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The book is supposed to say “Qu’ran” but I am not very good at drawing with a mouse. I would apologise for that, but I really doubt we expected any better. I don’t think my parents even pinned my art to the fridge as a child. I prefer to think that they concealed it, deep in a place where no man could ever discover such awful works ever again. Maybe even in a box marked DO NOT OPEN in red letters.
Today is Everyone Draw Muhammad Day, and so I have provided my drawing. It is neither very good (as promised), nor as insulting as I originally intended. Those who know me personally may be shocked that I was nice. As I mentioned a few days ago, I am participating in thise event not to show contempt for Muslims, but to point out the idiocy of getting offended when people choose to ignore the tenets of a religion in which they do not believe. Hindus do not get offended that others are eating hamburgers; neo-pagans do not get offended that I do not offer sacrifice to Artemis.
I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that depiction of the prophet is nothing new. There is a great deal of medieval art depicting Muhammad, much of it Islamic. The Wikipedia page has a decent gallery featuring images from the 14th century, although there are those who claim that being an encyclopedia is offensive. Draw Muhammad Day, or the Danish cartoon controversy- these are nothing new. To get irate over these things is foolish.
Pakistani citizens have already become angry, even rioting in the streets, over the campaign.
I enjoy blasphemy. Swearing is one of those core human experiences, I think, and swallowing ‘goddamn’ while I’m speaking with academic staff is difficult for me. I have a t-shirt that says “God is dead (I ate him)” which I love to wear on Sundays. Also, I’m an atheist and I don’t know if you’ve heard but a number of religions seem to think that denial of the divine is blasphemous all by itself.
This enjoyment is not why I support Draw Muhammad Day this Thursday. Rather it is a response to the foolishness that seems to grow in the minds of even moderate Muslims, that some of them speak out against the most mild criticisms of their religion. I have Muslim co-workers at my job, whom I gently mocked during Ramadan last year- and not only did they never get offended, they laughed at my poor taste in jokes. (I particularly enjoyed drinking water whenever I was thirsty. I am a bad, bad man.)
Eboo Patel over at the Huffington Post seems to think that any kind of satire directed at Islam is the same as mass murder:
Will the free speech cloak protect you from social outrage if you went to a party dressed in blackface? If you chalked a swastika on the sidewalk leading to the campus Hillel? If you stood on the college quad and chanted “fag” at every male with blow dried hair who walks by? If you applauded as champions of free speech the handful of Palestinian kids horrifically dancing in the streets after 9/11?
The key issue here isn’t free speech — it’s actions that intentionally and effectively marginalize a community.
I mean, wow. This is the mother of all false conflations- drawing a stick figure of Muhammad is not the same thing as drawing a symbol representative of murdering all Jews. Other people have tackled this idiotic essay better than I could, so you should go read or watch them. This chap is wrong, and massively distorting the facts of the situation to serve whatever purposes he has in mind. I cannot abide that.
I won’t deny that there are racists and Islamophobes who will use the day to rave and flail about how “them scary brown peoples is comin’ to take our jobs an’ blow shit up.” There are going to be racists and dangerous fools who do not know what they are speaking about. I absolutely repudiate that kind of thing. There are also anti-Catholic protestant bigots who rail about the Pope being the Anti-Christ and I will not stand alongside them either- but does that invalidate criticism of the papacy? No.
So I support Draw Muhammad Day. I support the day because it is about free speech, and satire. It is about showing the moderates that it is okay to gently poke fun at a religion, to loudly criticise. The world is a free market of ideas, and if I offend you by my drawing of Muhammad, you offend me by claiming that I am doomed to damnation for not believing in his God. A drawing of Muhammad shows the angry, the psychotic, and the vicious that I am not afraid. Or their God, Hell, or lack of respect for human life.
Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, used a much better analogy:
You never hear about Hindus walking into McDonald’s and telling the manager they’re not allowed to use beef products anymore.
If they did, we would laugh it off. We’d say that’s absurd because non-Hindus don’t have to follow their rules.
But what if the Hindu radicals committed a violent act against the manager? We’d be furious.
What if moderate Hindus said it was offensive for someone else to eat a Big Mac? We’d say that’s crazy.
In response to all that, I think it would be perfectly appropriate to stage a peaceful sit-in where all participants ate Big Macs.
It wouldn’t be anti-Hinduism nor would anyone be purposely trying to piss off Hindus by doing that. It would just be a show of solidarity by those who believe that only Hindus need to abide by their religious beliefs, not anyone else.
That’s what we’re doing by drawing these Muhammad images.
This Thursday, May 20th, I will draw a picture of Muhammad. It will probably not be very good.