A few days ago, I mentioned that the Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers at the University of Illinois chalked their campus up with stick figure images of Muhammad.
Chris Calvey, the president of the Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics group at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, is planning to do the same thing on his campus.
Like the group at U of I, Chris knows this is not an attack on Muslim students. This is a response to the ridiculous rules that radical Muslims think the rest of us have to follow.
Just to be civil, he wrote a letter to the Muslim Student Association, letting them know exactly what AHA would be doing and why:
We are aware that depicting images of Muhammad is a controversial issue that is highly offensive to many Muslims around the world. We acknowledge that you may view this as an unproductive, misguided, or hurtful event. We are very sensitive to these facts, and want to ensure that this event is done in a way that does not lead to Muslims feeling uncomfortable on campus. That is why I want to explain our position and our intentions as clearly as possible before the event takes place.
These drawings are not intended to mock, intimidate, or harass anyone -– rather, we aim to make the following statements:
1) We have the right to criticize religion and to perform actions considered blasphemous, even if many individuals find this offensive.
2) A free society cannot tolerate violence or threats of violence which seek to limit our freedom of expression.
Further, we fully understand that Revolution Islam is a radical, fringe organization that does not represent mainstream Islam in any way. It goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of Muslims, in the U.S. and across the world, do not view their tactics as acceptable.
You can argue whether or not he should’ve sent this email. The other option was to just chalk the campus as planned and let them discover the drawings with no warning. I can respect why he felt sending the email would be a more honorable thing to do.
Anyway, in response, the Muslim students wrote back and said they understood why Chris and the AHA were responding that way, and while they don’t approve of the tactic, they acknowledge that students have a right to voice their opinions in this way.
… I’m just kidding.
Ahmed Fikri, the MSA Vice President, wrote back to Chris to say that his group is pissed off that anyone would dare offend their prophet and they’re preparing to defend the radical mindset.
Dear Chris Calvey,
I am the Vice President of the MSA and I will cut straight to the chase. Your apology is not accepted since your act is actually offensive…
I would like to inform you that, as far as we understand, the event you are planning is illegal by the constitution of the University of Wisconsin (88-12 RACIST AND OTHER DISCRIMINATORY CONDUCT POLICY). Deviating from this law will offend not only the UW Muslim Students Association but the entire Muslim community on this campus and other organization of similar culture and faith. The Dean of Students shall be contacted immediately.
I politely suggest that you cancel this event and prefer instead that we meet and discuss the issue respectfully before resorting to what we feel to be rather drastic measures. No offense, but giving less than 24 hours notice seems to betray ill intentions.
I respect the fact you let us know about your plans beforehand but I also want to reiterate that we do not approve or agree with your highly offensive acts. I assure you that we believe in freedom of expression just as much as you purport to do.
Drawing a stick figure with the word Muhammad is racist, discriminatory, and illegal?
Talk about overreaction…
It’s a stick figure drawing. Chill. Out.
I suppose Chris could also draw images of Jesus, Buddha, Joseph Smith, and Krishna alongside Muhammad. Hell, draw all the Super Best Friends. But there’s no need to. The Muslim students are the ones overreacting about someone else disobeying the laws of their faith. You don’t see Jews getting this upset when other people eat pork.
And I doubt atheists would get angry if MSA students went around drawing images of nothing.
This is precisely why I support drawing images of Muhammad. It teaches the lesson that, in America, beliefs are allowed to be criticized. More importantly, you don’t have a special right not to get offended. You don’t have to draw obscene, offensive drawings to make your point, either. A simple drawing will accomplish the same goal — Chris knows that.
If the MSA wanted to have a debate about this act after the fact, I’m sure the AHA group would love to have one. Let there be a free exchange of ideas. Let there be a further discussion about this.
I hope Chris gets a positive response from all this.
***Update***: Chris met with the Associate Dean of Students earlier today and reported this:
We had a very productive and civil discussion. He stopped short of making a definitive statement about whether or not this event is in violation of any code of conduct – as the issues involved are complex and the outcome of the MSA’s complain is unpredictable. The event is still on.
They’ll get together tonight to do the chalking.
(Thanks to Rebecca for the link)