I wish I were a better artist, and could draw something other than a stick figure. But I actually kind of like its purity. If a simple, entirely undistinguished, smiling stick figure with the word “Mohammad” above it can be so offensive as to earn me a possible death sentence… that makes the whole silly idea seem even sillier. And I like the fact that it’s a photo of my hand actually making the drawing. Gives it a certain punch, I think.
Today is Everybody Draw Mohammad Day: an event in which people around the world… well, draw Mohammad. We’re deliberately violating the Muslim law against creating images of the prophet Mohammad — a law that some radical Muslim extremists are attempting to enforce with violence and death threats. On everyone. Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Today, along with hundreds of people (hopefully more), I’m drawing Mohammad.
I want to explain why.
That’s more or less what I’m doing today. I realize that.
I’m doing it because, in some cases, offending people’s sensibilities is, in and of itself, a valid point. And this is one of those instances.
The idea that the rules of a religion ought to apply to people who don’t follow that religion? It’s flatly absurd. As Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist so brilliantly pointed out, “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 that’s exactly what these radical Muslim extremists are doing. Despite the fact that they will happily violate the Hindu rule against eating beef, or the Orthodox Jewish rule against interfaith marriage, or the Yazidi rule against wearing the color blue, they nevertheless feel that it is their right, and indeed their duty, to enforce the Muslim rule against drawing Mohammad — even on people who aren’t Muslim. Using violence, and threats of death.
I’m drawing Mohammad to send a message to Muslim extremists — and other religious extremists — that their terror tactics will not work.
I’m drawing Mohammad to reject out of hand the attempt to make criticism of Islam — or of any other religion, for that matter — off-limits, simply out of fear of violence.
I’m drawing Mohammad because many people feel comfortable critiquing, or poking fun of, or indeed commenting on, any other religion… but avoid doing any of this with Islam, for fear of violent retribution. And I refuse to allow myself to be extorted in that way.
And, perhaps most importantly of all, I’m drawing Mohammad to spread the target around… so there are so many people drawing Mohammad, the terrorists can’t possibly go after all of us.
That’s the point.
And there is no way to make that point without actually violating this rule.
Perhaps you think that going out of your way to offend a cherished tenet of people’s religious beliefs is… well, offensive. Hurtful. Perhaps you think that secular groups and others organizing “Draw Mohammad” protests are engaging in anti-Muslim or anti-Arab marginalization. Perhaps you think that deliberately breaking another religion’s sacred rule, with the sole and stated purpose of breaking that rule, is a form of religious bigotry. Or even just childish jerkitude. A lot of people think that: moderate Muslims, and others.
To them, I say… well, Claudia commenting at Friendly Atheist said it way better than I could, and I’m just going to quote her: “The day drawing a bloody stick figure isn’t something you have to do while looking over your shoulder. The day cartoonists don’t have to build panic rooms in their homes (!!) for a rough picture of a dog with a mans head. The day dozens of people don’t die (again !!) because of some cartoons. On that day, I will agree that the secular group is just being immature and hurtful.”
Is it hurtful to deliberately poke people’s sore spots with a stick, just for the sake of doing it? Yes. I don’t think it’s a very nice thing to do, and I don’t generally do it.
But is it far, far more hurtful — not only to certain individuals, but to every individual in the world, and to society as a whole — to use violence and death threats to frighten people away from criticizing your religion, and to force obedience to your religious views on the entire human race?
By a thousand orders of magnitude, yes.
And in this case, the only way to oppose the latter is to engage in the former.
There’s something I want to say here: words that keep brimming up in my head and won’t shut up. I’m reluctant to write them down; I cringe a bit at the thought of posting them; they’ve become such a cliche that it’s embarrassing to even think them. I never imagined that I’d say these words as anything other than a joke. I never imagined I would say them with any sort of sincerity or passion.
But if we don’t draw Mohammad, the terrorists win.