in nothing, and have done little other than earn yourself a speedier trip to eternal damnation.

But I can not – and will not – insult millions of generally decent people, just to piss off a few lunatics. You just aren’t worth it.

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10 Responses to “On Everybody Draw Mohammad Day”

  1. Ben Says:

    LOL. I’m glad you don’t want to offend “the 99.9% of Muslims who are not fanatics.” Come to think of it, where does that figure come from? My theory: I think some guy from the NYT thought it up after sipping his soyccino. He is probably also a fan of Neville Chamberlain and emo music.

    If 99.9% of Muslims aren’t fanatics then where are all these great free-speech Muslim-majority democracies? Can someone point me to even one major Muslim-majority nation where one can openly drink beer, vote for a lesbian, watch uncensored South Park cartoons, and build huge church buildings and synagogues in the chosen nation’s capital? The real dicks* are the people appeasing Islamofascism.

    *Correction: They’re bottoms.

  2. Tim Andrews Says:

    But why should we stoop to their level?

  3. Ben Says:

    As a loud defender and supporter of controversial artworks, I support this radical free speech movement. But at any rate, I don’t think people who deconstruct Muslim icons are stooping to “their level.” Please. I say let individuals make up their minds about art. Soon after Theo van Gogh’s assassination, I contacted a relative in Holland, and thought to myself, “F**k this intimidation.” Never again.

  4. You know who I am Says:

    People do not have the right to not be offended, and giving offence is perhaps one of the most powerful (if extreme) tools one can use to highlight an alternate point of view. How can someone not see those alternatives if their beliefs are not called into question through mockery, ridicule and ‘giving offence’? The idea that something is ‘sacred’ is not a good enough reason to not seek to open someone’s eyes through giving offence.

  5. Tim Andrews Says:

    I agree there is no right to not be offended. I also agree that giving offense is a powerful tool to highlight an alternate point of views.

    With that being said, however, I think that giving offense – for the sake of giving offense – is, well, d**kish behaviour.

  6. You know who I am Says:

    But I don’t believe here it is being used purely for the sake of it. I see it as a genuine attempt to say “hey, mates, there’s a point where we’re prepared to accept not doing something because it offends you, that’s cool. But the moment you threaten people’s lives when they do it, kill people, or do not stand up to the people who do and represent your faith in the public eye; the moment you tread on our free speech as well as yours, is the moment we turn around and say hey, fuck you.”

  7. Aubrey Says:

    “Can someone point me to even one major Muslim-majority nation where one can openly drink beer, vote for a lesbian, watch uncensored South Park cartoons, and build huge church buildings and synagogues in the chosen nation’s capital.”

    Yes, I can. It’s in Indonesia, home to 1/5 of the world’s Muslims and the largest Muslim-majority country in the world (250 million people). It’s the world’s 3rd largest democracy, you can buy beer at 7/11 without showing ID and the local TV equivalent to Oprah is a transvestite in a headscarf. There are huge evangelical megachurches in downtown Jakarta, as well as a 19th century Dutch-built cathedral, but yes, no synagogues (Southeast Asia is pretty light on Jews). You can’t watch South Park on TV because the cable providers don’t carry Comedy Central but the pirated DVDs cost about 50 cents each and you can watch it online.

    I know all this because I’m an atheist descendant of Catholics and Jews who has lived here for three years. I sometimes find religion absurd and sometimes fascinating. I rib my Muslim friends mercilessly about the stupid shit in their religion but also respect the feelings of religious people I don’t know terribly well. I respect the same boundaries with local Christians and Hindus too.

    You, on the other hand, fail Tim’s d**k test pretty badly. South Park is a cartoon, the real world isn’t. How about you go out and meet some actual Muslims.

    Also, can we kill the term Islamofascism? It’s just nonsense. It doesn’t describe they’re actual ideology. It’s just a portmanteau that puts Islam with a dirty word to make it sound scary. Extremists movements like Al Qaeda fight for the establishment of a Caliphate, a kind of Sunni theocracy. It would ideally look like government in Arabia in the first few generations after the death of Mohammed. In terms of how government is structured, where legitimacy is drawn from, and who wields authority I reall

  8. Aubrey Says:

    y doubt they’re channeling Mussolini.

  9. Jake the Muss Says:

    I don’t think I’ll participate. I like to offend people as a matter of course but to do it as part of a large deliberate effort? Takes the wind right out of my joy sails.

  10. mollydolly5 Says:

    I never committed to starting a ‘movement’ — I drew a fictional cartoon of a poster with a date on it, etc. (WHY May 20! Why didn’t I draw May 2 on the cartoon so this would just get OVER WITH!?).
    I guess people think that I should have become the leader of it or something but I didn’t want to. I put all of my balls into drawing the cartoon.
    At any rate — I LOVE reading such intelligent comments from yawl. It warms the heart to know that people can still think critically. The dumbing down of America is what might really do us in.
    Also, a guy at ihatethemedia changed my poster to say “Draw Al Gore Day!” Is that frightening or WHAT?
    Sincerely,
    Molly Norris
    http://www.mollynorris.com/cartoons.html

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