Sunday, 16 May 2010

Draw Muhammad Day

There’s a campaign currently growing on Facebook and YouTube to initiate a "Draw Muhammad Day" on the 20th May. This has formed in response to recent fundamentalist threats and the subsequent censorship of an episode of Southpark which contained a satirical depiction of the Prophet. Unfortunately, the people behind this misbegotten campaign seem to be making the error of conflating two distinct issues: free expression and the criticism of Islam. They're obviously under the impression that it makes sense to cause deliberate offence by exercising their right to free expression.

Along with the right of free expression also comes the right to deliberately offend anyone one chooses. This we call freedom. But despite such inalienable rights, most people understand that there's very little to be gained from offending people, whether or not you agree with their beliefs. If vegetarians claimed that they are offended by images of animals being tortured (as most of them are) would we feel a compulsion to exercise our right of free expression by disseminating such imagery? Unlikely, but then again vegetarians aren't making death threats are they? But let’s picture another scenario: imagine that a subsection of an ethnic minority decided to make death threats against anyone making racist comments. Would it seem appropriate to instigate a campaign of racism simply to "dilute the targets" as Molly Norris (the illustrator behind the draw Muhammad day campaign) has claimed?

If the issue at hand is infringement of free speech then I'll be one of the first at the barricades but if you wish to stoke tensions and misunderstanding by inciting ill conceived acts of provocation then count me out.

If I might mix two religious metaphors: what does it profit a man if he ignites fires on the chest of Islam?


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