Everybody draw Muhammad Day: Background sketches - Updated!

20 May 2010

Henrik R Clausen

Update: Today at 14 CET, the Everybody Draw Muhammad Day Facebook group was removed without warning, just after having reached 80,000 members and 6,551 drawings. The pro-censorship forces seemed to have won. However, this was a short-lived victory merely creating more attention, as the group came back up at 15 CET.

More importantly, rulers from The Religion of Peace cannot sensibly revert to threats and intimidation in face of criticism and plain humour. The original Motoon, capturing a servere problem of Islam in a nutshell Pakistan may block Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Wikipedia for the moment, but even doing so represents an admission that these constitute real challenges to Islam as such, challenges not adequately addressed through simple censorship, but which must instead be tackled by reform of Islam as such. Repression cannot continue when it has become too obvious. As an unnamed Pakistani citizen reacted to the gag order:

One day, they will ban breathing in Pakistan.

Original article continues below:

Four years ago, Muslims protested against a Danish newspaper printing a dozen drawings (can be viewed here) of Muhammad, the founder of their religion. That was preceded by a group of imams travelling the Middle East in order to motivate and increase the holy anger, asking local imams and muftis to call their faithful out for spontaneous street protests against the threat to their authority.

While their methods were somewhat dubious, in that they hardly represented any public outrage and misrepresented the case by adding unpublished cartoons (BBC report), this is of minor significance today. More importantly, they had one interesting request that we in the West should take seriously, namely getting more information about the life of Muhammad and the example he still (as dictated by Quran 33:21) sets for Muslim behaviour today. The request of those imams has not been entirely unheeded, and more information than ever about Muhammed is available. However, a surprising number of individuals and politicians still do not know the details, and various forms of threats and intimidation still take place when Muhammad is brought up in media, satire and drawing.

The South Park fiasco

Now, major newspapers and other media outlets are not so keen on telling people about Muhammad, and most wish him to just whisker away and be forgotten, as if we had never heard of the man. Life's not that simple. The comedy series South Park made some joking references to Muhammad in a recent episode, which again led to some threats and intimidation from Muslims, who have misunderstood that Islam is supposed to be a religion of peace. That scared Comedy Central from making further jokes about Mo, as some prefer to call him.

Even embedded in a teddy bear, depicting Mo upsets Muslims.

On the other hand, many were outraged by seeing Comedy Central cave in to a few religious extremists, and openly stated that freedom of expression is more valuable than old Arabic tales and superstition. We have in the West a long, healthy tradition that the general public be critical of religious leaders assuming too much secular power and turning corrupt, a tradition frequently expressed through satire. That's a mild, mocking form of protest, one that doesn't warrant violent protests or international diplomacy working overtime, not to mention torching of embassies.

Another mild form of protest: Draw Mo again.

Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris decided that the best protest against the South Park cave-in was more cartoons, for that is non-violent, mildly mocking and a nice assertion that we in the West have freedom of expression. Nobody attacked, no violence encouraged, just a wide, cultural richment of Muhammad cartoons, showing the diversity and creativity of free artists in a free world.

Thus was born the Everybody Draw Mohammad Day, May 20th.

Another of the original Motoons, by Franz Füchsel.

Isn't this illegal?

Of course it's not! Citizens in free countries have the right to draw whatever they like. In case of libel court action can be taken, but since Muhammad committed a lot of crimes in his days, the prospect of actually winning a libel case against a Muhammad cartoonist or a newspaper publishing them is extremely outlandish, and only throughoutly dhimmified media would even consider giving in to legal intimidation on the issue. Thus, we can draw away at our leisure.

Then, there's a Sunni Islamic tradition saying that portraying Muhammad is illegal. Shia Muslims differ, so in Tehran you can buy all kinds of hagiographic depictions of Muhammad. The Sunni ban on depicting Muhammad is not really based on the Quran, for it doesn't come clear on the issue (details at Slate.com). Rather, the ban is based on the hadith, where some sayings attributed to Muhammad is interpreted as a general ban on depicting persons, in particular those considered 'holy'.

Now, trying to extend that ill-defined ban to non-Muslims is plain silly.

Thus the ”Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”, which has become a resounding success, with 60,000 members of the Facebook group so far, climbing fast. This has come to the attention of the Pakistani authorities, who do not like this challenge to their religion and the power the rulers draw from it, and have moved to block Facebook for the rest of May. For unknown reasons, Christian citizens in Pakistan are not exempt from the ban, even though their religious sensitivities cannot be said to suffer any risk from Facebook.

Above all else, the Devil cannot stand to be mocked. - C.S. Lewis Pakistani rioters prefer Muhammad over Facebook

Knowing Muhammad

In any case, it is good to know Muhammad and what he stood for. Here is a list of recommended books:

Then, you don't need to read 5000+ pages of material in order to have a little fun on the 20th. Bring out your favourite drawing tool, be it pencil or Photoshop, and have fun illustrating the prophecy-less founder of Islam, whose life and personality is all too unknown, even of today, as is the significant impact his life and examples has for Muslims today, as explained by Wafa Sultan. And remember: While this may upset some religious leaders, the many Muslims living under the yoke of theocracy have nothing to loose except their chains.

Appendix: Isn't this blasphemy?

To answer this question, we first need a somewhat workable definition of the concept 'blasphemy'. According to Wikipedia, it is:

Blasphemy in Islam is irreverent behaviour toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs that Muslims respect. The penalties for such behavior vary by jurisdiction, and can include fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation or beheading.
Disregarding the brutality of the punishment for not following the traditions, there is a more serious problem here: Reverence for any other item or person than Allah. This is serious Shirk (polytheism, to be exact), for in pure Islam, only Allah is to be worshipped. As stated at Allah.org:
To tawhid ar-rububiyyah one must add tawhid al'uluhiyyah, i.e., one acknowledges the fact that is God alone Who deserves to be worshipped, and thus abstains from worshipping any other thing or being.
Since only Allah is worthy of worship, blasphemy cannot apply to any other object or person, including Muhammad. Any other interpretation would constitute the unforgivable sin of Shirk, and thus be ruled out for pious Muslims That takes care of a lot of problems, including the question if it constitutes blasphemy to draw Mohammad. It doesn't.

Our favorite new Motoon

Left out is only a single issue: What about Allah himself?

That can be examined and reasoned in a wide variety of ways. The easiest, which for the sake of brevity we will include here, is published at Apostates of Islam, in the article Why Allah cannot be a god, and reads:

We know that Allah will punish all those who don't believe in him Quran 48.13 "And if any believe not in Allah and His Messenger, We have prepared, for those who reject Allah, a Blazing Fire!" Thus, if Allah will punish anyone who doesn't believe in him, he will also punish anyone who abuses him. But if Allah punishes anyone who abuses him, it means that Allah is offended when a human abuses him. This means that a human being can offend Allah, by either disobeying his orders, or abusing him. If a human can offend Allah, it means that the human being has control over Allah's emotions. A human being has control over Allah's anger and thus has partial control over Allah. But we know from our earlier discussion, that a being cannot be a God, if its emotions can be controlled by a human being.
The idea that Allah, as described in the Quran, is divine, is illogical and false. Blasphemy laws are superfluous and can be eliminated.

Free people of the world, draw & rejoice!