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