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Draw Muhammad Day: Collectively Punishing Muslim Americans

Shahed Amanullah

By Shahed Amanullah

In the wake of the self-censorship controversy surrounding South Park‘s portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad, artists intent on defending freedom of speech have responded by organizing an event they call Draw Muhammad Day, to take place on May 20. The goal, according to the website hosting the endeavor, is to defend free speech by showing Muslims that artists “don’t back down” when threatened.

But the fact is that millions of Muslim-Americans — many of whom have known about South Park caricatures of Muhammad for years — behaved exactly the way free speech advocates wanted them to: by remaining silent or expressing their feelings peacefully. The handful of thugs at a New York-based site called Revolution Muslim — who, by the way, are unwelcome in every New York mosque for their extremist rantings — were the only exceptions. And now these Muslim-Americans are being subject to mass insult as thanks for their respect of South Park‘s free speech rights.

Let’s think for a moment about what is motivating the people behind Draw Muhammad Day. Is it revulsion at religiously motivated death threats? I don’t think so. Just this week, Congressman Bart Stupak wrote that he had received so many death threats (that’s actual phoned-in threats, not just one passive-aggressive blog post) that he was advised to beef up his security. It’s safe to assume that most of those death threats were fueled by religious fervor, but since the religion in question isn’t Islam, it gets a pass.

Maybe it is to show all Muslims that attacks on free speech won’t be tolerated. But the fact is that over the course of 10 years, millions of Muslims respected the free speech of South Park and didn’t even lodge a polite complaint with Comedy Central. What exactly are we being punished for? Our inability to enforce a zero-tolerance policy and prevent a blogger from hitting the Enter key?

If free speech advocates want to target someone, why not target Comedy Central, who exhibited self-censorship in the face of a mere web post? Or better yet, why not target the Revolution Muslim group, who issued the warnings that brought this whole crisis to bear? (I know plenty of Muslims who would join in this effort.)

In other words, target the people responsible for sullying free speech, not those who respected it.

Imagine for a moment if an African-American blogger complained about an unfair stereotype in a cartoon in the same crass manner as the Revolution Islam folks. Would free speech advocates respond by hosting a contest to draw as many vile stereotypes of blacks as they could? I can’t imagine that anyone would even propose such an idea. So why, then, are millions of Muslim-Americans who said nothing about South Park in the past decade being subject to this mass insult? To prove a point? What point would that be?

To be clear, the folks behind Draw Muhammad Day have every right to organize and participate in such an endeavor without threat of violence or coercion from Muslims (as I have written previously in an op-ed published all over the Muslim world).

But the participants shouldn’t claim any sort of moral high ground in doing so. In fact, unless they are willing to push the same limits of free speech with respect to other minorities, they are nothing but hypocrites that apply collective punishment to a vast majority that did them no harm and wished no ill on South Park, and are letting their thinly-veiled hatred show in the process.

Unfortunately, the right of free speech means that sometimes we have to tolerate hearing things we don’t like. Nearly every Muslim-American (with the exception of the few previously mentioned) has proven that they respect that, and I’m confident that they will continue to do so.

But it doesn’t absolve people from being assholes. And with Draw Muhammad Day, the participating artists are proving themselves to be just that.

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  • Mike Walton

    Shahed, it’s not Moslems who are being mocked, it’s Islam.

    In a few minutes on the Web you can check out the performances of the world’s countries with respect to human rights, democracy, freedom from corruption, freedom of speech and of the press, and so on.

    Western countries (e.g. Scandinavia, Netherlands, UK, New Zealand, Canada, US) consistently score highest. Shamefully low scores prevail in all countries where Islam has taken hold. Islamophobia, which means fear of Islam, is a natural reaction to Islam for anyone who values freedom and human rights.

    Islam creates hells that the lucky escape from, while the West creates free, compassionate societies. Moslems number one fifth of the world’s humans, and one half of its poor. I agree Moslems are victims — victims of their own cruel, bullying religion.

    You probably know that around 400 years ago, Christianity began to change its murderous, authoritarian ways and transform itself and the societies shaped by its values into something better. Christianity “grew up”. Now Islam needs to “grow up”.

    Best wishes, Mike Walton

  • Tony

    Muslims in the US and elsewhere are very NAIVE about the US constitution. They do not understand the Enlightenment concepts contained in it, nor the human rationalism on which it is based.

    Because the presuppostions of the US constitution are reasonable, and because there is no established faith in the US, freedom of expression is more or less unassailable. Anyone can say what they wish and we can turn away or listen, but we cannot remove their right to say things we find offensive. It is protected by the Constitution and the courts.

    Muslims do not realize that the US constitution cannot be changed due to religious requirements of any faith. Freedom of expression and freedom from fear are here to stay…at least that can be said within the US. Any Muslims who don’t like it have the option of leaving.

    Muslims do not have a special human right of not hearing criticism or hearing only what they like to hear.

    All I can say is: Go to an Islamic country where you find the sort of censorship you like. There is no way to change the US constitution or its interpretation by the courts.

    That’s been permanently established for a very long time.

    By the way, Sharia law DOES call for assassination of blasphemers and that is seditious murder in the US and is against the US constitution. Islam is irreconcilable with the US constitution.

  • Stijn

    What gives muslims the privilege of not being insulted?

  • r.hanks

    awesome post man

  • Kevin

    I am still confused how this punishes Muslims. I have broken out my copy o the Qur’an and have been asking everyone I can find to point out where it says in the Qur’an that it is blasphemous for a follower of Islam to see a depiction of Muhammad. It is highly blasphemous for a follower of Islam to draw Muhammad, but if you are not following Islam then you are already a blasphemer by not recognizing Allah. In the Qur’an it is laid out that such images created by followers of Islam are highly blasphemous and that the person that does so will be dealt with harshly when they face judgment by Allah. Please point out the passage that makes it blasphemous to see or even hear about these images being created.

  • livingengine

    Don’t think of it as punishment, Mr. Amanullah. Think of it more as a failing grade on an intelligence test.

    If you, or someone had rallied the troops after Comedy Central censored South Park they way they were for cartoons, and Gaza, you could have demonstrated your commitment to the First Amendment.

    But, instead you busied yourself with throwing Revolution Muslim under the bus, and attacking Anderson Cooper.

    If only you had said to Comedy Central “Please do not censor South Park. Revolution Muslim speaks for no one, and we as Muslims understand the importance of free speech to the healthy functioning of a democracy.”

    But you didn’t rally or “rage” for freedom of speech.

    Who knows, maybe one day you will learn to recognize an opportunity to uphold American values, but we are not waiting for you to do that.

    Either do what is right, or be left behind.

    If that is punishment then it is your own fault.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robertnlee Robert N. Lee

    You don’t even know what free speech means, but as always, it is nice to have representatives of alien cultures trying to redefine it for Americans.

    We have our own Constitution, here. You and the Tea Baggers who think just like you might try reading it. Boy, are you all peas in a pod.

    “But the participants shouldn’t claim any sort of moral high ground in doing so.”

    Yeah, I can. Islamic culture is objectively morally inferior to my own. I don’t have to pretend that’s not true.

    BTW, my own images yesterday were not obscene at all, nor mocking. No reasonable person could possibly be offended by them, only a person totally given over to unreason, such as yourself, could.

  • Jack

    Pamela Geller is overjoyed about all the hate and the filth ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’ has produced.

    Geller writes: “The vitriol this ‘day’ has brought out, of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to the Muslims blah blah blah.”

    Never mind the Muslims. It’s offensive to everybody who’s critical of Islam. These haters make all of us Islam-o-critics look bad!

  • Bloo Mountain

    I forgot to add: Peace be upon me.

  • west86

    the production of the old testament reduced spirituality to a fundamental set of laws, limiting mankinds potential. Muslims fear the same faite for Mohamed should his image become fixed, At this moment I am more inclined to imagine him as more Bush then Clinton. so maybe we have to wait

  • Bloo Mountain

    To kill someone in the name of Allah simply proves that Allah does’nt really exist and is a figment. If Allah did exist as an external creative agent then whoever offends him would die from a created natural phenomenon such as lightning because the almighty creator could do something like that. The fact that Allah uses hitmen proves that he is only a social construct created to control those who will do anything when they are told to by an alpha male.

  • anajam

    “what a hypocrisy …

    “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the freedom to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”

    try making a group called ‘celebrating holocaust’ and in 24 hours your community with your profile would be taken down by fb, and there is a big chances that your name will get included in the al-qaida wanted list and you will never be allowed to board a plane again…

    freedom of speech my foot! The pictures on the site are degrading and downright racist. Would Facebook allow the Klan to have a “Draw Obama as a Monkey day”? How about a “let’s all celebrate the the destruction of the twin towers day”? OF COURSE NOT! The only reason they are allowing this is for publicity. We should not fall in their trap. Denounce them AND move on. Don’t feed fuel to Fox New’s fire…..

  • Abdulmajid

    This is a completely unnecessary discussion. If the enemies of Muslims make insulting drawings of our Prophet (s.a.w.s), well, what else can be expected from them? Cooler heads should prevail, so my Muslim brethren should just ignore them. If any hate crimes against Muslims can be attributed to any of those cartoons, okay, that would be something else. And no real Muslim would ever make a disrespectful drawing of our Prophet (s.a.w.s). But there have been drawings of him all along the history of Islam. From about the 16th century on most depict him withhis face veiled out of respect, but there are earlier miniatures (of the Bagdad school, around the 9th century) where a young Mohammed is depicted, usually as a young man before he received the first revelation, or when he helped place the Black Stone back in the Kaaba: I do not think those drawings are disrespectful, and any contemporary depiction which is respectful should therefore not be condemned.
    I also remember some children’s book published in Spain some 18 years ago, which explained what Islam was all about (it was, as far as I could see, not written nor illustrated by a Muslim author) and it had several pictures of our Prophet (s.a.w.s) – but always showing him standing with his back towards the reader, never depicting his face. That was respectful. The Jyllands-Posten caricatures are not; I find them in bad taste and that they demonize and dehumanize all Muslims and could lead to hate crimes. But unless they can be determined to be the cause of anti-Muslim hate crimes they will have to be tolerated. As soon as any hate crime can be attributed to them however they must be banished.

  • http://www.vk.com Zulfiqar Ali

    @Stephen G. Parker
    @Danios
    I am happy and astonished as well to see ur unbiased and independent comments.often i see people abusing religions and etc.thanks..you people were great.

    @lawrence “The Muslims actually equate Mohammad to their god Allah”(its better that,to get yourself a little more informed about muslim’s reliegion before you assert).no problem i hope you can beat in discussions to muslims.(probably thats what you want:)).but a good idea will be ist read Quran and then see where u can beat muslims.the stronger point U ll have…more heroic you will be.Goodluck:)
    @Java..you made me laugh.but true i agree with you

    @every good soul
    how to handle the situation is the question revolving our mind!!!
    In islam we are told to Follow Muhammad(peace be upon Him).so we should act accordingly.Had Muhammad(p.b.u.h)with us,how he would be demanding us.how he ll want a protest from us.so Muhammad life was “IKHLAAQ”
    character.so all those who participating in that campaign wants us to over-react and thats what we need to Control upon.

    Thanks.most of the comments of people were Not ignorant,infact they impressed me.
    Goodluck.everybody and loonwatch.com:)

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