University of Illinois Students Draw Muhammad All Over Campus May 1, 2010

University of Illinois Students Draw Muhammad All Over Campus

After the South Park debacle in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone were not allowed to show an image of Muhammad — or even say his name — the Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers group at the University of Illinois wanted to show their support for free speech.

So they went around campus with chalk and drew images of Muhammad on the ground:

There’s Muhammad in the upper left.

Is that offensive? I say no. If you get offended by that, no one should be taking you seriously, anyway.

AAF justifies what they did like this:

… AAF has wrestled with its collective conscience. It has weighed the dangers, it has been assaulted by the wielders of white guilt, and in the end it has decided that standing up against the enemies of freedom is worth the discomfort of a few who are innocent and our friends. Silencing anyone, including Matt Stone and Trey Parker, via threats and aggression is intolerable; and it will never stop until all of us agree that no one’s sacred cow unwrites basic human rights. You can cater to the whims of fundamentalists, or you can cater to fundamental rights, but you can’t do both.

More power to them.

That’s why I’m also a fan of the Facebook groups that are supporting a Draw Muhammad Day. You don’t have to draw him in some evil way (though you’re more than welcome to). The point is that the rest of us don’t have to abide by Islamic law. We have the freedom to draw whatever we want, whenever we want, and if there are people out there who want to stop us, we can fight back by banding together and drawing the image and having them take notice.

150 images of Muhammad were drawn.

That’s more than enough to get the point across, even if some were erased.

You can see more of their chalkings here.

My respect to the AAF students who made this happen. The drawings were simple and inoffensive. It was a creative and powerful thing to do.

(Thanks to Clint for the link!)

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  • Have to say that it’s all good up until the point that they say “white guilt”.

    A) Since when was the prohibition of drawing Momo a black/white thing.


    B) Since when did KKK and Teabagger rhetoric become sensible?

    The next time I see a black person drawing Momo, I’ll be sure to congratulate them on overcoming their “white guilt”. (Seriously, WTF?!?)

  • Bailey

    Bruce -I think the “white guilt” comment refers to people who claim that those who criticize Islam are Islamophobic or racist (despite Islam being a religion, not a race). The two issues get conflated by people who enjoy overreacting to anyone who dares to suggest that religion might be primitive and backwards in its way of thinking, and there are quite a lot of guilt-trip attempts thrown at people who speak up anyway. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s certainly not an accurate statement, but the students were very likely called white supremacists or Islamophobes because they criticized fundamentalist activities.

    I think I’m going to have to get a group together on Draw Muhammad Day and try something similar.

  • Trace

    In an email to the AAC, the president of the Muslim Studen Association at U of I (U-C) states:

    “I am in full agreement with you about the freedom of expression and free speech, but I implore you to understand that this event is completely unproductive.”


  • Guy

    Awesome. Youtuber gotthatfunk has a similar campaign going on:

  • Wow. That totally takes some guts to do. I wonder how many people from the same university community will terrorize the AAF students for doing that (i.e., try to scare them with threats of violence).

    We have to put ourselves out there like this to win freedom, and I’m glad there’s a group that’s doing it.

  • @Bruce,
    There’s a particular anti-Islamic blog that I follow because I’m concerned about the problem of Islamofacism. In reading the comments on each post, however, I have come to the conclusion that the overwhelming majority of the readers of this blog are uneducated, racist, anti-Arab, anti-black, fundamentalist Christian and/or Zionist. What started out as a good idea has devolved into a steaming pile of feces and turned into one big “hate fest” with no regard given to facts or reason. The owner and moderator of the blog has abdicated any semblance of responsibility for what he writes or the ideas he pushes. The movement of hate has a life of its own at this point and the readers and writers spend their days in a perpetual self-congratulatory circle jerk, reinforcing stupidity and hate with more stupidity and hate.
    There are many atheists that claim to be conservative coming out of the woodwork recently. Some, like myself, are libertarian. Many others are neo-con suck-ups to the GOP and teabagger “movement”. Most of these so-called freethinkers equate conservatism with swallowing everything that Fox News (or purveyors of the above mentioned hate) spews out. Being atheist, unfortunately, does not equate with being reasonable or logical.

  • Trace

    AAC=AAF oy!

  • @Trace,
    Muslims are under the impression that their religion deserves special consideration above and beyond others beliefs.
    I grew up with that idiocy (refer to my blog)and believe me, they are never going to change. EVER. Reason and dialogue without being backed by threat of real and overwhelming consequences is a waste of time. They cannot and will not listen to reason. These are not Christians,Jews, Buddhists or Hindus you are dealing with.
    Islam, even moderate Islam, is 100% incompatible with western secular values and democratic institutions.

  • @Bailey You are quite right. In the days leading up to our event there was a lot of criticism from the Muslim student group and post-modernist types claiming this was proof of our intolerance/hate/bigotry/ignorance. I find this to be essentially a ploy, a false pretension and not a legitimate argument.

    *Bruce That’s really sad. It’s worth pointing out you can see comments on our blog from Christians of the group called The Navigators who we had a panel discussion with the day before the quad chalking. They’re very enthusiastic about holding social and discussion events with AAF again soon. This is typical for AAF.. we do cultivate positive relationships with Christians, Jews, etc.., as much as possible. There is no room for hate.

  • I’m with ’em but they could have taken just a sec to add a beard and turban. C’mon, they must be better artists than that!

  • @FSM_Ed,
    And let’s not forget the prepubescent girl for added realism…

  • Lobar

    I kinda see this as the Islamic equivalent of Crackergate. They’re “just” drawings, but it was also “just” a cracker. I do fully support PZ for Crackergate, but like Crackergate, this has every appearance of trying to get under the Muslim students’ skin just for the sake of taunting them. I hope AAF is putting extra effort into getting the real message of “why” out.

  • “this has every appearance of trying to get under the Muslim students’ skin just for the sake of taunting them.”

    Surely you would not disagree that it is possible to taunt AND simultaneously get “the message” out? But for whom is the message intended? Not Muslims, I hope! They aren’t going to benefit from any lessons you may have for them.
    And even if it IS merely taunting Muslims, so what? It’s not as if there has been any noticeable protests by Muslims against other Muslims who make threats. If Muslims react in typical fashion, then good. Once again Islam’s ugliness will be on full display for the entire world to see.
    Just like Nazis, the KKK, Stalinists, Westboro Baptists…they need to have a constant bright light shone on them and they need to be publicly ridiculed, shamed and humiliated for the evil they want to force upon the world.

  • Glen

    Following hot on the heels of Reason day is Draw Mohammad Day. I view the radical muslim stance against drawing “the profit” similar to the Pope’s stance against condoms. By over reaching they are inflicting a serious wound against their own power. The ancient rules just don’t hold water anymore and the more they cling to them the more idiotic they look.

    So they give us a club to use against them, may as well use it.

  • @Bailey – I know that! Lol. (Usually I just get snobbed off myself – a false accusation would end up making them look stupid – I’d make sure of it!)

    ‘White guilt’ is a phrase that usually infers things like white taxpayers are being guilted into ‘reverse racism’ by supporting black people on welfare. Or deployed when arguing against native title for indigenous populations. It’s the kind of rhetoric that belongs in company with the white supremacists, and their dupes, who blamed the black victims of hurricane Katrina for their plight.

    Claiming to have overcome ‘white guilt’ has connotations that I don’t think the AAF meant to convey. (I.e. that they are triumphant white supremacists.)

    It’s a particularly stupid gaffe.

    @The Godless Monster. Not that I’d ever deny someone’s right to depict Momo (I’d be a hypocrite – I’ve done it myself – heck I was considering conflating boobquake and draw-Momo into a Titty-Momo pic), I think there’s a bit of myopia about how far in racism is sneaking it’s way into movements critical of Islam. (Not to say that the two are synonymous).

    Take for example cartoons of Islamic terrorists. Obviously if you criticise a specific terrorist of Middle Eastern decent, it’s reasonable to expect the caricature to appear Middle Eastern.

    But seems to be a fixation amongst cartoonists where the generic Islamic terrorist has a turban, beard and hawkish nose.


    Dawud Salahuddin (who assassinated Iranian dissident Ali Akbar Tabatabai then fled to Iran) was African American. Bryant Neal Vinas who confessed to helping Al-Qaeda plan terrorist attacks on US soil, is of Argentinean and Peruvian descent.

    Ahmed Santos from the Philippenes, planned bombings in predominantly Christian cities with the Rajah Solaiman Movement he help found – which has links to JI and Abu Sayyaf. Obviously not Middle Eastern.

    Germaine Lindsay – a Jamaican Briton, who converted to Islam in the UK, detonated bombs in the July 7 London bombings of 2005.

    Jerôme Courtailler, on the CIA terrorist watchlist is currently being held in Holand under suspicion for attempting to blow up the US embassy in France, amongst being suspected for a role in a number of other crimes, is French.

    Ryan G. Anderson – white American. Tried to sign up with Al-Qaeda.

    Jack Roche – White Australian Muslim found guilty of conspiring to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra, Australia. Found guilty under old pre-9/11 laws I might add.

    The 2005 Bali Bombings were planned and carried out by Indonesians.

    Obviously there are a LOT of Islamic terrorists who happen have a Middle Eastern background. But terrorist orgs are trying to recruit non-Middle Easterners to target Westerners, and the track record ably demonstrates this.

    Cartoons that present The Quintessential Terrorist as Middle Eastern, are definitionally ethnocentric, and are misleading – potentially dangerously given the likes of the above examples. Sure, nobody can say that any one instance of a cartoon terrorist as Middle Eastern is ethnocentric (the basis for many a false accusation no doubt), but in aggregate you can see that ethnocentrism is happening.

    Letting this creep into critique of Islam is a critical failure, but it seems to get past people’s radars pretty easily. Nobody who takes criticism of Islam seriously should take this lightly. Aside from undermining the political base, it erodes the quality of the critique – either inadvertently or deliberately steering things towards a misleading critique of ethnicity. Which is precisely what’s happening in Europe.

    Just look at people suck up to Geert Wilders, while claiming to support freedom of speech. Just like race baiting foreigners isn’t criticising Islam, supporting Geert Wilders isn’t opposing opposing censorship. Wilders has his own raft of censorious policies motivated by his Christian nationalism.

    One doesn’t have to support Wilders to oppose the stupid blasphemy law he’s being prosecuted under – these are quite separate things. One can also be pro-religious-censorship and be against the blasphemy laws in question – there are an array of other censorious laws one can support.

    In supporting Wilders, people are enabling his censorious Christian nationalism. Condell actively supports Wilders. Uncritically. Go look at what pro-Wilder’s groups Condell has signed up to on Facebook.

    Through his support of Wilders (though obviously not his opposition to the law Wilders is being persecuted under), Condell enables censorship on religious grounds. Even if unintentionally – Condell is a professional clown after all, not a researcher – people seem to forget that when claiming that Condell “speaks truth to power” or “tells it like it is” or “calls a spade a spade”.

    A part of critical thinking is considering the source. People who parrot their politics from the likes of Condell are executing a massive failure of skepticism, not to mention a terrible own-goal for free thought. (For pity’s sake, Wilders wants to restrict what languages religious ideas can be communicated in – 1984 people!)

    Aside from Condell’s undeserved success amongst the secular and the way actual, genuine xenophobia manages to slither past non-racists unchecked*, it’s a sign that something is deeply wrong when it’s common for self-styled freethinkers to lecture you without knowing who they’ve gone in to bat for. Freethought de-coupled from critical thinking is just uninformed opinion.

    Perhaps worse still, is how people pointing out this problem undermining the criticism of religion are treated like 5th columnists, instead of the xenophobes doing the undermining being treated like 5th columnists. It’s not concern trolling – there’s a real problem and it’s here now, not just a potential threat.

    Anyway, I’ll get of my soapbox now. 😀

    * I can understand wanting Wilders to beat off the blasphemy law (I want him to beat it myself), but singing the virtues of a man who promotes ethnically selective immigration bans is a very odd thing for non-racist freethinkers to do.

  • @Edward – I take it by your reply not being in contradiction with anything I wrote (or assumed), that either you don’t have a problem with what I wrote, or that you didn’t understand what I wrote. Which leads me to ask, what’s “sad”?

  • I’m glad they chose not to depict Muhammad in mean or nasty ways (like raping his 9 year old wife or blowing up some infidels) because it makes any arguments against the demonstration seem even more pathetic and whingey than they already are.

    GO AAF!

    Now let us see how long it will take for Islamic fundamentalists to threaten to blow up the school or something.

  • Greg

    But seems to be a fixation amongst cartoonists where the generic Islamic terrorist has a turban, beard and hawkish nose.

    Just a quick question:

    Do you think cartoonists who draw Buddhists are wrong if these Buddhists are obviously of Indian descent? Or that cartoonists who draw Olympic Sprinters should make a point to have equal amounts of white and black athletes in the 100 metre final?

    The point of cartoons is to appeal to stereotypes and/or majorities – otherwise they would have to write a whole couple of paragraphs explaining that this Aryan, or Pygmy, or whatever was actually a Muslim, they just wanted to make sure people knew that they, the cartoonist, were aware that not all Muslims are necessarily connected with the Middle East (even if the vast majority are).

    Whilst I sympathise with a lot you wrote, complaining about this is just plain unreasonable imho.

    Incidentally, re: Condell, his recent video in support of UKIP in the British election has, I suspect, changed many people’s opinion about him.

  • @Greg – As I stated above, I wouldn’t criticise a cartoonist in any one instance for drawing a cartoon that was obviously a member of a given race. It’s when you have a culture producing n cartoons, that collectively overemphasise one particular race, while ignoring (i.e. under-represent) the significance of other races.

    If you expect that according to my criticism, I’d want to see equal numbers of black and white runners in cartoons of Olympic runners, then you’ve missed my point entirely.

    Indeed, an equal number of black and white runners should be conspicuous to anyone familiar with the Olympics. What would it tell you if white people were over-represented in cartoons of Olympic runners, and a bunch of people claiming to know about the Olympics didn’t notice?

  • Charles

    From Bruce: “Freethought de-coupled from critical thinking is just uninformed opinion.”

    This cannot be echoed enough…

  • Vene

    @ The Godless Monster

    “Islam, even moderate Islam, is 100% incompatible with western secular values and democratic institutions.

    *BUZZ* Wrong!

    For this to work, you’d have to handwave away the contrabutions that the Islamic world gave to science, mathematics, and the arts during the middle ages. Without going too deeply into it, there’s a reason our numbers are called “ARABIC numerals.”

    Yes, the religion is stupid, but don’t give our opponents ammunition by saying something historically false.

  • Miko

    The Godless Monster:

    Islam, even moderate Islam, is 100% incompatible with western secular values and democratic institutions.

    I’m sure that the millions of Muslims who live in the West would disagree with this statement.

    Reason and dialogue without being backed by threat of real and overwhelming consequences is a waste of time.

    Since you self-identify as a libertarian, I’d like to point out that this proposition represents the most compact statement of the antithesis of the libertarian viewpoint that I’ve ever seen.


    No such word. (Also no such word as Islamofascism.)

    For the record:

    fascism: A political regime, having totalitarian aspirations, ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government, business-and-government control of the market place, repression of criticism or opposition, a leader cult and exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights. (source: Wiktionary)

    Sounds a lot closer to the nations with the “western secular values” that you want to defend than it does to any Islamic country.

  • Miko

    When drawing Mohammed for the purpose of criticizing attempts to stop this, the stick figure version seen above is best, because it makes those who object to it look even sillier.

  • Greg

    Bruce – with respect – I think you are the one that missed my point – which was that in order for a cartoon to work, it has to appeal to the thing that first pops into someone’s mind about that issue. You don’t see cartoons with a selection of different ‘races’ of people depicted as Muslims for the simple fact that they don’t work as cartoons. It’s the same kind of reason that cartoonists employ caricatures of well known people.

    You have your cause and effect the wrong way around – people don’t think that all Muslims are Middle Eastern because of cartoons depicting them that way… Cartoons depict them that way because people think of Muslims as being Middle Eastern.

    (That doesn’t mean that cartoons can’t reinforce the belief – but that is all it is, reinforcement.)

    The only reason I mentioned the 100 metre final was in an effort to move the subject away from religion to something else – perhaps that example wasn’t the best – I only wanted to pick something inoffensive where there is a hugely predominant pre-existing belief in anyone that might see the cartoon.

    Before anyone could look at the cartoon of the final and start to judge the cartoonist by the amount of white people in the picture, they would immediately be thinking “What nonsense!”, not because there are far more quick 100m black athletes in the world, but because they think there are more quick 100m athletes in the world.

  • @Miko
    We’ll deal with my typo first…it’s a f*cking typo, so stop acting like a whiny adolescent about it.
    Also, you know damn well how words come into being. You’re an educated person, correct? Right. You work as an educator. So, please, don’t get bitchy and petty on me. Condescending pansy bullshit does not make for an argument.
    Speaking of argument, the fact that millions of Muslims who live in the West would disagree with my assertion does not make my assertion wrong. You know that, but you are not above abusing the rules of critical thought and logic in order to make a point, now are you? Of course not. I’ve seen you do it time and time again with others. You’re clever, I’ll grant you that, but you’re not the only game in town.
    And your “For the record” at the end of your comment…it reads just like the definition of an Islamic theocracy. The fact that you are unaware of this shows just how little you know of Islam. I’ve given my background to yourself and others on this and other blogs more than I care to admit, but it doesn’t matter. You’re not going to let facts get in the way, and you certainly have nothing but disdain for actual (as opposed to theoretical) experience.

  • @Vene,
    You’re misinformed. I have neither the time or interest to school you.
    I’ll be nice and leave it at that.

  • @Bruce,
    I get where you are coming from with the whole racism and profiling thing, I really do.
    Unfortunately, however, most Muslim terrorists look like me.
    Throughout my life I’ve endured beatings, lost job opportunities and gone through more abuse than many other so-called minorities simply because of my ethnicity. I don’t like it, but I’ve come to terms with most of it. I love this country of mine (USA) and I’ve put my life on the line for it and would do so again. There’s a lot of idiocy on both sides of the aisle, but this is my home and if I have to be inconvenienced now and again to make my neighbor feel safer, so be it. I hate the mother-f*ckers that put me in this position to begin with.
    There’s always going to be bigots.

  • Richard Wade

    Okay, I’m going to be brave:

    Muhammad —> 🙂

  • @Richard Wade,
    You made me smile…no mean feat.

  • Hey all, this is this year’s president of AAF. It’s great to hear all the positive comments, but I also urge all of you who were inspired by this to do the same thing on your own campuses! Talk to your groups’ leaders! It’s great if one school does it, but if a lot of schools do it as well it could mean something even bigger.

  • @Greg – Clearly, with respect, you’ve missed my point, because what you’ve said only reinforces it. Yes, the cartoons with Middle Easterners most prominent resonate. Which is rather my point.

    It’s one thing for this resonance to be taken for granted by the general public, and quite another to be taken for granted by people who espouse critical thinking.

    My comment is about the response to the cartoons – or rather the lack of one in relation to the ethnic fixation. Pointing out how cartoons work doesn’t detract from commentary on how the skeptical response doesn’t.

    And again, when talking about response, you respond with “the cartoon” – I repeat, I am not talking about specific instances I am talking in aggregate. I stated “cartoons of Olympic runners”.

    @The Godless Monster – There are majorities and then there are majorities. The mere scale of South-East Asian Islamic terrorism warrants greater mention in art and culture depicting Islamic terrorism.

    And actually, I wasn’t talking about racial profiling so much. But…

    Given just how much Islamic terrorism there is in South-East Asia, how the country with the largest Muslim population is South East Asian – how would you feel if your neighbour was South East Asian, from one of the terrorist hot-spots, and wasn’t put through the same inconveniences as you? Even if you support ethnic profiling, it’d be doing it wrong, no?

  • @Bruce,
    “Given just how much Islamic terrorism there is in South-East Asia, how the country with the largest Muslim population is South East Asian – how would you feel if your neighbour was South East Asian, from one of the terrorist hot-spots, and wasn’t put through the same inconveniences as you? Even if you support ethnic profiling, it’d be doing it wrong, no?”
    Absolutely yes, I agree. Out of curiosity, do you think Arabs are usually easier to distinguish from other Caucasians than Indonesians are from other SE Asians? I’m interested in the perspective of someone of a different ethnicity than my own.

  • I have a bit of difficulty actually describing an Indonesian appearance – I find the locals from West Timor to be different from those from Jakarta and Bali. And those from Aceh seem different again, although not so much. I can’t quite put my finger on it though, but those of Timorese origin, at least to my eyes seem to have similarities to indigenous Australians.

    If you take away the clothing, I have a bit of difficulty telling the difference between non-Jewish Middle Easterners (Arabs particularly) and Mediterranean ethnicities. And I find it incredibly difficult to find any difference between Jews and any non-Blonde, non-Mediterranean European. All of the Jewish friends I’ve had in life have had to point out to me that they’re Jewish.

    To be honest, I’m not sure I find it more or less difficult to tell the difference between SE Asians and the difference between Middle Easterners and other Caucasians.

    That not to say that I can’t see differences of course.

    Interestingly enough, I was watching a doco a few months ago (sorry, I’ve forgot which one) which showed that the ability to distinguish between faces was something primed during early childhood. That if you had exposure to a grouping of faces during this period, you were more able to notice within-group differences during later years. This worked to the extent that the kids were able to develop the skill to more precisely find differences between individual chimpanzees, than were kids who weren’t primed with chimp faces during the critical period.

    I rather strongly suspect that this has something to do with the “they all look alike” phenomena.

  • @Bruce,
    Fascinating stuff. I find that I am quite often (not consistently, mind you) able to distinguish between different Arab nationalities (not the artificial colonial ones, the regional ones)based on physical appearance, but I cannot do the same with other ethnic or racial groups until I hear them speak.
    Lebanese are very difficult to identify on appearance, however, due to a heavy European influence in the area for many centuries. My father looks Egyptian while many of his former neighbors and friends from the old country had light skin and red or blond hair.

  • Vene

    Right, this never happened. You’re an idiot.

  • @Vene,
    No, not exactly that way, it didn’t.
    Now I’m going to shake you off my leg like I would a little chihuahua.
    Be glad in your good fortune that we’re conversing through the internet and not in a bar, oh brave and mighty one 🙂

  • Lobar

    @The Godless Monster

    Of course one can taunt Muslims while getting out “the message”. I’m simply expressing my hope that the AAF put extra effort in making that message clear, as it is easily lost in what could appear to be a purely inflammatory act.

  • @Lobar,
    True, a valid and logical concern. Excuse the denseness, the caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet when I wrote that comment yesterday…

  • Kevin

    Seems to me that Muslims would be in a much happier place if they simply followed the edict, “No person of the Islamic faith may draw Mohammed”.

    Catholics would be in a much better place if they followed the edict, “No practicing Catholic may defile a communion wafer”.

    As the AAF writer points out, Jewish people experience no increase in blood pressure driving passed McDonalds and seeing the brazen consumption of kosher food.

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