Draw Muhammad in Perspective May 24, 2010

Draw Muhammad in Perspective

by Jesse Galef –


I’m usually so proud of the way atheists are willing to stand up for their views.  But watching the drama unfold around Everybody Draw Muhammad Day, I’m left wondering what changed… and I’m a little disappointed.  It’s strange to see atheists arguing and criticizing each other for promoting an important message for fear that the message might offend people.

Some Secular Student Alliance affiliates had an important idea to express: “No religious figure should be so revered as to be off limits to criticism or even portrayal. We do not believe Muhammad is holy and we should be free to draw him.” After Matt Stone and Trey Parker had their lives threatened, it became more apparent than ever that this message needed to be said.  And there is no better way to say it than with images of Muhammad.

So they decided to draw Muhammad.  They bent over backward to provide accompanying messages, blog posts, and op-eds giving the context of their free-speech message.  But they were met with social uproar from their Muslim peers, from the Interfaith Youth Core, and even from members of the atheist community.

To me, the most puzzling objection came from Greg Epstein, who at least seems to understand the students’ motivation. In a piece on CNN.com, he writes:

There is a difference between making fun of religious or other ideas on a TV show that you can turn off, and doing it out in a public square where those likely to take offense simply can’t avoid it. These chalk drawings are not a seminar on free speech; they are the atheist equivalent of the campus sidewalk preachers who used to irk me back in college.

Let’s put this in perspective of the atheist movement’s past efforts.

About a year and a half ago, the American Humanist Association bought advertisements in major newspapers and in buses asking “Why believe in a god?  Just be good for goodness’ sake!”  Since then, the United Coalition of Reason organized local groups in two dozen regions to band together and buy large billboards proudly bearing slogans like “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” and “Are you good without God? Millions are.” The campaigns were met with outrage, repeated vandalism, and people taking offense.

The billboards and bus ads were not statements that could be turned off.  They were unavoidable for people driving down the street or riding the bus: the messages were shoved in their faces. But Epstein had no problem with the billboards and bus ads – the book tour for his New York Times bestseller Good Without God rode the campaign’s coattails, gaining attention from the excitement they stirred up.  And while there was the occasional atheist who asked why we bothered to “evangelize,” there was nowhere near as much worry over hurting people’s feelings.  Epstein and the rest of the atheist community paid no mind to the people who shouted that they were offended.

And there’s no question that people were offended by the ad campaigns.  Even high-ranking politicians were willing to condemn them.  Iowa Governor Chet Culver bashed the local bus ads which read “Don’t believe in God?  You are not alone” and insisted that – you guessed it – he was offended:

“I was disturbed, personally, by the advertisement and I can understand why other Iowans were also disturbed by the message that it sent,” Culver said.

The question will likely become a legal battle, Culver said. He deferred questions of whether the group deserves the same free speech rights as Christian organizations to advertise on the buses to the Iowa Attorney General.

Culver also declined to answer if he would also have gotten off the bus had he been a rider, but noted that he would have been offended by the ad’s message.

The Cincinnati CoR billboard was taken down and moved after the site’s owner received “multiple, significant threats.”

To drive the comparison home, look no further than what happened in Cincinnati: the billboard had to be taken down and moved because the landowner of the site received multiple threats.  Did we ask ourselves whether we should have kept quiet or found another way to make our point?  No, we realized that our statement was more important than ever.

When someone takes offense, we need to use it as a wake-up call that we’ve crossed a line in their eyes and ask ourselves whether to step back.  Sometimes we should – people get offended by swastikas, blackface, and slurs because they promote deplorable ideas.  But what lines are being crossed by the two campaigns before us?

Some religious people got offended because we were disputing a cherished belief: that religion is necessary in society.  In their eyes it crossed a line for us to question such a sacred belief.  But the entire purpose of our ad campaign was to challenge that belief, so we ignored the offense and pressed onward.

Some Muslims got offended by drawings of Muhammad because the images didn’t give their prophet as much respect as they feel he deserves.  In their eyes it crossed a line for us to give him less than that level of respect.  But again, that is exactly the line we are intending to challenge.  We want to challenge the claim that Muhammad is so holy that he’s off-limits to critique or portrayal.  So we ignored the offense and pressed onward.

I see remarkable parallels between the two campaigns.  Not all offense is worth altering course for.  We understood that when it came to our billboards and bus ads.  We need to wake up and apply the same thinking to Draw Muhammad Day.


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  • Claudia

    My impression is that Epstein sees the two things as different because the atheist billboards are a positive affirmation of our own beliefs wheras Mo cartoons are a deliberate invasion of someone else’s beliefs. I think there can be a legitimate argument to be made that there is a difference between the two.

    Where I part with Epstein is his refusal to acknowledge the actual purpose of the protest. The one thing everyone against the protest have in common is a refusal to acknowledge that this only happened due to death threats. If images were merely offensive, few people would bother.

    However I must say that I went through way too many of the images on the facebook page and I can say that many were firmly in the category of “you’re not helping”, and the comments were even worse. One Muslim American servicemember posted a picture of himself praying at an Islamic service and he got no end of vile bigotry.

    I supported and participated in the event, however I think that, in the same way we demand the other side acknowledge the reality of the death threats motivating the event, we should likewise not pretend that a lot of people pariticpated in the event, not as a way of standing up for free speech, but as a way of letting fly their base bigotry against all Muslims. That needs condemning too, if we are to be honorable in our approach.

  • Natty

    I agree. I can understand people not wanting to single out Islam for this treatment, but the fact of the matter is that Islam is the only religion actively trying to infringe our freedom of speech. I think that if any of the other religions tried to impose similar restrictions we would react in a similar way.

    There may have been an element of mocking or caricaturing in some of the images, but the same has been done to Jebus and while the Christian right do get their knickers in a knot about it, there isn’t as much media attention about it. I think if nothing else this shows that the event needs to continue until Muslims understand that a non-believer committing ‘blasphemy’ (even though it’s not because he is the messenger not the deity) does not actively affect them and they should rise above it, and if they cannot do that then they must not be very secure in their faith.

    I used to get SO angry when I would see bus ads calling non-believers ‘fools’ using a bible quote. But then I realised that it really only affects me if I give them my attention. So I stopped. If I see one of those bus ads now, I laugh to myself and carry on.

  • Brilliantly written piece, Jesse. My hope is that others will come to understand that convincing Muslims of our right to express ourselves was not and should not have been the goal of the event.
    The point that needed to be made (and was made) is that they cannot dictate to us what is or isn’t off limits.
    They needed a smack on their collective nose with a rolled up newspaper and that’s what they got. Sometimes, just saying “NO!” is all the message we want or need to get out.

  • Natty

    @ Claudia – I didn’t actually see the FB ones, only the few that were on here and in a couple of other places. I bet most of the most offensive pics (and comments) were actually from Christians and other obnoxious idiots rather than reasonable atheists. Not saying that atheists can’t be douchebags but you’d need some amount of venom for Mo to give someone that much grief over following their beliefs. The kind that comes from competing beliefs.

  • Kristian

    Maybe we should ask the question, what makes religious people so insecure about their own beliefs, that they are offended by people who don’t share them?

  • fea24

    But, should I agree and support someone’s demonstration just because that person is atheist even if I don’t necessarily agree with the demonstration’s purpose or how it’s being carried out?

    It just goes to show what I’ve been trying to get people to realize all along: Atheists are not a single minded group. I wanted to be part of a brainwashed mob, I would have joined a religion.

    I would bet that there were as many reasons for drawing the prophet last week as there were people making the depictions. What is the likelihood that any one of us is going to agree with every possible reason?

    As it turned out, I agreed with more of the drawings than I ever expected and I really appreciated the messages many people managed to incorporate.

  • Alan E.

    It shouldn’t be just “Draw Muhammad Day.” It should be “Draw Muhammad Every Day.” If we stop at just one day, then it will get nowhere. People should be comfortable having the ability to draw him every day. I remember learning in history class in school that Muslims wouldn’t allow his face to be shown, but his body was ok (as seen by many renderings with a white spot or a veil covering his face). It’s easy for a large group to support each other on one unified day, but now it’s up to people to continue and do it whenever they want. We should also stand behind the free speech that we enjoy in this country.

  • Claudia

    @Natty, I think its not quite relevant whether they were Christians or not. We participated in an event that some very nasty people used to express some very nasty ideas. I get pissed about moderate Muslims protesting that most of them are peace loving while they remain silent in the face of the crap the extremists do. In fact, that was the theme of my personal Mo cartoon. It’s only ideological consistency that when participating in a movement large enough to have different sub-ideologies involved, we at the very least recognize and condemn the people doing it for all the wrong reasons. That doesn’t mean I don’t support the event as a whole, I do, but I don’t want to see us sidestepping the nastier elements like we so often see the religious do.

  • @Claudia,

    One Muslim American servicemember posted a picture of himself praying at an Islamic service and he got no end of vile bigotry.

    I’ve received similar treatment on Jihad Watch when I objected to numerous racist comments made by readers. I have good reason to believe that one of the main Facebook pages for the event was put up by a frequent commenter on that site who also happens to have a not-so-friendly view of Arabs, not just Muslims.
    It’s a shame that Mr. Spencer does not do more to discourage the rampant racist remarks made by his readers (I’ve seen none written by him, however)and keep the focus of his site on Islamic imperialism and terror. It appears at times that the inmates are running the joint over there.

  • Jesse Galef

    @Claudia – Yeah, there were a lot of people Drawing Muhammad who had different motivations. But some of the most disappointing criticism came from people responding directly to what our student groups were doing. Eboo Patel and Greg Epstein, for example, were specifically criticizing what the students did, when they did it the right way.

  • Jesse, this is a fantastic article! I can say that strongly enough and I don’t hand out such praise like candy either. While I support Epstein in his community building efforts, I think he is often wrong in his criticisms of other more well known atheists. I hate to say this, but I think sometimes he criticizes other atheists just to get attention.

    In any case, I wrote an article defending EDMD. Immoral to criticize EDMD
    -Staks

  • Frank

    As I wrote in the eMpirical, one of epsteins problems is that he either can’t or won’t distinguish between respecting beliefs and respecting believers. Is drawing Mohammad disrespectful towards islam? Absolutely. That’s the whole point. We do not respect islam. But is it disrespectful towards muslims? No. Epstein attacks Everybody Draw Mohammad Day because he mistakes disrespect towards islam for disrespect towards muslims. It’s the sort of error that is to be expected from divinity school graduates.

  • Natty

    @Claudia – I get where you’re coming from and I’m positive that there were some buttholes there who are atheists and racists too, making those comments and images. And I agree that to take the same line as ‘moderate’ Muslims “We don’t condone the actions of these extremists, but what can we do?” is no solution

    The only thing we really can do is condemn these attitudes whenever we run into them. In much the same way we would homophobia or racism in any other context.

    By not drawing Mo (and I agree with Alan E that it needs to flow over into everyday, like with Jebus) we effectively tell Muslims that their demands to squash our freedom of speech will be met, because we’re afraid of *someone else’s* racism offending both them and us.

    As we all know. People have the right to be offended. They have the right to register their offence. What they don’t have the right to do is demand NOT to be offended in the first place.

  • Hitch

    A smiling stick figure is as positive an affirmation one can invent that makes the point that one can criticize the dogma that noone can depict Muhammad, positively or negatively.

    If that is not allowable, pretty much no critical artistic treatment of Muhammad is allowable.

    That is exactly to the point. Epstein doesn’t consider what the point of criticism is.

    There is a kind of backlash against more visible atheism recently and it involves labeling all atheist expression as aggressive.

    If only atheists would find more positive messages, it would be OK. But in fact a lot of the messages that are presented aren’t aggressive at all. They just happen to completely deny what other world views consider sacrosanct.

    Epstein’s piece makes this perfectly explicit. There is no nuanced discussion about the atheist position, or any possibility that perhaps a smiling stick figure isn’t all that negative. No, it still has to be in the realm of hate-speech symbols.

    What is implied here is that any criticism of religion is hateful. And we have no choice but reject that. A smiling stick figure doesn’t become hateful just because people are adament in denouncing any way to criticize them.

    A final point. Trying to debate with the so-called interfaith community I have learned that a lot in that community have respect for all belief systems that are in some form deistic, but have limited respect for any belief system that might be critical thereof. This is not really a tolerant system that is being proposed here. We can tolerate each other but only so far as we agree to not criticize each other, pretty much at all.

    That means that any skeptic position is bound to be seen as bad, because just the statement that perhaps Muhammad was a mortal man is indeed intolerant (in that view).

    There is no space for skepticism in that view. And Epstein, Patel and others promote pretty much this perspective, and of course both are invested in a certain way.

    The positive is that I found quite a few Muslims who see smiling stick figures not as negative, even though they may initially lump them with dog-depictions. If engaged they will recognize “respectful” depictions as just that. And they will even recognize respectful calls for real tolerance and respect for multiple world views, even if critical of religions.

    On youtube you will even find some progressive Muslims who participated in Draw Muhammad Day, in their own suitable way, but actually allowing smiling stick figure depictions and all.

    If you listen to Epstein’s or Patel’s article, you’d never know. Muslims are depicted as monolithic block, interestingly enough exactly the charge used to attack all too careless criticism of Islam. For example difference between Sunni and Shi’a are washed out in virtually all of the discussion, even though it would be fairly directly relevant. Or discussion how the mandate is derived from the Hadith and that different groups within Islam have different positions as to the status of binding of the Hadith. No, smiling stick figure ought to be offensive to all Muslims and hence are swastikas and hate-speech, or so we are told.

    For me it borders on intentional deception.

  • I like this piece Jesse. And I do agree with you that they’re similar in several regards. While I agree that no holy personage should be free from criticism, I actually explained in my blog why I didn’t participate in the drawings. I honestly found it a childish way to, in a sense, retaliate against the people who’ve called it blasphemous to draw mohammad.

    Do I think it shouldn’t have been done at all? Of course not.

    Do I think that it could’ve been done to point out how ridiculous the people were acting with South Park (among other things)? Definitely, but drawing muhammad everywhere wasn’t the better answer.

  • Ron in Houston

    While I don’t criticize those who chose to participate and understand why people felt a response was appropriate, I still think the whole “Draw Muhammad” event was pretty silly and juvenile.

    I think comparisons to the “No God” bus ads is largely an apples and oranges sort of comparison.

  • Alan E.

    O><

    ^"Bill" taking a nap

    O><

    ^"Muhammad" taking a nap

    When someone can show me that this is disrespectful, then I might respect verbal backlash, but I can never condone killing or attacking someone because of it or the condoning of violence as backlash. I especially enjoyed the one image Hemant posted with the three sections (stick figure, arrow, and “Muhammad”) as being ok separately, but they aren’t ok when together.

  • Hitch

    Alan, the arrow picture is nice. It actually just illustrates that positiveness of the depiction is not a transitive property under composition of all positive elements.

    i.e. positive + positive = negative

    Has happened before though. “gay” was an attempt to de-stereotype and put a positive label on. Yet it’s been turned into a negative again “that’s so gay”.

    In our case the stick figure is being turned into a negative (swastika etc).

    But I agree with you completely that the napping Muhammad should not be offensive and we simply cannot concede that point, it’s also not juvenile. It is rather silly that the debate has to happen at this level, but we didn’t put it there.

  • Susan Robinson

    Excellent post!

  • Of course, it’s nothing really to do with drawing Muhammed – it’s all about controlling and stopping any and all criticism of Islam and of Muslims. That’s what it’s about.

  • Richard Wade

    This is a superb post, Jesse.

    For me, the issue is that Muslims expect non-Muslims to follow the rules that were written to govern Muslims. The threats of death for non-Muslims who don’t follow their rules illustrate the underlying goal to force Islam upon an unwilling world, conversion at the point of a sword.

    Those timid folks who are criticizing Draw Muhammad Day but who had no problems with the other campaigns that Jesse described should just be honest: They’re afraid of the Muslims.

    Fear is the cheap substitute for respect. Whenever a bully or a group of bullies decide to promote fear of them rather than respect for them, they begin to sew the seeds of their own destruction. Even though they may be able to intimidate and oppress others for a while, the moment they are vulnerable, those people will knock them down.

    Do not live in fear.

  • AxeGrrl

    Great comments Claudia, especially your opening one.

  • Aj

    Epstein is a douche. One of the problems with religion appeasers is that they have no consideration for content. They’re only interested in style, tone, delivery, and venue. It’s completely shallow in thought and values. People expressing themselves in public is the problem? Fuck that, people expressing themselves in public spaces is not a problem. If you’re pissed about street preachers it should be about what they’re saying, mostly “god hates fags” as far as I can tell.

    Bringing up hate crimes committed against Muslims in regards to this protest is the equivalent of Israelis bringing up the holocaust when criticized for excessive use of force. That something is seen as offensive in another culture (placing things on the ground), and thus we should not do it, seems to be rather strange request to make to people protesting against those that want to dictate what can be expressed depending on what they find offensive.

    I find Greg Epstein offensive, with his unashamedly irrational articles, or the creepy use of the words “dignity” and “respect” that he acquired from religion, but I’m not advocating he not express himself or that he should stop so not to offend me. I think open and free expression is more important than not offending special groups of people. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t give two shits whether he offends atheists or not.

  • Krissy

    Very eloquent, could not have been put better.

  • Canadiannalberta

    I loved this post, Jesse. You explained things clearly. I think I’ll show this to my mother. She didn’t approve of Draw Muhammad Day because she thought it was rude. I didn’t explain it very well, I’m afraid – I tried to correct what she figured, but she was stuck on the notion it was simply meant to offend and ridicule Muslims.

  • SamFH

    As a way of expressing the need for free speech without fear of recrimination the event makes sense. However it still seems like this could have been done in a better way. The event’s message doesn’t really carry through it’s actions. We want to be able to speak without fear, so we’re going to show you we can. It makes sense, and yet it won’t stop the death threats and as shown does little to stop negative reactions. It may not have been the planners intent to be inflammatory, but it seems unlikely that they couldn’t predict a large backlash.

    That may actually be the whole problem. The South Park guys depict Muhammad. There’s a huge backlash against them, including death threats. There’s a huge backlash against the death threats, voiced through the “Draw Muhammad Day” events. There’s a huge backlash against Draw Muhammad Day . . .

    All of it seems like a retaliatory back and forth, with neither side rising above to address the issue. One or both sides may have valid arguments, but no one’s willing to let go of the perhaps unfortunate tactics (Draw Muhammad Day) or definitely wrong (death threats) tactics used to voice their beliefs.

  • SickoftheUS

    As a solid atheist and advocate of free speech, I understand the spirit and motivation of the Draw Mohammed efforts, but I think such efforts are misdirected – given the reality of who is making them, the time they are making them in, and who in general they are making them against.

    We live in a reality where the most powerful country in the world and its NATO alliance and its asinine “coalition of the willing” have literally killed over a million people of various kinds of Muslim religions over the last 20 years – *in their own lands* – in a murderous rampage for control of resources and geopolitical power. The US has also, for many years, been providing material support and cover for its murderous client state in historical Palestine, a country which was carved out of Muslim lands stolen in extremely hypocritical and might-makes-right ways.

    As a result, simply, powerful white Westerners, especially Americans, are exactly the wrong people now to be trying to teach Muslims any lessons about the perfidies of their beliefs, given the tremendous level of wrong we have visited upon the people of so many Islamic countries. It is hypocrisy in the extreme. The rights that our countries have taken away from those people, and the misery we have directly and indirectly caused for them, is immense.

    You may protest that “we’re just standing up for our freedom of speech rights”. That’s a fine and good thing to do. But people must always put things in perspective. And given the present and recent historical reality, we’re not in any position to be going out of the way to piss off Muslims over the silliness of their religious beliefs, no matter how good it makes us feel, or to be lecturing them on much of anything regarding their cultures.

    We need to get our own house in order first, with regard to how *we* allow our governments to treat *them* and their rights as human beings.

    The Muslims could use a “smack on the nose” (as one previous commenter put it) – indeed? What arrogance. If that’s the case, someone needs to administer a running pivot kick with an iron boot to our collective head, over how we treat their cultures.

    Let me be very clear – I think the anti-religion bus ads are superb, and in general I’m all for getting in-your-face with the forces of religious idiocy, and I think it’s necessary to do so. But this is so, so the wrong fight to be picking right now.

  • Hitch

    I don’t think that drawing muhammad is an unfortunate tactics. In a more sane world it would be a non-topic. Incidentally when South Park drew Muhammad in 2002 it was a non-issue.

    There is very little being said how certain groups use anger to promote certain causes. This is very much part of what is going on. Just like the Danish Imams which ran around showing the danish cartoons, but had snuck in two especially offensive images that actually never appeared in the newspaper showing Muhammad being sexually abused by a dog and Muhammad as a pig-face. Both of these were wrongfully presented as being what the danish promote, when that was flatly false. Anyone want to guess how much that might have contributed to the outrage?

    The same imams also spread proclamations like this:

    Even though they [the Danes] belong to the Christian faith, the secularizations have overcome them, and if you say that they are all infidels, then you are not wrong.

    And yes being an infidel does open one up to a range of retributions in Islam and certainly explains why protesters can read this as a permission to be violent.

    Yet I have met moderate Muslims who would tell me that the danish imams tried to explain the cultural differences and mediate and for that reason toured Islamic countries. Of course the truth is that they agitated the population and biased the leaders of the OIC countries to take action against Denmark.

    Also the protests in Pakistan in response to DMD were obviously planned. Large scale color banners ready on the day. Not clear at all if people had even seen the depictions or truly had grounds for being offended. We are in a culture were we take it at face value.

    But instead we talk about stick figures and how horribly they supposedly have contributed to coarsening the discourse.

    I agree with folks who say that every day is draw muhammad day. The point is that this should be harmless. And if you do things that should be harmless and it creates outrage and backlash, we have to indeed keep doing it to indicate just how ridiculous that whole thing has become.

    Same with the billboard. It’s harmless but creates outrage. Nothing wrong with the board but with the culture that we allow around us without discussion.

    My favorite part in the south park episode is when he shows the stick figure and one person in the assembly asks “Is that OK?”

    This is the surface question. Where is the line where people can legitimately take offense, but of course the real line is threats and harm. That should never be OK and we should stand up against death threats even when voiced against the vilest of cartoons. Ultimately it is about this culture of fear. Fear if a tactic will be perceived as unfortunate is part of that.

    One can bitterly denounce cartoons, but death threats and actually following through? No.

    For that reason I am not that sympathetic to the argument that draw muhammad day was inartful or insensitive. There are numerous issues here and some plainly go beyond nuance of sensitivity. It’s if we want a culture where violent bullying is allowable or were we protect speech, even inartful speech from violent bullies.

    Unfortunately it’s conflated with very subtle issues, such as how to be respectful yet critical, which of course we all want to be.

    I don’t think we can disentangle these issues easily except to discuss each on their respective merits and in their proper context.

  • Erp

    I’m actually wondering how many US Muslims protested the South Park cartoon? How many advocated Comedy Central censoring South Park? How many advocated illegal activity against the creators? Note I’m strictly talking about Muslims in the US. It is also perfectly legitimate to say one is offended and I’m not going to watch and I ask others don’t watch and I’m not going to buy products from companies that advertise on the channel.

    The death threats and over the line protests seem to have come (in the US) only from a group called “Revolution Muslim” which seems to consist of a handful of people who mostly protest against New York City’s largest mosque. The mosque has called the police but like Fred Phelps’ gang they have not crossed over the line of permissible picketing. The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seems to have a policy of ignoring ‘offensive’ cartoons.

    Other countries admittedly have had more extreme reactions.

  • plutosdad

    we’re not in any position to be going out of the way to piss off Muslims over the silliness of their religious beliefs

    Again, you miss the point entirely. The point is not making fun of Muslims’ beliefs and calling them silly. Individuals will do that, you cannot judge a movement by its outliers, if you did then people who say ALL Muslims are terrorists are correct as well. But those people are wrong, and so are you. But drawing Mohammed is not making fun of their beliefs, it is showing that the minority who think it is wrong cannot silence others even if they beat up elderly comic artists and demand the police silence their critics – they will not win.

    As far as the rest, it’s all a big red herring. “Don’t talk about free speech when there are all these other problems.” It is not about changing their society, but standing up for our own rights. Mideast foreign policy of the US and Europe has nothing to do with whether you can draw Mohammed or not in Europe or the US. And people of good intentions disagree on everything you mentioned.

    The problem is, you can’t talk about any issues at all if you don’t have free speech.

  • Andrew

    I agree with these principles behind Draw Muhammad Day, but its execution is what makes it an inherently bad idea. Apples and oranges indeed.

    First, there was a clarity issue. The billboard campaign was a clear message from a single organization. Any questions or concerns about it could be answered by that one group. However, DMD was about different things depending on the person. Some took the minimalist route, attempting to show its absurdity; others wanted to fight for the right to criticize Islam in a negative light; whereas others simply wanted to exercise 1st amendment rights and draw the most offensive depiction possible (which I disagree with).

    Second, for too many people, DMD turned out to simply be an outlet for people’s hatred, racism, and xenophobia. Even if its ideals were pure from the start, DMD became a derogatory attack on Islam, rather than the “crossing the line” sort of challenge it was supposed to be. I don’t know if I agree with Facebook taking down the DMD group, but I certainly understand why they did it.

  • SickoftheUS

    Again, you miss the point entirely. The point is not making fun of Muslims’ beliefs and calling them silly.

    There is necessarily some element of this while “standing up for your rights” – in doing the latter, you’re acting against the wishes of Muslims, and on some level saying that their beliefs are silly enough or wrong enough to be worthy of active contradiction. I looked at many of the Mohammed drawings, and I can see that element to varying degrees in them.

    It is not about changing their society, but standing up for our own rights. Mideast foreign policy of the US and Europe has nothing to do with whether you can draw Mohammed or not in Europe or the US.

    Oh, I think they are related. Muslim citizens and non-citizens living in Western countries generally have deep cultural and family links to their countries of origin. It’s almost always the brown/red/yellow peoples with the funny religions and customs – who aren’t “like us” – that we think we can oppress. These facts don’t stand in isolation from the rest of reality. Oppressed people see patterns and harbor anger, and they don’t like being lectured to by their oppressors, and I think very rightly so.

  • Hitch

    you’re acting against the wishes of Muslims, and on some level saying that their beliefs are silly enough or wrong enough to be worthy of active contradiction

    No, active contracition is a sign of an open society. I thas nothing to do with considering beliefs to be silly or wrong. You can just be ignorant and want to explore to pose a devil’s advocate position out there which is temporarily oppositional.

    People act against my wills every day. I do not interpret that as them thinking I’m silly.

    But yes, the point is that indeed one should be able to be in opposition to Islam and individual believers. This is all just about the possibility to express such opposition without fear. Ask Westergaard or Vilks or Hirsi Ali how that is working out for them right now.

    Oppressed people see patterns and harbor anger, and they don’t like being lectured to by their oppressors, and I think very rightly so.

    People have to learn to keep apples and oranges apart and we have to stop apologizing anger.

    Frankly I am very worried how often I hear “this anger is justified” when people currently are being under threat and actively being harmed.

    This is my main criticism of moderates. They often denounce the violence, but not the reasoning, the emotion and the anger.

    I’m sorry, a smiling stick figure should not cause anger. Sensible people should look to mediate that experience rather than escalate it or seek tangential reasons why it’s still justified to be angry, such as political situations elsewhere.

    Heck there is a lot of trouble in the middle east and we should oppose oppressions no matter where. But that doesn’t mean that we should forfeit our most potent vehicle to oppose any oppression and that is free speech in the face of opposition.

  • Aj

    SickoftheUS,

    You can claim the wrongs committed by others if you want, but don’t claim them for me. You can divide the people on this planet into arbitrary groups based on a limited set of characteristics if you want, but don’t expect me to respect the meaning you give to that. It smacks of racism to suggest the colour of your skin makes a difference in what ideas you can express, and who you can criticize.

  • trixr4kids

    Jesse, great piece, thank you. And thanks as well to AJ, for your concise comments.

  • Aaron

    SickoftheUS, are you seriously trying to claim that a group of atheists don’t understand about being oppressed?
    We are a group that almost the entire world has outlawed, most of the rest mearly tolerate, and lets not forget that most (if not all) of the countries you are claiming we are oppressing would execute us for our beliefs. So, before you go claming that my drawing of a stick figure with the word Mohammed next to it is oppressing someone, remember who wants to kill who.
    DMD was not done by the United States government, it was done by a small group of atheists. We hardly ever oppress anyone.

  • Ash

    It’s almost always the brown/red/yellow peoples with the funny religions and customs – who aren’t “like us” – that we think we can oppress.

    Because no atheist ever criticizes white people with their Christianities. And sites like these do not focus their energies on the aforementioned the majority of the time. Yeah right…

    These facts don’t stand in isolation from the rest of reality.

    Yet yours stand in opposition to the reality I just mentioned.

    BTW, the ‘oppression’ of drawing images which are only prohibited for the believers? I do not think that word means what you think it means…

  • fiddler

    I remember years ago, a crucifix was dipped in faeces and called art. Then one was placed in a jar of urine, also called art. In any newspaper in America (nearly)one can find cartoons negatively portraying jebus, god, christianity, priests, etc..

    Most of the people that come to the defence of a muslims ‘right to not be offended’ celebrated, endorsed, and/or promoted these images and cartoons. It seems that christians simply aren’t scary enough to protect from offence.

    I expect to see every person that feels it so terrible to draw or form a stick figure and call it muhammed go public against the purposeful assault christianity, where the intent truly was to cause personal offence and anger.

    Myself, I will continue drawing muhammed as well as insulting the X-tians torture device.

  • Someone said it shouldn’t be “Draw Muhammad Day”. I agree, but I think it should be called Free Speech Day.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was fully behind Draw Muhammad Day, I defended it against other atheists (including my own girlfriend). However I would like for it to move beyond this one narrow issue, and become a broad, non-atheist-centric celebration of free speech.

  • SickoftheUS

    …the ‘oppression’ of drawing images which are only prohibited for the believers?

    I wasn’t describing the Draw Mohammed actions as oppressive, but as needlessly insulting to Muslims and near the far end of a scale which does indeed have severe US oppression and mayhem in Muslim countries on the other end. People will and do connect the dots.

    Let’s look at it another way, and all of this is in the context of the US. Perhaps 99.999% of US citizens will never encounter a situation, in their entire lives, where they need or even desire to graphically depict Mohammed in the normal course of their daily life. Provocative actions like DMD are an exception, and a very small number of people will also do so in the course of an artistic or literary work (e.g. Rushdie, verbally; South Park? – questionable artistic purpose (and Danish cartoonists’ actions seems more like provocation than serious art, from what I have read and seen)).

    That is: those 99.999% of US people will lose nothing in any meaningful way by refraining from drawing Mohammed. The artists should be vigorously defended. But the provocateurs and the rest of us should leave it alone and learn what fights to pick. Islam, even with the injunction against drawing the prophet, has almost zero impact on the average US non-Muslim.

    That is a far, far different situation than the impact of Christianity on the average US citizen, which constantly proselytizes us and tries to force us to pay attention to it and to give respect to it throughout our culture and government. We live in Jesusland and the Jesus freaks are in power here, have been for a long time, and that force, that religion, is deserving of our sternest resistance, and ridicule. Likewise, to the extent that Judaism and Jews demand our subservience in the form of, for example, economic and military policy wrt Israel, and to the extent that they are powerful within our government and economic elites and actually affect our lives and safety and money with their policies – let the criticism of their religious hypocrisy fly.

    A hypothetical example to maybe better illustrate my points: suppose that some set of Native Americans living in the US strenuously objected to, say, graphically depicting their Great Spirit, even to the point of threatening death. What is the best, most humane reaction? Would you participate in DGSDays and draw a line in the sand and show that you have the power to step over it by doing so, and bristle at them trying to deny your freedom to draw whatever you want? Or would your internal dialogue be something like:

    “Ok, we screwed these people over for centuries, genocide, land stealing, death, destruction, slavery. We’ve left them with paltry, undesirable crumbs of land to scrape by on as alcoholics. Maybe the best course of action is to let this go?”

    From what I’ve seen of the world, especially over the last 10 particularly disastrous years, the current situation of Muslims, with respect to the US, is much closer to that of Native Americans than of Christians. And by this, I mean no offence to Muslims or their character or culture. I simply observe and synthesize how the US behaves with regard to Muslim culture across the world, and in recent years that has been a history of oppression.

    I don’t come to these conclusions out of fear; I come to them out of basic respect for Muslims as people like anyone else.

  • Hitch

    I’d like to agree with you. Considered “Draw Anything Day” or “Open Art Day”, but ultimately three is a specifical socio-cultural issue here, which has oddly catalyzed around the question whether the western world cannot do X, and X happens to be exactly drawing Muhammad.

    This is exactly where the sore point is. Free Speech Day may be broader, but it also kind of removes the issue that is at stake here, can a faith tell all the non-faithful how to behave in the public sphere. That is not really correctly described as free speech, because ultimately the attempt is to call this hate-speech.

    So it’s a wrangling about protecting something and virtually any twisting is allowed. So we have to not only wrangle about what hate speech is, but also if art is free to depict and criticize and if religions deserve special respect and all that.

    I simply don’t think that “Free Speech Day” describes all these issues. People would just say whatever. And if people do address the issue they’d have to wrestle with the issue but in a diluted story around it.

  • Hitch

    SickoftheUS, you don’t understand how completely odd and hypocritical the situation is. South Park depicted Muhammad in 2002. Not a piep of an issue. In 2006 and 2010 it’s a huge issue.

    Muhammad has been depicted throughout the ages, yet suddenly this is a massive political thing.

    Yes we have to choose where to pick our fight, but the Bill of Rights might just exactly delineate what we kind of have to fight for, if we take our constitutional democracy seriously.

    See noone here wants a fight. The fight is brought to us. There is no need or a fight at all. See South Park in 2002. People choose to be insulted and that is the issue. Not much we can do about it except to either appease or oppose. I don’t like either option but I have to pick the latter so I can actually say I live in a free and open society.

  • Betsy

    Did any of you read enough of Greg Epstein’s article to get to the part where he explains that putting the drawings on the ground where they would be walked on was part of the offense according to Muslim culture? I doubt the atheist students knew that, which makes them an innocent party in that regard, but the Muslim students would have, which makes their response all the more amusing and appropriate. In that case, it isn’t just the pictures, it’s the placing of the pictures.
    And seriously, some of you people make me ashamed to call myself an atheist with all the in-fighting. It’s not enough for you to insult religious people, you have to insult other nonbelievers. It almost makes me want to reconvert and that’s saying something.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    I’m left wondering what changed – and I’m a little disappointed. It’s strange to see atheists arguing and criticizing each other for promoting an important message for fear that the message might offend people.

    I’m more than a “little disappointed.” I’ve lost a lot of respect for atheists who act like joining in the national Muslim-bashing orgy is an “important message.” I fully support your free speech right to promote whatever messages you want. That doesn’t mean I have to respect your message if I think your arguments for your message are, frankly, half-assed. Muslims are one of the most despised and unpopular minorities in America. Acting like American Muslims are some powerful threat to free speech in American because half a dozen guys in New Jersey manage to get an episode of South Park cancelled, and that you’re going to combat that threat by offending a bunch of Muslims on some college campus is stupid. When you do that by giving the metaphorical finger (as is your right, congratulations) to one of the most unpopular minorities in America, it becomes pretty hard for me to respect that. And when you act like it’s “brave” or “courageous” to do this (apparently on the grounds that one of the half dozen American Muslims who are actually violent will be at your college), I find that really hard to respect.

    Those timid folks who are criticizing Draw Muhammad Day but who had no problems with the other campaigns that Jesse described should just be honest: They’re afraid of the Muslims.

    Richard, I usually respect your opinion, I’m going to call bullshit. Please don’t make unsupported claims about my motivations or my honesty.

  • Hitch

    Betsy, isn’t the problem dialogue? Why is comparing smiling stick figures to swastikas helpful? Eboo pretty much put the secular students in a box with that which they didn’t belong in. And why is Greg nowhere addressing the concerns of the secular students? Instead he categorically calls their civility and humor inferior to the Muslim student’s. How is that fair, or even helpful? Frankly it is not.

    The secular students would have loved for Muslims to join in and draw Muhammad Ali actually. Invitations to joint events had been issued. But no mention of that when one can write newspaper articles that depict secular students as insensitive.

    My criticism of both of them is quite simple. They misrepresent the secular students and they take a side, I think quite unfairly.

    I have no issue with fair representations and looking at the story as it is. That’s not what we got, and that’s the problem.

    There is no dialogue, but lots of lecturing how awfully insensitive people are.

    I have all sympathy for any sensitivities, but I think it’s fair to ask that all sensitivities and concerns are considered.

    And perhaps it is OK that all sides show tolerance and consideration and listen to the others. Not just one.

  • SickoftheUS

    …you don’t understand how completely odd and hypocritical the situation is. South Park depicted Muhammad in 2002. Not a piep of an issue. In 2006 and 2010 it’s a huge issue.

    That synchs with my point – that the invasions of Muslim countries by the US, Israel, and western allies over the last 10 years (and more) have likely vastly increased the anger of Muslims everywhere. A culture literally looking down tank barrels and living in ransacked houses is less likely to cut its oppressors, real or perceived, slack wrt slights against its religion – i.e., its core identity.

  • Aj

    How popular or small a group is doesn’t make the slightest difference to the principle behind the protest. US involvement in the middle-east, irrelevant. Dishonestly framing it as “Muslim-bashing” or “racism” or whatever other bullshit you can think of doesn’t fucking matter, although it is distasteful and pathetic, itself an attempt to censor. The reaction of crying victim, the immediate threat of making an official complaint of “hate speech”, and the whine that you shouldn’t offend people justified this protest. If anyone should be offended it should be those that are being wrongly accused of “Muslim-bashing”, what a crock of shit.

    Betsy,

    …but the Muslim students would have, which makes their response all the more amusing and appropriate. In that case, it isn’t just the pictures, it’s the placing of the pictures.

    Good point, since they added Ali and boxing gloves, wouldn’t that mean they wanted to disrespect Muhammad Ali? Perhaps an alternate explanation is needed, perhaps Greg Epstein is full of it.

  • Hitch

    Unfortunately I don’t agree that history started in 2003. I do agree that in 2005 the issue catalyzed with the Danish newspapers, but there it wasn’t oppressed masses misdirecting anger, it was 2 danish imams showing images around 2 of being fake while at the same time the most offensive. Ever since then it’s a political rallying point.

    So yes, core identity is being exploited to rally anger. Very dangerous.

  • Gibbon

    I’ll make one more comment and then I’ll get out of everyone’s hair on this issue, considering what I have already said elsewhere on the blog.

    This whole Draw Mohammed Day campaign started when a handful of Islamist extremists threatened the South Park creators for depicting Mohammed. How are you making the situation any better when all you are doing is giving the extremists more reason to despise and hate you? All this campaign will do in respect to Islam is to enable the extremists.

    This is one of the reasons why I would never in my right mind produce an image of Mohammed. I would rather have the respect of Muslims, even extremist, rather than be the subject of their hate. For that matter, I can’t think of any reason for why I would want to produce a visual representation of the Prophet Mohammed, as I don’t consider my right to free speech as a good enough reason.

  • Hitch

    Gibbon, let me try to give you my $.2 on your core concern:

    All this campaign will do in respect to Islam is to enable the extremists.

    I think this is a very real concern. I’m not sure if I agree with the certainty you express, but I think the underlying question:

    Does this radicalize the situation? Are we worse off rather than better due to this?

    Is very legitimate and I have the same question. For me the question is two-fold. One is we do not want to unnecessarily agitate people the other is, where is the boundary that we can live with or that a free society can have any hope for maintaining?

    I do not know what will happen. Maybe thing will get worse. Maybe things already were heading for worse and it has nothing to do with DMD.

    Most Muslims I know are far more concerned with the Israel/Palestine conflict and drone bombings in Pakistan, as they should be. Those are the real problems. And many are pissed as hell about both already. It’s not clear at all that DMD matters.

    But I don’t know. Maybe down the road we will know.

    But why not just blanket shut up? I can only give my answer. In the 1930 there were a bunch of intimidating people running around central Europe. If you were openly propoting views of competing parties they would bully and intimidate you. They would burn books and stores.

    And back then there was also people who said, you know, just don’t offend them. It’s OK. Let them have what they want. At some point it was too late. Too many were scared to oppose it from the inside and too few paid attention or understood to do anything from the outside. Lots and lots of people died.

    Do we have that situation? Maybe, but it does look very similar to me. Very scarily similar.

    And my position is clear. I will not be the one who tries to appease people who use fear and intimidation to get their way. I simply won’t. We will see which one will work better and I hope that I am all wrong about it all and we can de-escalate and coexist.

  • Gibbon

    Hitch

    Do we have that situation? Maybe, but it does look very similar to me. Very scarily similar.

    Well, I would like to know what these similarities between the Islamist extremists and Hitler’s Nazi Germany are that you see, because I don’t see them.

    What I see in regards to the Islamists is a group of radicalised fundamentalists who have major issues not just with the foreign policies of nations like the United States, but also with the policies of Islamic governments such as Saudi Arabia. Nazi Germany on the other hand, was an attempt to gain control of the world and established an empire that would last hundreds and even thousands of years, and which sought to create a master race by way of selective breeding and culling.

    The difference between Nazi Germany and the Islamist extremists as far as I’m concerned, is that the former was a force intended for dominance while the latter is primarily a violent protest movement. To really reduce it to the essence of each: Nazism was designed to promulgate hate and destruction while Islam was developed to reform and civilise 6th century Arabia, which by any standard was far worse prior to the first recitations of the Qur’an, and has in the present been revived as a protest and reform movement.

    And my position is clear. I will not be the one who tries to appease people who use fear and intimidation to get their way.

    I’m not talking about giving the Islamist extremists what they want; some of the things that they want are unreasonable. However, criticising and denigrating Mohammed, as many non-Muslims have done, is only giving these extremists what they want. They believe they are fighting an enemy that is out to destroy Islam, and these criticisms of the Prophet only prove that to them. I will respect them but not appease them for the simple reason that to do the opposite of respect would ultimately lead to destructive ends.

  • Hitch

    My bad, I wasn’t clear. I am talking about the early 30s, when the Nazi hadn’t taken over the country and dismantled the democracy yet.

    A period of increased violent threats and actual acts of violence and an increased anxiety and uncertainty in the population how to respond. Some opposed the violence, some were silent or even thought that the reasons why the brown shirts bullied people were good.

    This is what I am talking about. I dislike this latent fear and those who create it. And that is where the comparison to extremists comes from, they serve the role who up the the level of anxiety through threats and actual acts of violence.

    And our role is that of the civilian german in the early 30s. What to do? And how to interpret the situation.

    This is exactly how I mean the analogy. It is not the strongest in the sense that the german situation was wholely internal. Now it is an international climate of fear, transcending boundaries. Yet the question how to respond to fear and intimidation does feel very similar to me.

    We are in the same situation of second-guessing what will inflame the bullies and what will perhaps keep the violence down.

  • Gibbon

    Hitch

    This is what I am talking about. I dislike this latent fear and those who create it. And that is where the comparison to extremists comes from, they serve the role who up the the level of anxiety through threats and actual acts of violence.

    So if I understand you correctly, it is the strategy of fear and intimidation the Islamist extremists are using, that concerns you most about them. Assuming that is what you’re arguing, I can’t help but feel that your concerns are misdirected. The real concern should be what these people are trying to achieve with terrorism, and more importantly, what motivated or incentivised them to use fear and intimidation to achieve those goals, because it is only by addressing those issues that the conflict can end; this isn’t a case of Total War.

    This is exactly how I mean the analogy. It is not the strongest in the sense that the german situation was wholely internal. Now it is an international climate of fear, transcending boundaries. Yet the question how to respond to fear and intimidation does feel very similar to me.

    Yet aside from the fact that the Islamist extremists and the pre-coup German Nazis have relied on the same strategy of fear and intimidation, there is nothing they have in common. The Nazis had plans for a master race, the annihilation of entire populations, and a thousand year rule over the world. The Islamists on the other hand desire the absolute eviction of foreign (Western) powers from the Islamic world and the reform of certain Islamic governments, as well as an end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in favour of the Palestinians.

    I fail to see where there is any similarity other than in the strategy, which I might add has been used in countless situations throughout history, as well as being the basic functional principle of the law and judiciary of modern western democratic nations, (every western nation uses a punitive model of law).

  • Gibbon: You do realize that it’s part of Islamic doctrine that the entire world should either convert to Islam or submit to Islamic rule?

  • Hitch

    So if I understand you correctly, it is the strategy of fear and intimidation the Islamist extremists are using, that concerns you most about them.

    Precisely. In fact I’m worried about fear and intimidation everywhere, not just in one setting. Free expression and non-violent negotation is the way to resolve conflicts.

    The real concern should be what these people are trying to achieve with terrorism, and more importantly, what motivated or incentivised them to use fear and intimidation to achieve those goals, because it is only by addressing those issues that the conflict can end; this isn’t a case of Total War.

    I reject this. There are no real and unreal concerns, there are concerns or something that is of no concern.

    You are in the camp of people who apologize murder because somewhere else murder happens. I find that contemptible. You also say, let’s appease murderer. I reject that too.

    I am in the camp that says, all concerns, all evil has to be addressed. Not one or the other, not one first then the other. All of it. Terror has to stop now just as much as Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. Both has to stop.

    That’s all I have to say because I won’t every apologize your position.

  • Gibbon

    MikeTheInfidel

    Gibbon: You do realize that it’s part of Islamic doctrine that the entire world should either convert to Islam or submit to Islamic rule?

    You do realise that was Islam one thousand years ago and is not applicable to the Islamic world today? You shouldn’t define Islam the same way Protestant Christianity is in the west, which is by orthodox, as the Muslim religion is by definition predominantly orthoprax. The substance of the Muslim religion is two thirds action, one third belief.

  • Hitch

    Show study or it didn’t happen. My own experience is that most moderate Islam scholars want pan-islamism.

    As for orthopraxy, all actions in Islam are valuated against their theistic merit. I.e. all things are labeled good or bad with respect to how they relate to Allah. So while yes is may a practising religion the rules of practice are all driven by the concern of the belief. It’s completely false to say that Islam is 2/3 secular action, which is what you falsely imply.

    The hajj may be orthoprax, but it is deeply belief-driven.

    But haven’t we veered far and wide from the simple question whether or not it should be OK to draw a smiling stick figure with a common male name next to it? I think we have. The question of orthopraxy helps nothing to explain why some Muslims demand that non-Muslims obey Muslim orthoprax habits or mandates such as the non-depiction of Muhammad.

    I think you should just agree to disagree. That’s all there is to do at this point on the smiling stick figure question. If you don’t want them drawn, you are fine to hold that position.

  • Gibbon

    MikeTheInfidel

    Gibbon: You do realize that it’s part of Islamic doctrine that the entire world should either convert to Islam or submit to Islamic rule?

    You do realise that was Islam one thousand years ago and is not applicable to the Islamic world today? You shouldn’t define Islam the same way Protestant Christianity is in the west, which is by orthodox, as the Muslim religion is by definition predominantly orthoprax. The substance of the Muslim religion is two thirds action, one third belief.

    Hitch

    Precisely. In fact I’m worried about fear and intimidation everywhere, not just in one setting.

    So why aren’t you advocating for an overhaul of western law so that it does not rely on intimidating and scaring the people with the threat of punishment?

    You are in the camp of people who apologize murder because somewhere else murder happens. I find that contemptible.

    I never said that it is alright to murder. Don’t regard my argument that we should focus on the causes rather than the consequences, as an attempt to ignore the murder these extremists are committing. Murder is wrong no matter what, but you are not going to prevent it by simply attacking the consequences. Your solution to the extremists would be the equivalent of putting a band-aid put on a deep laceration.

    You also say, let’s appease murderer.

    So you would just treat the Islamist extremists as an enemy who must be opposed at every turn, rather than trying to understand what they are fighting for and why they are using the strategy that they are. What you are effectively advocating is a form of Total War, which can not work with terrorists and other non-formal military units.

    Who is the real appeaser of the Islamist extremists? The person whose rhetoric confirms the agenda of the extremists (you), or the person who prefers to address the underlying causes of the extremist agenda (me)? I seriously doubt it is me, because the position that individuals such as myself hold, contradicts and undermines the arguments of the extremists. It is the same situation as what Ken Miller was in with regards to the Expelled film; he wasn’t interviewed because he didn’t fit, and hence undermined, the paradigm the movie was promoting.

    I am in the camp that says, all concerns, all evil has to be addressed.

    This speaks volumes about why you hold the position that you do, and it also highlights where the fundamental disagreement is. That you view evil as a purely destructive force explains why you believe it must always be countered. Fortunately, I don’t hold such a dichotomous view, as I simply regard evil as the harmful consequences of intentionally destructive actions. That you have an essentialist view of evil is the reason for you opposing whatever you regard as possessing that essence.

    As for orthopraxy, all actions in Islam are valuated against their theistic merit. I.e. all things are labeled good or bad with respect to how they relate to Allah. So while yes is may a practising religion the rules of practice are all driven by the concern of the belief. It’s completely false to say that Islam is 2/3 secular action, which is what you falsely imply.

    Actually I am not in the wrong here. Simply believing the words of the Qur’an is not enough to being a Muslim, what is required to be one is the practicing of the Five Pillars: charity, ritual prayer, pilgrimage to Mecca, confession of faith, and fasting. If you subscribe to the beliefs of Islam but are not following these five practices, then you are not a Muslim. And let us not forget that the basic terms in the religion are orthoprax rather than orthodox:

    Islam = submission
    Qur’an = recite/read
    Muslim = one who submits to Allah

    Again, Islam is two thirds orthoprax, one third orthodox. This isn’t my own belief; this is what I have been taught by a professor of Islam at the university I’m attending, who has spent time amongst Muslims in the Middle East. So why should I believe you over him, when he has far more experience with and knowledge of Islam?

    This idea that all religions are defined by their beliefs is Christian-centric to such an extent that it is nothing more than orientalism, which is a corrupting vice that should always be avoided, especially when dealing with Islam.

    I think you should just agree to disagree.

    Just so long as you agree that you are holding to a view that was shaped by the period in history extending from the Scientific Revolution through the Enlightenment and ending with the Industrial Age, and which has been outdated since roughly the middle of the 20th century.

    That’s all there is to do at this point on the smiling stick figure question. If you don’t want them drawn, you are fine to hold that position.

    And I won’t draw stick figures, nor will I produce any image of the Prophet Mohammed, out of simple respect for Muslims and Islam. Also, because it is taking the moral high ground when one does not behave in ways that are intentionally antagonistic. I won’t do something that is offensive to Muslims when I know full well they will be offended; they would just hate me for it. And as stated before, simply having the right/freedom to do something does not give one the license to do it; just because you can do something, like draw Mohammed with the body of a dog, does not mean that you should. But if you choose to draw that image anyway and you know that some people will be offended enough to threaten you with violence or death, then you are just as culpable for those threats as the extremists are.

    I’ve stated this before, and here it is again. I would rather gain the respect of the extremists rather than their hate, because at least it keeps me out from under their shadow.

  • Hitch

    Well you are exactly that, an appeaser of violent bullies. Go away.

    As in early Nazi germanies, people hid in their houses out of fear of angering the bullies. It allowed mass murder. Now go hide in your shadow. You only show spine for your own cowardess.

  • Gibbon

    I’m not the one reinforcing violence and legitimising it. That is you, when you react to the aggression with more aggression. All you’re doing is evading the real issues that lie at the heart of these movements.

  • Hitch

    I reject that a smiling stick figure with a common male name next to it is aggression.

    Yes there are real issues, namely that peaceful people are being threatened for their opinion. And you claim they they are aggressors and hence apologize the violence against them. As said, you are an apologist for bullies, go away.