Why I’m Drawing Mohammad
Well, today is Draw Mohammad Day, and I am adding my own depiction.
I am not doing this with the purpose of offense, although I imagine some people will be offended, including non-Muslims. Normally I go out of my way to avoid offending people. Courtesy is a cornerstone of civilization and it’s a value I try to uphold, even when people cut me off in traffic. But I am not avoiding it today because I think there is an important message behind today’s project (for two great takes on this, read Hemant Mehta and Greta Christina).
That message is that courtesy towards religious belief does not extend to across-the-board censorship, especially when that censorship is enforced by threat of violence.
The image of Mohammad in this post is serving the purpose of illustrating that Islamic law does not apply to me. Freedom of expression is a vital liberty for any healthy culture and I am not willing to cede ground to Islam, even when doing so causes offense. And the only genuine way to protest efforts to curb freedom of expression is to freely express, and this is what I’m doing.
I do not hate Muslims as a people although I think their belief system is grounded in primitive superstition that too often promotes brutality and social injustice. I know that this drawing is poking at sensitive spots and I am sincerely sorry if it causes distress. But in this case, I think that censorship is worse than offensiveness. At the same time, I do not think that this drawing causes harm…it does not promote or even suggest discrimination, violence, or bigotry. It’s just a drawing of a man wishing peace on all people, and that it might inspire deep offense should be cause to consider the reasonableness of religious laws.
I suspect a deeper issue at hand is the notion that religions should be immune from criticism and that believers should be protected from offense. One effect of this sensibility is that many people resist opening critiquing religious beliefs which thereby undermines our ability to promote reason and scientific knowledge. Some people criticize my own orientation quite vigorously, sometimes to the point where I get distressed—should I demand they cease? Can I reasonably suggest that they have overstepped their moral boundaries by offending me? Of course not. In that light, I believe that Muslims are wrong to enforce censorship on me, either through social rebuke on one end to violence on the other, and the best way to make that point is to defy their expectation. I do not wish to offend, but I am willing to do so to make this point.
Peace be upon you.