Images from 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' on Facebook
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Images of Mohammed? I've got 'em. I didn't draw them, but I've got them and I'm sharing them with you. Pray for my safety from a vengeful Allah and Muslim religious extremists.
Now might be a good time for me to follow the advice of Pascal's wager. I'm not concerned about the nonexistent eternal hell of mythology, or the wrath of any version of a psychotic god, but his followers are worrisome.
No, I will not chicken out. I will not swallow my principles and forget my values in the face of religious extremism like Molly Norris.
Norris was the original protestor that sparked Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. She has disclaimed any intent that it should have blossomed into lots of people doing the same thing she did, distanced herself from the movement she unintentionally started, and has made conciliatory overtures to the Muslim community.
Here is a sample of the doodles she produced on her website which started it all though, and you can see they appear pretty cute and harmless. "How dare you represent my prophet as a domino!"
Pretty funny stuff. People. Crazy.
Everybody Draw Mohammed
South Park Controversy - (How Unusual)
On April 14th the 200th episode of the South Park show aired on Comedy Central. The irreverent creators of the irreverent show -Matt Stone and Trey Parker- wanted to do something special to celebrate the momentous occasion. The idea they came up with was to have back on their show several of their previous "guest appearances" -including Jesus, Buddha and Moses.
Frankly it would have been rude of them to leave out Mohammed.
To avoid offending people -Muslims- Mohammed was kept locked in a u-haul for the better part of the show, and only finally released under the concealing costume of a quite rotund and big-headed bear. Therefore not even the shape of the image of the prophet of Islam was shown.
They were actually being quite sensitive to the Islamic mandate against images of their prophet. In fact, they have always declined to draw his image in their shows, having previously represented him as hiding behind a tree or else wise avoiding an actual bodily image of the Islamic founder.
But some Muslims did not appreciate it anyway, and further felt that South Park's depiction of their prophet was an insult. So Revolution Muslim member Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee posted a commentary on it, including the statement “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”
Theo Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker who worked with a group condemning the oppression and abuse of women in some Islamic societies. Van Gogh produced a documentary about it, and wound up dead, murdered by religious extremists.
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Censorship and Freedom of Speech
Al-Amrikee of Revolution Muslim seems to say that such oppressive and murderous behavior should be expected from Muslims. Make no mistake, he does. Revolution Muslim is a small but radical New York City based anti-Semite, fundamentalist group. They're so blatantly extreme that some in the Muslim community say they suspect the group consists of plants paid to make Muslims in the US look dangerous and jihadist. The group openly promotes a "worldwide jihad movement", and they pass out literature at New York mosques.
Folks at Comedy Central took the warning seriously, and for the 201st episode -which also featured Mohammed- they chose to exert their censorship powers. Parker and Stone were unhappy with the decision, particularly over the censorship of a speech at the end of the show which they say promoted peace, tolerance and unity. Or something like that.
Cartoonist Molly Norris drew her images in response to Comedy Central's censorship of the episode, but as stated above has since bowed out. It is unclear if she started the May 20th Everybody Draw Mohammed Day or not. Reports have said that she did, but she denies it.
Another group hijacked the website of Revolution Muslim for a short time, redirecting traffic to images of Mohammed drawn admittedly in rather poor taste. At least one Muslim woman I encountered told me she believed Jews were behind the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day movement.
Either way the idea was picked up and run with, most notably on a Facebook page. The Everybody Draw Mohammed Day page at my last check yesterday afternoon -May 20th- had over 103,000 fans and almost 11,000 viewer submitted depictions of Mohammed. As I watched the portrayals come in, I couldn't keep up with the incoming submissions.
Everybody Draw Mohammed
Artistic Celebration of Freedom of Expression
The artwork ranges from serious artistic attempts to stick men drawn on ruled notebook paper. Much is political, much is lewd, and many included with Mohammed images of Aisha his youngest known nine year old bride.
Some attempted no actual portrayal of Mohammed but tried instead to put a conceptual face on the prophet by posting images of shrouded women, 9/11, war and Islamic punishment according to Sharia law.
Most simply called for the protection of western freedoms, specifically the freedom of speech, expression and as one person put it -"the freedom of sketch."
I asked permission from several artists to re-use their Mohammed Day art, and the majority of those who have replied so far readily agreed. Several did prefer I post their art credited only to anonymous, some gave me pseudonyms, and still others said they weren't scared and insisted that I use their real names.
I myself am of course writing under a pseudonym. But then, I live in the rural south. I always write under a pseudonym.
One fellow originally agreed, asking me to make it anonymous, and then later in the day changed his mind. "I keep getting these death threats," he emailed to me. Others also reported death threats, and several were forwarded to me, but after consideration I have decided not to include them. My story isn't about Muslim extremists, but about American freedom of speech.
Some of the portrayals of Mohammed were very well done and beautiful actually. Detailed drawings of a well proportioned bearded and turbaned Arab, the different lines and angles in the prophet’s face, dessert in the background. I wish I’d had time to look through more of them.
It was a celebration of art, including the stick figures, profanities, obscenities and cartoon porn. The best came together along with people with no artistic talent or know-how and drew expressions of defiance against oppression. Many of the images represented a universal idea, a growth beyond the fears of religion and the limits it places on our minds.
The Everybody Draw Mohammed Day submissions came from all over the globe. Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden and Amsterdam of course, England, South America, Australia, even from Indonesia came pictures of Mohammed. It was a universal moment, peacefully and beautifully done. And perhaps in some cases not so beautifully done, but the emotion, the universal resistance is there.
Of course Pakistan was notably absent. Pakistan in response to the movement has banned Facebook. And Youtube as well. Too bad they cannot seem to as quickly and easily and assuredly ban terrorists. Muslim terrorists. Muslim extremists, who think they follow Mohammed. A dead man from long ago who claimed to speak for a god. Like so many other ancient dead men.
Celebrating Freedom of Expression
We celebrate freedom of expression. Freedom of thought, freedom of doubt, freedom of religion, speech and sketch.
Some of us 'blaspheme' against all the old false gods and so-called prophets. It's our right to do so. Nobody or no one religion should take it personally. Humanity -when not oppressed- has been testing the gods forever, and will continue to do so.
You have the right to believe whatever you want, and to practice whatever you want however you want, as long as it doesn't bring harm to others. We welcome you here in America and in other non-Arabic nations across the globe. But understand this.
We who are objecting to and fighting against this assault on free speech are largely the same people who will fight against assaults on foreigners in America, who will fight against dsicrimination against minorities, who will fight against religious persecution just as we are, and who will fight for woman's rights.
Don't expect us to stop fighting ignorance and error when it comes to your own flavor of it. Religion doesn't get a free pass.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to flip through the slideshow below and scroll through beyond it to view the rest of the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day artwork included here. You can also scroll back up to the first Mohammed picture and click on the Slideshow button to view a full size slideshow of all the images here.
Everybody Draw Mohammed DayClick thumbnail to view full-size
Freedom of Speech
“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” ~Tommy Smothers
“Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” ~Potter Stewart
“We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard.” ~Voltaire
“The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.” ~Walt Whitman
“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
“Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959
“To reject the word is to reject the human search.” ~Max Lerner, 1953, on book purging
“Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.” ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935
“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.” ~Sigmund Freud, 1933
“Every burned book enlightens the world.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The paper burns, but the words fly away.” ~Akiba ben Joseph
“Censorship feeds the dirty mind more than the four-letter word itself.” ~Dick Cavett
“To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list.” ~John Aikin
“Censorship offends me.” ~Author Unknown
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” ~John F. Kennedy
“If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.” ~Noam Chomsky
“Take away the right to say "fuck" and you take away the right to say "fuck the government."” ~Lenny Bruce
“Every human being has a right to hear what otherwise human beings have spoken to him. It is one of the Rights of Men; a very cruel injustice if you deny it to a man!” ~Thomas Carlyle
“Books won't stay banned - Ideas won't go to jail.”
~Alfred Whitney Griswold
“You can cage the singer but not the song.” ~Harry Belafonte, in International Herald Tribune, 3 October 1988
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” ~Voltaire
“Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” ~ George Washington
“At no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a man hits his thumb with a hammer.” ~ Marshall Lumsden
“I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.” ~ Woodrow T. Wilson
“We who officially value freedom of speech above life itself seem to have nothing to talk about but the weather.” ~ Barbara Ehrenreich
“The freedom to make a fortune on the stock exchange has been made to sound more alluring than freedom of speech.” ~ John Mortimer
“The most important aspect of freedom of speech is freedom to learn. All education is a continuous dialogue - questions and answers that pursue every problem on the horizon. That is the essence of academic freedom.” ~ William Orville Douglas
“Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.” ~Salman Rushdie
“A people which is able to say everything becomes able to do everything.” ~Napoleon
“The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may thing what we like and say what we think.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
“Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.”~Samuel Johnson
“We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship." ~Edward M. Forster
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." ~John Milton
"The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don't agree with." ~Eleanor Holmes Norton
"Marks on paper are free -- free speech -- press -- pictures all go together I suppose." ~Georgia O’Keefe
"The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum." ~Adlai E. Stevenson