Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Test of Honor: Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

Today is "Everyone Draw Muhammad" day, so here is my cartoon of the prophet Muhammad. It's banal, poorly drawn, and not very funny. The content isn't important -- what's important is that the cartoon exists.

The "Everyone Draw Muhammad" day is the result of a controversy surrounding South Park's depiction of the prophet Muhammed. South Park is a TV show on cable network Comedy Central, and is some of the most interesting social commentary of our times. The creators got death threats for criticizing Islam and depicting Muhammad. The show was heavily censored by the television network, because the network was afraid of violent retribution.

When I told my friends I was going support South Park, and draw a picture of the prophet Muhammed, they all reacted the same way. They were afraid for my safety. They couldn't understand why I would stick my neck out for a principle. After all, we are safely in America. There is no personal benefit to angering Muslims; nothing could be gained from this, there are only negative consequences.

But it's a question of honor.

When I was in college, I studied German history, especially the pre-war era and the rise of Nazism. I asked myself whether I would be one of the meek who would quietly submit to the mania of Nazism, or whether I would be one of the courageous and honorable people who vocally stood up against it saying "this is wrong!". The political issue is different today, but the question of honor is the same. Do you avoid confrontation with the bullies, the Nazi Brown Shirts and the Islamic extremists? Or do you risk confrontation to stand up for what you believe in?

I can't respect myself unless I stand up for honor. I don't see a choice here.

Neither did the creators of South Park. In this interview Trey Parker and Matt Stone point out that it would be hypocritical to make fun of Catholics because "they won't hurt us", but not similarly rip on Islam. They point out that the cartoonists now live in hiding, precisely because the western media back off and censored themselves. If instead western media treated Islam like everything else, if all political cartoonists supported their peers, then it wouldn't have become such a big issue, and the cartoonists would be safe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a well-known critic of Islam. She escaped oppression in her own country (Somalia) and got asylum in the Netherlands. She rose to become a member of Dutch parliament. She made a film about the subjugation of women in Islamic culture. Her partner in the project, film director Theo Van Gogh, was murdered in retaliation. She has lived under government protection ever since. In a recent interview related to the South Park controversy, she pointed out that she would no longer need protection if everyone freely criticized Islam. She would be safe because there would be too many of us critics to kill.

The conflict here isn't between Islam and Christianity, it's between a totalitarian ideology and modern civilization. In the secular west, nothing is above criticism, insult, or ridicule. In Islam, everything is subject to ideology. In the west, we teach our kids that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me". In Islam, even moderates are quick to take offense, such as in the Danish cartoons controversy. (There, of course, exist a large number of civilized non-totalitarian Muslims, I just don't see them being in the majority or setting the national tone, such as in Pakistan's banning of Facebook over this controversy).

The proper response to such totalitarianism isn't appeasement, as is now common in our press. The proper response is vocal opposition and solidarity, so that the bravest of us do not have to stand alone.


  1. For my friends. Introduce, I Taufik from Indonesia. A few days ago I know there is a group on facebook called "Everybody Draw Mohammed's Day!". I do not understand about the purpose of the group. But as I look at is there about the freedom of expression or freedom of speech. Okay, I understand if the reason is. But if freedom of expression or freedom of speech by paying attention to others' feelings is far more beautiful? So in my opinion the best freedom is the freedom with caring for others. If this happens, then rapidly achieved peace in the world because we respect and appreciate each other. If freedom is causing havoc in the world, then that's really the worst thing. Perhaps we never hate others, it actually comes from ourselves. If we always think positive and loving, then any environmental condition, we will accept with a smile and our feelings will calm down. Feelings of calm will make the correct actions. Let others hostile or negative to us, which is important for us to prove to people that we welcome the positive, so I'm sure that person will also be positive, so that peace will be realized. I apologize for my writing something was not pleasing to you, because it comes from my mistakes, and the truth comes from Allah SWT. The last word, Is peace something beautiful?

  2. But if freedom of expression or freedom of speech by paying attention to others' feelings is far more beautiful?

    Does peace come from not insulting others?

    Or does peace come from ignoring insults?

    When I was a child, other children would insult and ridicule me. My parents taught me to ignore them. My parents taught me that their words had no power. My parents taught me that if I felt insulted, it was my fault, not theirs.

  3. Someone described "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" as an "I am Spartacus" moment. I think that that's right.

    Thanks for your drawing.

  4. Mr. Kuro writes above:
    "...But if freedom of expression or freedom of speech by paying attention to others' feelings is far more beautiful? So in my opinion the best freedom is the freedom with caring for others. "

    Lovely thought. Rather than expressing it to those who already agree - don't you think your efforts would be far more useful expressing the same sentiment to those many militant muslims and imams in your own country - or elsewhere in the muslim world?

    Or would that be too dangerous for you?

  5. Mr. Graham, I've added your image to my series and appreciate your absolute defense of human rights.

    While "lovely thoughts" are nice, our Constitutionally protected right to free speech is not there to protect the speech we hold dear, rather the speech we detest. For it does not, then ANY speech can be banned, censored or shut down as unacceptable.

    There is no middle ground on this. Either you are for free speech or you against it. Either you will defend free speech or you will make excuses and you are a coward. Mr. Goska so appropriately mentioned, I am Spartacus.

  6. Allahuakbar

    Prophet Muhammad saw is the messenger from Allah
    To guide people from darkness
    Bring Islam as a last religion to guide human being
    Two thing Prophet Muhammad saw left for his ummah is Al-Quran and As-Sunnah

    I hope all human races don't judge Islam until they do detail research about Islam using Al-Quran and As-Sunnah and also from Ulama' Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah. Please do you reasearch.

    Then if they think Islam is not for them therefore only Allah could give them guide to the truth of Islam

    If they do think Islam is right may Allah bless them to convert to Islam.

    Islam not forcing non muslim to convert to Islam , but the person themselves who will open their heart about Islam

    Book can't be judge by its cover

    Hamba Allah

    Amin Wallahua'lam

  7. I hope all human races don't judge Islam until they do detail research about Islam using Al-Quran and As-Sunnah and also from Ulama' Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah. Please do you reasearch.

    I don't judge Islam, I judge Muslims.

    90% of Muslims reject the idea of "freedom of speech" (according to a study by the Pew Research Center).

    The Muslim community as a whole either actively encourages violence against those who speak, or passively accepts the violence committed in their name. Few Muslims stood up to oppose the violence committed in the name of Islam against the cartoonists, and those few who did were largely ignored.

    I don't know what Islam says about "freedom of speech', I just know what Muslims say about it, and Muslims are wrong.

  8. WHat is wrong with you this is not funny ITS RACIST . what if i make fun of your messengers or gods how would you feel . I COULD SUE WHO EVER DREW THIS

  9. Great article, and thank you.

    It is unfair of the world media to back down from saying what they would like to of Islam. I don't think it necessarily needs to be insults, but we should not be intimidated.

    Making fun of someone's religion is never classy, but in this case, and especially at this time, I think we need to. The Islamic world is in an uproar, like a child's tantrum, and if we give into the demands of the tantrum, you raise the child poorly, and are asking for a lifetime of struggle.

    When the tantrum comes, you stick to your guns, and although it may be hard, you don't capitulate.

    We should continue this.

    I wrote a blog note about it as well, called , but I suppose I am being a coward by concealing my identity even though I work with Arabs. Thank you for your post.