The prophet Muhammad is said to have lived around 570-632 C.E., and is a sacred figure to the world’s 1.5 billion followers of the religion of Islam.
He didn’t look anything like the above picture, but that’s because I’m very bad at drawing.
Depictions of the prophet Muhammad are forbidden under Islamic law, and they have historically made a lot of Muslims very angry. In 2005, a series of satirical cartoons which included images of Muhammad, published in a
Dutch Danish newspaper, led to worldwide protests, arson, and the deaths of over a hundred people. If you type “Dutch cartoons” into Google, the top result sends you here, to Wikipedia’s description of these events – even though they were in fact Danish cartoons, as I failed to recognise when writing this, or during any of the subsequent redrafts and proofreads, until it was pointed out to me. I leave my idiocy largely intact, in case anyone in the future is ever tempted to take me seriously.
And now, as evidenced above by the extremely offensive image created and published by myself, I am gleefully joining in with all this wanton destruction.
Sorry about that.
I don’t mean to offend people on this blog.
That may sound disingenuous, but it’s actually true. It’d be daft of me not to think that some people will be offended by things they read here sometimes. Maybe they’ll disagree profoundly with my worldview, or disapprove of irreverence on certain important subjects – or perhaps they’ll be insulted because I wrote a fiery rhetorical diatribe telling them to fuck off.
But offending people is not to be found anywhere on my list of intended objectives. Not when it comes to posting this picture of Muhammad, and not on the vast majority of the rest of this blog. I make arguments and express frustration and do lots of things that people will find offensive. But it’s never just about pissing people off.
I understand that it’s something which might well happen, though. And I apologise for that. But it’s something that I’m entitled to do, and that I need to do. For the simple reason that there are people – screaming hordes of violent, irrational people – who don’t want me to be able to do it at all.
Yes, it’s contrarian of me. Yes, I’m doing something I’d never normally have any wish to do, and I’m only doing it now because of how much it infuriates and antagonises certain people. Yes, it’s comparable to the kind of childish instinct which sets your button-pushing finger twitching when you see a button marked “DO NOT PUSH”.
You know what, though? I’m okay with infuriating and antagonising this particular lunatic fringe. The lunatic fringe who destroy property and murder people over a cartoon drawing. And when the button is my button, in my house, why the hell should anyone get to tell me what I can and can’t do with it?
There are people shouting threats of death against anyone who dares to commit this trivial act – and how we respond to those threats goes a good way toward defining us as people. If our reaction is to do as we’re told by the dangerous maniacs, to sit quietly and not cause a fuss, to chastise others who exercise their freedoms in a way that gets them hurt, to cower and hope that nothing bad will happen… then who does that make us? And what will happen when these same lunatics start making other rules for us to live by?
I wrote this article last year in response to the “Crackergate” furore, in which PZ Myers desecrated a communion wafer. I still support what he did, and the arguments I make there are just as appropriate today. These fanatics want us to be scared, and we do what we do because fuck them.
There’s one thing that’s not agreed upon by everyone taking part in Everybody Draw Muhammad Day, and that’s the nature of the pictures themselves, and how intrinsically offensive they should be. My own drawing is extremely careless and inartistic, and entirely innocuous as a result. Some people have gone further, though, and come up with extremely provocative and deliberately offensive drawings, designed to provoke ire even regardless of the taboo against depicting the prophet at all. I’ll let you do your own search for pictures of Muhammad engaging in bestiality, for instance.
I’m not entirely decided on this point myself, but I’m fairly sure that this latter approach is at best unnecessary, and at worst counter-productive. These pictures are actually offensive in their own right, and while they are still unquestionably protected by the basic right of free speech, a lot of moderate Muslims are going to be justifiably annoyed and alienated by this. These moderates, who would normally be completely on our side in condemning extremist acts of violence, might voice their legitimate complaints at just how offensive these obscene depictions of Muhammad are – and this might mean they get unfairly lumped in with the raving complaints of the extremists themselves.
And don’t forget, these extremists are fucking nuts. You don’t need to draw Muhammad doing anything remotely controversial for a substantial bloc of wackos to flip their lids. They lose their shit over fucking stick-figures. Save yourself the effort.
So. I think I’m about done. Any points I’ve missed have been more than adequately covered by the Friendly Atheist and Greta Christina, among many others. Hemant also has a compilation of Muhammad images submitted by readers, many of which are wonderfully clever and creative. And don’t forget the Mohammed Image Archive.
Have you violated someone’s tyrannical and anti-humanistic law today?