Public Square has invited me to take part in an Everybody Draw Mohammed Day debate about the ethical implications of needlessly offending one-third of the world’s population. I was given the opportunity to write the first post. I’ve cross-posted my essay below.
I’m told that the ethicist Jack Marshall will offer his views on the same topic. Keep an eye on the Public Square blog to see the debate as it unfolds.
It seems they allow comments over there. If any of our regular readers decide to pay Public Square a visit, please wash behind your ears and put on a clean shirt before you knock on the door. And play nice — we don’t want to leave a bad impression, now, do we?
Everyone Draw Mohammed Day
Greetings to all the readers of Bloggerheads at Public Square.
The owners of this site have invited me to debate the ethical implications of what so many people will be doing today: drawing Mohammed.
Some of these drawings may be respectful of Allah’s messenger. Some will be neutral in content. Others will insult or mock Mohammed. But all are likely to offend Muslims.
As the Danish Mohammed cartoon crisis of 2005-2006 demonstrated, “insulting” images of Mohammed are used as an excuse for mass rioting and violence. Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who created the iconic “Turban Bomb” cartoon, was later the subject of at least two plots on his life.
Comedy Central’s recent suppression of South Park over material that mentioned Mohammed — which is what inspired the woman who initiated Everybody Draw Mohammed Day — brought the issue to the attention of the general public. In the weeks since the South Park kerfuffle, more incidents of “Muslim Cartoon Rage” have been featured in the news. Last week the Swedish artist Lars Vilks was physically attacked in Uppsala while giving a seminar on freedom of speech — illustrating his lecture with a video containing sexually provocative images involving Mohammed. A few days later his home in Skåne was vandalized and firebombed by two young Muslim men.
The case of Lars Vilks is an interesting one, because the Danish cartoon crisis prompted Mr. Vilks to find out how far he could go before Sweden’s regime of political correctness stifled him. He knew that he could be as “transgressive” as he liked with the sacred symbols of Christianity, or even Judaism. But it was obvious that the same tolerant rules would not extend to the mocking of Islam.
In the summer of 2007 he created a little test of the system: when invited to contribute images of animals for display in an art exhibit, he drew several free-form line drawings of a dog shape with a human-looking head that sported a beard and a turban. He titled his works, “Profeten som rondellhund” — “The Prophet as a Roundabout Dog”. A rondellhund is a Swedish folk custom, a statue of a dog made of wood or metal that is placed in the center of a roundabout or traffic circle.
Mr. Vilks was very careful in what he drew. The dog in the drawing did not represent a real dog, but a statue made of wood or metal. And as, he stated in the early interviews, the prophet whose visage adorned the rondellhund was non-specific: it was some prophet or other, but he declined to say which one.
As he expected, the committee in charge of the gallery hastily took down his drawings when they realized the potential problem. Mr. Vilks responded indignantly that there no longer seemed to be any right to free speech in Sweden. He proceeded to draw more roundabout dogs in various styles, and added a few other variations such as “The Prophet Visits a Gay Bar.” He took a picture of two lawn chairs and titled it “Two Prophets”. He drew a crude face on a shoe and labeled it a “prophet”.
His doings caused only a minor stir until a month later, when the editor of the local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published the first mainstream media depiction of the Prophet as a Roundabout Dog. Then the trouble started in earnest: death threats, directed both at him and at the newspaper editor; condemnation by prominent political figures; outrage and demands for apologies from Muslim organizations. The brouhaha continued for months, and through it all the artist continued to draw more dogs.
The fuss gradually died down, and the issue lay dormant until early this year, when several Muslim terrorists — including the notorious American “Jihad Jane” — were arrested for plotting to kill Lars Vilks. His name returned to the newspaper headlines, and not just in Scandinavia, but all over the world. From the Muslim world came a rising drumbeat of calls for his death, matching in intensity the fatwas and threats against Kurt Westergaard. Unlike Mr. Westergaard, however, Mr. Vilks lacks any bodyguards or state protection at his home. His only defense against murderous intruders is an axe.
The case of Lars Vilks has demonstrated — as he fully intended from the very beginning — that there is no such thing as free speech in Sweden, if that speech offends Muslims. His drawings depicted neither Mohammed nor a dog, but the perception that they did assigned him a permanent descriptive label as “the Swedish artist who drew a cartoon of Mohammed as a dog”.
Reality played no part in what happened to Lars Vilks. Only perception mattered, especially what was perceived by Muslims.
Lars Vilks and the creators of South Park share something in common: they all set out deliberately to demonstrate that free speech does not apply to anything that might offend Muslims. They also proved that actual government censorship is not necessary: private foundations and media companies are eager to suppress anything that carries the possibility of causing offense to Muslims. When editors and publishers and producers and gallery owners see any work that involves Mohammed or Islam, they smell the burning cars in the street and hear the glass breaking their building lobbies. Nobody wants to lose his life or his career for the sake of creative principle, so almost everyone caves in and self-censors.
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In the United States we have the First Amendment, which assures of us the right to create controversial and unpleasant material, even if it offends someone else. Most European countries don’t afford their citizens the same protections; many have laws against blasphemy and incitement to racial hatred that limit speech. The latter principle — in Sweden the crime is known as hets mot folkgrupp, “incitement against an ethnic group” — has been extended to cover religious belief, so that laws against racism are used to crack down on anyone who defames a religious group. Needless to say, the religion in question is invariably Islam — no one gets arrested in Europe or the United States for defecating on a crucifix or depicting the Virgin Mary as a bondage queen.
The remarkable thing, however, is that the force of law rarely needs to be applied in cases that cause offense to Islam. Internalized social controls do the job better than the police ever could. Schoolteachers, pastors, office managers, business owners, minor municipal bureaucrats, editors, bookshop managers — all play a part in making sure that Muslims are never, ever offended.
Theo Van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam in 2004 for making a movie that insulted Muslims. He was the first martyr for the right to offend Islam, and there will undoubtedly be more. The list of artists and writers who have been harassed, threatened, intimidated, attacked, and prosecuted for offending Islam includes Lars Vilks, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Gregorius Nekschot, Kurt Westergaard, Salman Rushdie, Jussi Halla-aho, Paul Ray, and others too numerous to mention.
Freedom of speech in is being eroded in Western countries, and it is being eroded selectively. Causing offense to Islam — or even behavior that might lead to situations that offend Islam — is stamped out by social, political, and legal means. This is a result of creeping Islamization, and in Western Europe Islamization is no longer creeping, but has stood up and is starting to gallop.
This is why Everybody Draw Mohammed Day took off and spread virally at such an astonishing rate — it was an idea whose time had come. It was spread from computer to computer, from blog to blog, by ordinary people who were willing to do what famous and powerful people are unwilling to do: shake a fist at Muslim bullies and say, “Enough is enough!”
To draw Mohammed is to assert that one’s right to free speech is God-given and unalienable. It is not granted by the State nor permitted by law, but is inherent, and its suppression constitutes tyranny.
Today is the day when everybody draws Mohammed. And when they do, they are saying, “This is our right, and it cannot be taken away from us!”
Does this offend you? Very well, then — it offends you!
Deal with it.
Public Square asks why needlessly offend one-third of the world’s population?
Wrong question. Why does 1/3 of the world’s population relentlessly and needlessly offend and wreak havoc to 2/3 of the rest of the world’s population? And why does Public Square imply it’s proper to excuse this heinous behavior from 1/3 of the world’s population as a cultural defect while 2/3 of the world’s population must adapt to it?
Its the same moral inversion that places higher value on Palestinian farmers inconvenienced by the security fence in Israel, than on Israeli citizens and childrens right to live/security.
Some of these drawings may be respectful of Allah’s messenger. Some will be neutral in content. Others will insult or mock Mohammed. But all are likely to offend Muslims.
The foregoing says it all. Even if “Some of these drawings may be respectful of Allah’s messenger”, they will still “offend Muslims”.
While Muslims most certainly have the right to be offended, they also have the right to STFU and keep it to themselves. Attempting to take out their anger like some sniveling bully who wants to lash out at every last person who dislikes them deserves neither our respect nor any more attention than that required to slap them into respectful silence.
heroyalwhyness: And why does Public Square imply it’s proper to excuse this heinous behavior from 1/3 of the world’s population as a cultural defect while 2/3 of the world’s population must adapt to it?
I would label such behavior as a “moral defect” because it goes much deeper than just cultural.
In the name of Draw Mohammad Day, I present my own contribution. (Caution: Porcine Derriere)
Incidentally, here is my reply to the comment made by ethicist Jack Marshall. As a preface, permit me to note that the sight of an “ethicist” calling for a unilateral demonstration of respect for Islam is about as repugnant as it gets. In his comment he states:
Meanwhile, “Let’s Make Muslims Hate Americans More Than They Do Already Day” sticks a collective finger in the eye of peaceful, respectful Muslims who just want their religion to be respected on their terms and left alone. It’s too much to demand, but it is not too much to ask.
My reply: You ignore the fact of how Muslims demand that their ridiculous sensitivities be respected. Yes, they are ridiculous. Be it the flagrant superstition they routinely demonstrate or the commonplace moral inversion and cognitive dissonance that they alone seem to have perfected beyond all possible human art:
MUSLIMS ARE SKINLESS PEOPLE LIVING IN A SANDPAPER WORLD.
What’s more, the notion that there are “peaceful, respectful Muslims who just want their religion to be respected on their terms and left alone” is totally flawed from square one. The qur’an demands that Muslims NOT be peaceful or respectful to unbelievers. Furthermore, being “respected on their terms” means demonstrating a degree of self-abasement and servitude that degrades every last concept of human dignity and individual liberty.
How then is it important to unilaterally accord respect to those who do not demonstrate a scintilla of it in return? Islam’s track record with respect to reciprocity is easily one of the most dismal in all of human history.
I, for one, refuse to be bothered to wrap this entire world in soft leather just because a bunch of puling cry baby bullies cannot have every last single thing their own exact way.
To defend Islam in the name of “ethics” is a slap in the face for all reasonable and honest people. Islam extends zero respect to non-Muslims and we unbelievers should not feel the slightest compulsion to demonstrate any courtesy to this intolerant, supremacist, barbaric, tyrannous political ideology that masquerades as a religion.
An excellent job, Baron! I thank you for your service to freedom — on behalf of many of us.
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I find I have to disagree with your third to last paragraph. To assert that one’s right to free speech is God-given allows one’s opponents to assert that their right to censorship is also God-given. The most important message to be sent today is that one’s right to freedom of speech is completely incidental to one’s belief in one, many or no gods; that one’s religious rules and proscriptions cannot be made to apply to any other who does not freely accept them.
The Founders specifically identified our rights as God-given in the Declaration and the Constitution. I believe in God, so I don’t have a problem with that.
One can attempt to make the logical case for inherent natural rights from a basis of atheism, but it is a very, very difficult task.
As a believer in God, I hold that all men have a God-given right to disbelieve in Him, and I would never attempt to interfere with or restrict that right.
just ask an Iranian to do the best picture of real MO
Paul, to be frank that argument doesn’t follow. The right to free speech is a negative right – it’s a right that requires inaction on the part of others to maintain it and doesn’t require others to give up their rights in order to be maintained. Free speech is maintained as long as nobody acts to curtail it, and nobody has to give up their own right to free speech, or any other right, in order that your rights be maintained.
Your postulated “right to censorship” is a positive right, inasmuch as it requires action to maintain it. It is also directly conflicting with the rights of others; enacting a right to censor automatically removes my right to free speech.
God-given rights are generally negative rights. They’re rights that exist as long as nobody attempts to proscribe them – in this way they can also be referred to as natural rights, in that they don’t require the use of violence to implement (“violence” being anything that involuntarily places elements of one person’s activities under the control of another). A right to censor can’t be considered under this scheme as it presumes you have the right to take away the natural rights of others. You don’t. There is no god-given right to censorship, just as there’s no god-given right to steal or destroy someone’s property.
The population of the world is 6.9 billion, so muslimes make up one sixth.
If Public Square can’t even get basic facts right, they are not worth bothering with.
Another “professional ethicist” (as opposed to us regular ol’ ethicists who make ethical decisions every day), was incensed at the barbaric and unethical decision by Yale University Press to ban Mohammed images (some of them quite beautiful) from a book written about those very images. You can write about them, it seems, but you can’t show them. Next step? You won’t be able to write about them.
See Dr. Gary Hull, an ethicist at Duke University, who published “Muhammad: the Banned Images”…
Here’s his website:
Do You Dare to Read This Book?
Stand up for free speech and buy the book:
Muhammad The “Banned” Images
So while the good professor asserts this effort is “wrong”, Dr. Hull took the time to research the “murder, mayhem and self-censorship” that the thin-skinned ones have seen fit to create and encourage. Especially see his time-line, which begins in 1955 and continues into the present time. If you know of other incidents, you can pass them on to Dr. Hull.
As you can see, real ethicists do real research.
Everyone has the right to be offended.
Only Muslims think this gives them a reciprocal license to kill.
The next few years will disabuse them of that homicidal idiocy.
Allah buncha imbeciles.
Here’s my offensive bit of fluffery.
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I don’t understand why people are stupid enough to join something like Draw Mohammad Day. The only thing you people are going to achieve by joining this group is fuel the radical Islamists recruits. Pakistan a country known for radical Islamists is fighting hard to defeat them and has almost achieved this task since their army only has to attack one more area(north Waziristan) to get rid of them once and for all. During this operation Pakistani officials have caught Indian agents that were probably sent by India to fund the terrorist activities in Pakistan since Pakistan and India are known to be enemies for the stupidest of resons. Other than Indians there seems to be a large number of Arab and Uzbik militants in Pakistan since quite a few of them have been identified after being exterminated in battle. You people should not help the radical islamists to win their battle because all these images of their prophet will end up being shown to a bunch of uneducated 14-18 year olds and everyone knows teens are easy to influence causing radical islamists to gain new recruits that are willing to do anything for their radical leaders. Another thing you people should understand is that in Islam drawing prophet Mohammad or any other prophet (Jesus, Abraham, etc.) is not allowed whereas in Christianity drawing prophets is allowed. To sum it all up you should stop trying to hurt a group of 1.5 billion people and for once think rationally about the consequences of your decisions.
Yes, I know my writing skills are no good =( but I just wanted to express my point of view on this issue.
One other thing i don’t understand is all you people state that the Quran is the most violent holy book but to be frank all all of the books are violent against the other. In the Torah it states that all other religions are wrong and should be destroyed, the Bible coming after the Torah states that all Jews will come to an end along with other religions towards the end of the world and lastly the Quran coming after the Bible states that all Christians along with Jews will somehow finish off during the end of the world. As you can see all three holy books have one thing in common and that is all of them state that their religion is better than the other. You people should stop picking on a religion just for the wrongs committed by a minority of the muslims.
Faisal, there is no such thing as an Islamist. There are Muslims. Also, I don’t see why we should censor ourselves – if they can’t abstain from doing stupid things, we should kick them out of our countries. If we did that, I make a bet that they will behave a lot more. If they’d belong here or have anything to do in Europe, they wouldn’t mind. I don’t see a lot of terrorist Christians(I didn’t hear of any in ages) and Christianity is a lot more denigrated than Islam. The way to not help the ‘Islamists’ is kicking them out of our countries and executing those that commit terrorism. I have no idea why there’s no capital punishment for terrorism or facilitating terrorism.
You are right about the fact that all Muslims do follow one believe but you should also understand that all religion has its extremists. I also agree with your point that the extremists should be killed due to the fact that they believe what ever they do is for the right cause. Extremists of any religion should not be tolerated since they are the main reason why all the trouble begins in the first place. I am a Muslim and people that are claiming that moderate Muslims are doing nothing against the extremists is very wrong because I am a Patan born in the U.S and is living in Pakistan due to the fact that my dad a cardiologist wanted to return and help treat the poor. My family is also in politics and we are trying hard to get rid of the extremist invasion but the sad part about Pakistan is that most of our political leaders do not care for the country rather the focus on filling their greedy pockets with all the money they can get their hands on. My family has been fighting the corruption but it is very difficult to prevail since the ratio to corrupt to non corrupt in Pakistan is a 20:1 ratio which is very sad. The areas that we control have only had two attack till now and those two attacks have killed around 123 people which is much less compared to other parts of Pakistan. After those two attacks my uncles got a band of men together and went taliban hunting and got our revenge killing around 400 taliban with 3 of their leaders causing the now deceased taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud to send a proposal that we join him in taking control of Pakistan. Obviously my uncles refused causing the leader to threaten to kill my family but the thing they did not understand is that my uncles are loved in the areas that we control and a threat on any of my family is an act of war causing people in my area that were sympathetic towards the taliban to change there view and help give key information about the taliban to my uncles. With all the information gathered we gave it to the Pakistan army since the Pakistani army finally decided to do something about them. What I’m trying to say is that not all Muslims are bad but they are extremely uneducated and that is one thing we want our government to focus on because EDUCATION will be the downfall of the Taliban/Extremist Muslims. Sadly the Pakistani government is under the rule of a man that is known to be really really corrupt and i have to laugh at at my country for accepting leaders that have not even COMPLETED HIGH SCHOOL! =P
Once again sorry about my writing skills. I am going to attend Harvard summer school to improve my writing abilities =)
I also agree with your point that the extremists should be killed …
Who said this? Who are you agreeing with?
Faisal, there is no such thing as moderate Islam. Islam is set into stone for the rest of existence as the true word of God. So, unless you have a different religion than the ‘extremist’ Muslims, they are practicing your religion the right way. Your argument would be the same as the Allies not doing anything about Nazi Germany because they might piss off the ‘moderate, law-abiding’ Germans. I won’t even bother to explain how illogical that is and our problem would be solved easily by getting rid of Islam in our homelands. Who cares what the Pakistanis do in their country? We just need to destroy any long range rocketry they have or will make and that’s about it.
Islam is a religion that has not been around as long as Judaism and Christianity but you cant say that there is no such things as extremist in Islam. In Christianity weren’t the Crusaders supposed to be a group made to just defend the Byzantine Empire? Pope Urban II took Alexius I request for the defense of the Byzantine Empire as an excuse to create a army with the intention of killing thousands of Muslims which Alexius I did not want. The Jews after being freed from the Encryptions went on a conquering spree and killed all those that did not share the same believes as they did. All i’m trying to point out is that all religions have their problematic times and it seems to be that Islam has started its now even though its not been as bad as Christianity or Judaism. Looking at 9/11 two planes hit the twin towers and you would expect the building to fall all over the place instead it looked like any other building being demolished. The people blamed for 9/11 are Muslims because some how the only passports that survied the crash were theirs? the leader of al qaeda Osama Bin Laden is a trained CIA agent who for some reason is the only person the American army cant find while drones where able to kill almost all the other members. All this looks like a propaganda attempt by the American government so that they can get all Muslims countries resources. Bush attacked Iraq because he said there were weapons of mass destruction their.. they attack and they find nothing leaving thousand of innocent Iraqi’s killed for nothing. If u ask me it looks some crazy propaganda scheme and the sad thing is they are achieving it just like Hitler used propaganda to get the people of Germany on his side. All recent attacks on Western soil is a retaliation to the thousands killed by the Americans. Imagine is a Muslim kills your family, blows up your house and destroys almost all of your country by carpet bombs what would you want.. revenge. If America along with other western nations stop interfering and giving aid to Muslim countries you will see the end of Taliban. @ rebeliousvanilla you said who cares about Pakistan well.. Pakistan for your information is the only muslims country with Nukes and hydrogen bombs so is they to go crazy that would be a big problem but the good side is Pakistan is never going to become a destablished country even though the president is dumber than a 10th grader lol!
Check this out for laughs:
Faisal, can you explain to me what the heck did the Muslims look for in places that they conquered? It’s hilarious that you blame the crusades for being murderous, when they wouldn’t have happened if you would have kept to yourself. And I don’t care for how long Islam existed, it doesn’t belong in Europe.
And give me a break with the silly conspiracy theories. At least try to sell them to people who are clueless about physics and insulation.
How can a Muslim speak about retaliation? The way I see it, we should nuke Mecca just for the enslaving of Europeans by the Barbary States, if we do get to retaliation. You should try to tell this claptrap to idiots who didn’t read the Qu’ran and have some knowledge of your filthy ‘religion’ aka warrior creed written by a slave trading rapist and paedophile. The reason why all this happens is the fact that Islam is no different than any totalitarian imperial ideology.
And the way I see it, we should take out Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal out now when the biggest range it has is 2500km so it doesn’t reach the US, Europe or any continent I care about. So Pakistan going crazy won’t affect any European or American. And if Pakistan goes crazy, India will completely obliterate it – this is why it doesn’t go crazy.
@ Conway haha that did make me laugh 🙂 @ rebelliousvanila dude.. “blow up mecca” you just showed me that christains are not all that great after all no offense to others but after looking at your comment i have to tell you that your behaving is just like those retarded Muslims in Europe that see a girl on the beach wearing a bikini and shouting and shout “haram! kill that infidel! The way you just commented above make you exactly the same so stop going around woth your mind set against muslims and grow up! the reason why the world is not evolving any further is because of fanatics like you and other religions such as my idiotic fellow muslims that only want their religion to be the true one. you got to except that not all religions are perfect and just mind your own business. The moment people stop this “oh! I’m a Jew, Christian, Muslim, scientologist,etc.. and i spit in your face coz my religion is the ONE!” will all this religious war or what ever the f#@* will come to an end. btw India and Pakistan ain’t ever gonna fight coz India wants to become a world power and having war with Pakistan will screw that up for them so i wont bet on it! peace
ignore and shout