Why I’m not Drawing Mohammad
Tomorrow is Everbody Draw Mohammad Day (EDMD). I will not be participating and I’d like to explain why that is.
Before I start, though, I’m going to throw out some foul language warnings and a caveat that not everyone on this blog agrees with me on this. That’s one of the advantages of a group blog, we can actually debate stuff instead of being a lone voice in the internetty wilderness.
Unpopular opinions follow the break.
I don’t use those words. It made me uncomfortable to even type them. I’m going to bet that the vast majority of you don’t use them either. Why not? They don’t hold any real meaning to me, personally.
There are people in the world that would respond with violent threats just for using them. Perhaps I am afraid of them. Not really.
I choose not to use those terms because I know that they have a deep meaning to other people and using them imprudently would offend them.
To me, drawing the prophet Mohammad is similar to casually using those terms. I have friends, coworkers and neighbors which would be upset by the act and therefore choosing to do it overtly expresses disrespect for their wishes. Am I allowed to do it? Yes, of course. However I should expect that rather a lot of people are going to think me a complete asshole for doing so. Rightfully so, too. I avoid drawing Mohammad out of politeness and consideration for the feeling of others.
Maybe you think that the reaction is too extreme for a drawing. It is, after all, just a picture. It could be flattering, respectful, beautiful… It doesn’t matter. This is a thing that someone has asked me not to do and I do not suffer by abiding their wishes. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to me. That’s fine. Some people flip right the fuck out when you put the cinnamon on the wrong shelf. It’s their issue, but I can demonstrate my compassion and humanity by considering their wishes.
Also, it’s not like disproportionate reactions to symbolic gestures are unheard of elsewhere. Watch Americans lose their shit when someone burns their flag. You want to find some violent Christians? Burn a bible, or better yet, pickle a crucifix in urine (see featured image). The only difference between burning a flag and drawing Mohammad is that, culturally, we understand flag burning. We know what it means and we know that the message being sent is one of hate and disrespect. Mohammad is their symbol. Depicting him is an act of disrespect. They’ve told us.
“This is different!” you may say. “This is about free speech!” You may add.
Bullshit. The first EDMD was about cowardice in the press. Papers initially insensitive to the issue were suddenly afraid to run cartoons because of threats from extremists. The cartoon network pulled a Southpark episode because of the same. Drawing Mohammad it was a show of solidarity against fear of terrorist threats and a reminder to the media to have both some ethics and some backbone. We were telling our press that their reasons were transparent and had nothing to do with respecting the Islamic world. We knew it was going to piss of Muslims but it was important enough to many to make that choice. We did that. It’s done.
Why are we still doing it? Ostensibly it’s about activism and protest. The apparent cause this year is to draw Mohammad to protest the arrest of some guy in Kuwait for alleged blasphemy. I think any reader to this blog will be opposed to that arrest, but how is drawing Mohammad going to have any effect?
Activism is about engaging in activities that incite, facilitate or encourage social change. Will drawing Mohammad do that? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it will push it in the other direction. It will piss off moderate Muslims that would have otherwise been allies. It pushes people away and makes enemies.
Protest is about expressing objection. Great, there are lots of actions that Islamic groups and nations are using their religion to justify that are worthy of protest. But how does drawing Mohammad bring those to light? It doesn’t really. It distracts from those issues to a non-issue.
There must be better ways to protest the arrest of Hamad Al-Naqi. The must be more effective ways of advocating for progressive change in the world.
My suggestion, this Everybody Draw Mohammad Day, ask a Muslim how they feel about it. You may get the answer that I got: “I’d really rather you didn’t.” Wow, what a nut.
Featured image: Piss Christ by Andres Serrano
I’m not participating in Draw Mohammed day because I saw the first Draw Mohammed day devolve into Islamopbia and racism. It was, quite frankly disgusting.
But honestly I don’t think I agree with the idea that if it makes someone say “I’d really rather you didn’t” then it shouldn’t be done. Surely one could apply the same rule to anything. Atheist billboards are met with Christians saying the equivalent of “I’d really rather you didn’t” are they not? Any number of cartoons, jokes, videos and songs made within the atheist community are said to disrespect Christianity. Yet I can’t see atheists as a whole being thrilled at the thought of stopping any of them. So why is this case special?
““This is different!” you may say. “This is about free speech!” You may add.
No, it’s not. The examples you gave above directly insult a living, breathing person with feelings.
Drawing Mohammed does not. It may work indirectly, but that is a difference.
When someone is called one of the examples you used that person is directly insulted, there is a direct way to make them feel inferior.
That does not happen with drawing someone.
People may still feel insulted, but they are not insulted directly.
Mohammed is. But he is dead and his feelings shouldn’t matter more than the feelings of living people who want to mock him.
My point about my friend’s response to the question was to illustrate that his response wasn’t crazy or violent. It was a polite request.
You are entirely correct that we to lots of things that people would rather we didn’t. Sometimes it is important to do things that upset other people. But when we do, it should be a concious choice where we believe the benefits outweigh the cost.
“…it was a show of solidarity against fear of terrorist threats and a reminder to the media to have both some ethics and some backbone.”
I argue that it still is.
“You want to find some violent Christians? Burn a bible, or better yet, pickle a crucifix in urine.”
Yes, and because of that, it should continue to be done, until they realize that a piece of cloth or a picture should never be more important than human life.
“The only difference between burning a flag and drawing Mohammad is that, culturally, we understand flag burning. We know what it means and we know that the message being sent is one of hate and disrespect. Mohammad is their symbol. Depicting him is an act of disrespect. They’ve told us.”
People offended by flag burning tell us that very thing, too. It is important for all to understand that we’re not required to behave by any one group’s religious or political dogma.
Hmmm. Interesting point. Still, the point being made by drawing Mohammad (peace be upon him 🙂 ) is that in western countries, western laws over-ride ALL religious sensibilities and it is not ok to react violently to non-violent free expressions be they verbal or in the form of images.
Even if you marinate a crucifix in piss, you’re not likely to see thousands of christians all over the world killing less extreme christians in response. The point that religion cannot be made immune to ridicule in a free society is more important than the hurt feelings of muslims.
When Lenny Bruce first used “prohibited” words in his acts in the late 1950s, it was an important statement about freedom of expression. These days, not too many people get a blood pressure spike when the word “fuck” is bandied about, but it was important and valuable for Lenny Bruce to loosen the hand of censorship from artistic expression.
Similarly, the symbolism of drawing Mohammad is important for exposing the muslim religious zealots for the brake on social progress that they are. I suspect most American Muslims are far less perturbed by what non-muslims do with symbols of muslim religion than you suppose.
When you look at what muslim terrorists actually do, you’ll find that they kill way more fellow (but less militant or zealots of the “wrong” muslim sect) muslims than they kill members of any other identifiable group. It is important to call out the extremists and support the tolerant members of all religions. No exceptions.
My gods, ufischer, that was reasonable and well considered. Are you aware that you are posting in an internet comments section?