Matt Welch at Reason, Wednesday, May 19:
What kind of undifferentiated mass of simmering, modernity-hating humans have we allowed ourselves to believe the world’s billion-plus Muslims have become? I’ve known three Muslims well in my lifetime. The first was a semi-notorious, trenchcoat-wearing ethnic Albanian Macedonian video pirate, with a frequently illegal smile and a heart of gold. He was fond of upbraiding Americans like me for failing to appreciate the genius that is Giant Sand. The second was that dude’s best friend, yet 100% different–a practicing Muslim and chain-smoking teetotaler, who also looked like Nick Cave even more than he insisted on listening to the ultra-violent “O’Malley’s Bar” over and over again. Had about a thousand college degrees, spoke even more languages, and talked almost exclusively in the dialect of Pulp Fiction. The third was an assholish Bosnian refugee who stayed with me for a while, making fantastical claims about his family’s influence back home while hatching unreasonable plots about becoming the next Bill Gates. He ended up emigrating to the States, and becoming a successful software guy. Each was totally different than the other, richly profane, thoroughly versed in pop culture. That is to say, they were individuals, each with their own agency (even during the hardship of war), and downright enthusiastic about the rough give-and-take between cultures, religions, nationalities, and music fanbases. I would no more consider protecting their delicate sensibilities from images of the Prophet than they would refrain from calling me and other Americans dull-witted beasts.
We are having an Everyone Draw Mohammed Contest tomorrow not to gratuitously insult my old pals or any other practitioners of a richly diverse religion, we are doing it as a simple declaration that depiction and caricaturization is within the bounds of acceptable discourse, that nobody owns the images of historical figures, and that free-speech backsliding in the West ultimately threatens all of us much more than isolated acts of semi-suicidal bravado from the pathologically aggrieved. I refuse to believe we are sharing the planet with 1 billion sleeper agents, ready to be activated by a cartoonist’s pen.
Tune in tomorrow to see what we come up with.
Ed Morrissey, Thursday, May 20:
Today, bloggers around the world will participate in a protest against terrorists by drawing cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Everyone Draw Mohammed Day started when terrorist threats against Comedy Central pushed its executives to heavily censor an episode of South Park, which still cannot be seen on the South Park Studios website. It got off to an inauspicious start, though, when its creator backed out of the event, citing concerns about being overly provocative.
That’s a good point to consider, especially if one goal of the war on terror is to push an Enlightenment of sorts onto global Islam. A “hearts and minds” campaign, as we discovered in Vietnam, requires some sympathy and understanding of the entire community. If we’re insulting a broad class of Muslims by celebrating what appears to be a heresy in their eyes, we’re pushing them closer to the radicals and not isolating the terrorists. Given the images being celebrated on Facebook’s EDMD page, it won’t be too difficult to see this as an attack on their religion altogether.
On the other hand — and this is where my sympathies lie — a free society has to have the ability to offend as part and parcel of the freedom of expression. To acquiesce to the pressure that cowed Comedy Central is to surrender that freedom and to make terrorism a successful strategy, and not just for radical Islam. A nation of laws provides its citizens freedom from vendettas, and where vendettas succeed, freedom is diminished or lost altogether. That is why it is always un-American to seek political change through violence and terrorism, because it cuts against the fabric of what makes us Americans. In order to stand against the vendetta mentality, we need to make a statement that we will not be cowed into silence and surrender, whether that’s defined as dhimmitude, omerta, or whatever.
Zombie at Pajamas Media:
Today is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, a completely made-up satirical “holiday” dedicated to the concept of drawing Mohammed cartoons, as a way of making a statement about freedom of speech.
Not everyone agrees with this idea, however. And I’m not just talking about the expected naysayers — that is, fundamentalist Muslims (who demand that no one be allowed to depict their prophet) and progressive multiculturalists (who run interference for fundamentalist Muslims by insisting that we all obey Islamic demands or risk being branded as racists).
No, even some level-headed conservative-leaning pundits have begun to cast aspersions on this whole Mohammed cartoon thing. Most notable among them is J.E. Dyer, whose recent article posted at HotAir entitled “Provocation isn’t the highest form of free speech” made the argument that mocking Mohammed is basically pointless “provocation” and that, although provocative speech is protected, it is the embarrassing stepchild of the noble, high-toned political speech imagined by our forefathers, and as such should be avoided lest we come off as brutes and rubes. To quote the key passage of Dyer’s thesis,
The right to offend others is something that gets a pass because of the good that comes from the better, higher, more important right to make our own philosophical decisions. The right to be deliberately offensive is a parasite, not a first principle.
I disagree. Strongly. And I’ll tell you why.
Who Decides What Is Provocative?
Protesters in Pakistan yesterday, angry about the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Facebook page
This is not an argument over the right to be “provocative” or “offensive”; rather, it is something much more significant — an argument over who gets to determine what counts as provocative or offensive in the first place. The Western world dragged itself out of the church-dominated Dark Ages and into the Enlightenment in part over this precise issue: the freedom to engage in speech and actions which formerly had been classified as the crime known as “blasphemy.” It seems such a trivial and quaint issue in retrospect, and hardly worthy of note from our hyper-secularized 21st-century perspective, but tell that to the millions of people who for centuries lived under the yoke of governments which used accusations of blasphemy and other religious misbehaviors as a primary tool of tyranny and oppression. The modern world dawned with the American and French Revolutions and the emergence of the explicitly secular state — the Americans rejecting the Church of England as Britain’s legally enforced national religion, and the French shrugging off centuries of acquiescence to domination by the Catholic Church in civil affairs. In both cases, new governmental paradigms were established in which there was an inviolable separation of church and state, which in practice meant no civil laws enforcing religious doctrines and (most importantly for our discussion) no laws against blasphemy.
I noted the other day that Internet jihadists were leaving death threat comments on the Facebook page of the “Draw Mohammed Day” organizer. Now, the Internet jihadi sympathizers are crowing this morning on Twitter about Facebook taking the DMD page down. As I write, the page appears to be back up. Who knows for how long. [Update 10:21pm: See Allahpundit for the latest shenanigans.]
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly for years, you know that dhimmitude at social networking and Web2.0 sites is nothing new. Nor is dhimmitude in the MSM or in higher education or in Washington. It’s the Achilles’ heel of Western civilization.
In honor of Draw Mohammed Day today, I’m reprinting below the post I published on January 1, 2006 during the original Mohammed Cartoon conflagration and the post I wrote at the end of 2006 on the deceit behind the manufactured Mo outrage.
I don’t like the in-your-face message that we don’t care about what other people hold sacred. Back in the days of the “Piss Christ” controversy, I wouldn’t have supported an “Everybody Dunk a Crucifix in a Jar of Urine Day” to protest censorship. Dunking a crucifix in a jar of urine is something I have a perfect right to do, but it would gratuitously hurt many Christian bystanders to the controversy. I think opposing violence (and censorship) can be done in much better ways.
At the same time, real artists like the “South Park” guys or (maybe) Andre Serrano should go on with their work, using shock to the extent that they see fit. Shock is an old artist’s move. Epater la bourgeoisie. Shock will get a reaction, and it will make some people mad. They are allowed to get mad. That was the point. Of course, they’ll have to control their violent impulses.
People need to learn to deal with getting mad when they hear or see speech that enrages them, even when it is intended to enrage them. But how are we outsiders to the artwork supposed to contribute the the process of their learning how to deal with free expression? I don’t think it is by gratuitously piling on outrageous expression, because it doesn’t show enough respect and care for the people who are trying to tolerate the expression that outrages them.
Brad Thor at Big Hollywood:
Islam is not above question, criticism, critique, or examination. In fact, Islam is fourteen centuries overdue for some serious questioning, criticism, critiquing, and examination. People the world over need to be reminded that the freedom of speech most certainly includes the freedom to offend. The right of non-Muslims to draw pictures of Muhammad is equaled by a right just as powerful, the right of Muslims to ignore pictures they find offensive.
Though I can’t believe I am going to quote Captain Jean Luc- Picard, there is no better way to express why tomorrow’s world-wide event is so important:
“We’ve made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!”
While Picard goes on to say that he will “make them [the Borg] pay,” that’s not our job. Our job is to stand and defend free speech. No more outrageous outrage and Muslim grievance theater over cartoons, operas, and videos.
We will no longer retreat. We will no longer fall back. We will no longer demand from every other community on the face of the planet that they meet us on the playing field of civilized, rational discourse, yet carve out a special, protected, no-holds-barred zone for Islam.
It’s over. This far and no farther. No more special treatment. It is time for Islam to come into the 21st century.
Veronique de Rugy at The Corner
Mark Steyn at The Corner:
I initially had mixed feelings about Everybody Draws Mohammed Day. Provocation for its own sake is one of the dreariest features of contemporary culture, but that’s not what this is about. Nick Gillespie’s post reminds us that the three most offensive of the “Danish cartoons” — including the one showing Mohammed as a pig —were not by any Jyllands-Posten cartoonists but were actually faked by Scandinavian imams for the purposes of stirring up outrage among Muslims. As Mr Gillespie says:
It is nothing less than amazing that holy men decrying the desecration of their religion would create such foul images, but there you have it. It is as if the pope created “Piss Christ” and then passed it off as the work of critics of Catholicism.
So, if it really is a sin to depict Mohammed, then these imams will be roasting in hell. (Unless, of course, taqqiya permits Muslims to break their own house rules for the purpose of sticking it to the infidels.)
But, that aside, the clerics’ action underlines what’s going on: the real provocateurs are the perpetually aggrieved and ever more aggressive Islamic bullies — emboldened by the silence of “moderate Muslims” and the preemptive capitulation of western media. I was among a small group of columnists in the Oval Office when President Bush, after running through selected highlights from a long list of Islamic discontents, concluded with an exasperated: “If it’s not the Crusades, it’s the cartoons.” That’d make a great bumper sticker: It encapsulsates both Islam’s inability to move on millennium-in millennium-out, plus the grievance-mongers’ utter lack of proportion.
I’m bored with death threats. And, as far as I’m concerned, if that’s your opening conversational gambit, then any obligation on my part to “cultural sensitivity” and “mutual respect” is over. The only way to stop this madness destroying our liberties is (as Ayaan Hirsi Ali puts it) to spread the risk. Everybody Draws Mohammed Day does just that. Various websites are offering prizes. I only wish we could track down those sicko Danish imams* who drew their prophet as a pig, and send them the trophy