Draw Muhammad; Win $100

Less than a month ago, the atheist student group at Lorain County Community College in Ohio made headlines when promotional posters for the group depicted a possibly gay Jesus:



Aaron Weaver, the president of the group, has now taken it one step further.

He’s now using his First Amendments rights to draw focus on Islam:

On Thursday, which happened to be Sept. 11, Weaver announced a contest for artistic depictions of Muhammad, and he put up a $100 prize for the best. The winning picture will be posted online and around campus.

“Activism like this needs to be done to challenge the environment we live in,” Weaver said. “It’s a pressing issue.”

He said the contest was inspired by the editorial cartoons of Muhammad printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005, which led to violent protests and the deaths of 139 people. The cartoonists have since faced prosecution.

“I think it’s important to remind people of our rights and the reason that we have them,” Weaver said. “I’m sure there’s going to be some outrage, but (this contest) will provide the perfect opportunity for discussion.”

Here’s what worries me:

There’s no criteria I can find for how the “best” poster will be judged. Is it the one displaying the most artistic skill? The most offensive? The one drawing the most negative reactions?

And since we don’t really know what Muhammad looked like, what are these drawings going to be based off of? Caricatures? Stereotypes?

That said, we shouldn’t fear depicting or even mocking other faiths. There’s no reason religion should get a free pass from satire or criticism.

To their credit, the school is not putting a stop to this contest — Other groups can run poster contests, so there’s no reason the atheists cannot either.

But if this is done with the sole intention to piss off religious people, I’m worried about the types of atheists the group will attract.

I mean, would you want to be a member of this group?

  • Colin M

    “And since we don’t really know what Muhammad looked like, what are these drawings going to be based off of?”

    It’s relatively simple.

    :) <– This is not a depiction of Muhammad
    :) <– This is a depiction of Muhammad

    Can’t you see how much more offensive the second one is?

  • SarahH

    LOL… right on, Colin M.

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    I mean, would you want to be a member of this group?

    I’m thinking no on this one. Judging from the reactions to the Danish cartoons, I like living indoors, eating regular meals, and driving non-explosive-rigged vehicles too much to associate with something like that.

    I certainly support their rights to have a poster contest. Seems innocuous enough. They would probably come off as more legit, and less incendiary (no pun intended) if they announced the criteria by which “the best” Mohammed poster will be judged.

    ATL-Apostate

  • Michael

    “And since we don’t really know what Muhammad looked like, what are these drawings going to be based off of?”

    Well it never stopped anyone drawing Jesus did it? And probably not very well, considering most depict him has middle-european and not middle-eastern. Sometimes he even has blue eyes(!).

  • Jen

    Well it never stopped anyone drawing Jesus did it? And probably not very well, considering most depict him has middle-european and not middle-eastern. Sometimes he even has blue eyes(!).

    I… I don’t understand. I am white, and doesn’t that mean that Jesus was too?*

    *Note: When I was young, one of those supermarket checkout rags included the headline “Adam and Eve Found in Georgia!” I was fairly old before I realized that the Biblical events did not, in fact, take place in Michigan or something.**

    **Note: I was even older when I realized they probably did not happen at all.

  • Siamang

    I even think there are some pretty good paintings of God.

    That’s got to be double-blasphemy to some folks, right?

    Anyway, this looks like the “Enemy Making Club.” But it’s not like I ever liked clubs in college anyway. Clubs were full of joiners. I stayed as far away from clubs as I could.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I mean, would you want to be a member of this group?

    No I would not. But last time I tried arguing the point, I ended up becoming a “concern troll” on Pharyngula.

    If your intent is to offend people, that sort of undercuts your message that people are being silly for being offended.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/530/ Shelley Mountjoy

    But if this is done with the sole intention to piss off religious people, I’m worried about the types of atheists the group will attract.

    Sounds like they have the larger intention in mind that every secular org. leader I know looses sleep over… From the source article:

    He said in the short time the poster was up, it did its job — the Activists for Atheism grew by about 20 members, and he’s fielded a lot of requests from students who want to know what atheism is all about.

    I mean, would you want to be a member of this group?

    If it was rational to drop out of graduate school and sign up for Religious Studies 101 at the Lorain County Community College I would join the group. I think it’s refreshing to find a group of young people that aren’t afraid to say what we’re all thinking. That being said, sadly the Gospel of Mark is a hoax and the poster implies Jesus actually existed. I hope they don’t end up getting shot over this contest… If I tried something like this on my campus by biggest concern would no longer be academic.

    BTW – If anyone from the group is reading this, look me up. I’m interested in talking to you.

  • Vincent

    If I were a student there, with my current perspective, then yes I would.
    Nothing wrong with doing things that get press. It’s not like they are going around saying all Muslims are terrorists (or Obama is a Muslim).
    They are exercising their free speech to draw attention to issues in ways that are not inherently inflamatory, but are only considered so because other people let their irrational beliefs trump free speech. In a time when the Commission on Human Rights is actually trying to make defamation of religion a crime against humanity things like this should be encouraged.

  • http://bornagainblog.wordpress.com Justin

    What is the point of the drawing? To reveal some new insight into Mohammad? To highlight something about the character of Islam through the drawing?

    If it’s just about rights, then these people are being immature.

    The outcomes of this contest are obvious. Not to initiate a conversation. Not only to highlight a wall between people, but to reinforce it. Not to bring people together, but to drive them apart through deliberate, direct provocation. If you draw pictures of Mohammad and then complain when the Muslims you knew would get mad actually do get mad, you’re the stupid one. You can’t go back and say, “but hey, I have the right to do this, so you shouldn’t get mad.”

    ‘Cause yes, you have the right to do this contest, kids, but they have the right to be offended, and they have the right to take your lack of respect for their opinions into consideration as they decide how to respond. This is why you balance rights with responsibilities.

    Adolescents talk about rights. Adults talk about rights and responsibilities and respect.

  • molecanthro

    I mean, would you want to be a member of this group?

    Yes, I would very much like to be a member of this group. I would assume that other than being threatened when they put up their jesus poster, they were also accused of only targeting xtian groups (presumably because they’re so peaceful…whilst simultaneously going into detail about how they should die or something). Anyone, these days, who does something that’s seemingly offensive to christians is accused of being cowardly. “You’d never criticize islam” is a commonly heard phrase. And when one does criticize islam, they’re either insane for risking their safety (by insulting this peaceful religion) or they’re racist.

    This past weekend I was in a very heated discussion with multiple Brits about the state of religious education and indoctrination in England. I brought up some good documentaries (Dispatches: Undercover Mosque…and Undercover Mosque the return…which can be found on youtube) and also information about the recent introduction of Sharia law and about how islamic schools are teaching hate and isolationism and lies….I was immediately accused of being a racist (though islam is not a “race”) and told that they could no longer believe anything I said…and this guy was an atheist also!! After I returned home I checked all my facts and they were spot on…my friend simply did not want to hear them. England, like Holland and some other countries, is setting itself up for a disaster in the future…and being unable to critique the current situation for fear of being labeled a racist or bigot is completely unacceptable.

    Religion should NOT be above criticism (except for in the UN these days) and should constantly be challenged. The only good argument about why this group should not have done this is that it could be dangerous because some of the extremists could follow through on their threats (while the christians mostly make empty threats).
    Justin says

    they have the right to be offended, and they have the right to take your lack of respect for their opinions into consideration as they decide how to respond.

    How is this acceptable? So because they’re offended, they have the right to beat them or kill them? I get quite offended at many things said about homosexuals (since I am one), do I have the same rights to respond anyway I see fit? Obviously, I would never do anything violent…but you seem to be giving them a free pass.

  • http://brentcliffe.blogspot.com Alex

    Given the ugly, misogynistic, hateful and stupid things which are found in both the Bible and the Koran, it’s about time for a little blasphemy.

    If you want to be a Muslim, then don’t draw pictures of the prophet. If you’re not a Muslim, do what you want. If the Muslims have a problem with that, fuck them.

    The fact that we’re so very afraid of offending religious people goes to show how much the dark ages are still with us. We’re not afraid of telling mentally ill people that they’re deluded, so why should we treat people who claim to know things that they couldn’t possibly know any different?

    So yeah, I’d be a member of that group.

  • geru

    I mean, would you want to be a member of this group?

    I wouldn’t probably want to be the one who’s name is at the bottom of the poster announcing the competition, but on the other hand this fear is the exact reason why these kind of events should be organized!

  • http://lifebeforedeath.blogsome.com Felicia Gilljam

    Alex and geru got it right. It is precisely BECAUSE of people’s concerns of how offended muslims will be that this needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t dare. I’m way, way too chicken do do something that I know is likely to get me at the very least some rather interesting hatemail.

    Talking about “rights” needing to be tempered with “responsibility” and “respect” is advocating a seriously warped version of “rights”. It’s the rhetoric used by those who want to reintroduce blasphemy laws. You might find the desecration of holy cows (of any kind) distasteful, but telling people they shouldn’t do it because it’s disrespectful just shows you’ve misunderstood how integral the freedom of speech/expression is to democracy. Freedom of speech is intended to protect disrespectful, offensive stuff – no one cares about the other things you might say! You might not think you’re trying to violate freedom of speech when asking people to act with some responsibility, but what the hell DO you think you’re saying? “Yeah we should all be ALLOWED to say what we want… but that doesn’t mean we SHOULD” just sounds very disingenious in my ears.

  • swizzlenuts

    I would definitely join the group. I think the point isn’t just to offend, but to make a point that there isn’t any sacred cows. Since there isn’t any person that is directly being harmed, like through slander, I have no problem with the idea. It reminds me of PZ and the cracker.

    I think Felcia hits it spot on though in her second paragraph.

  • http://gaytheist.wordpress.com Reed Braden

    Allahu (Admiral) Ackbar

    IT’S A TRAP!

  • David D.G.

    While “best” could have been defined a bit, the only criterion I would have made sure to include would be that it should be a respectful depiction of Mohammed, not an inflammatory cartoon or whatever.

    (Humor might be okay — for instance, since nobody really knows what he looked like, one might draw a bearded man in a turban and robes wearing a very modern-looking nametag that says, “HELLO! My name is Mohammed” on his lapel, so we’d know who he is — but that’s not disrespectful humor.)

    The reason I would make that condition is that, while I still think that people should have every right to create even a disrespectful depiction of Mohammed, by this limitation, this organization would be limiting its current objective to just the issue of depicting Mohammed at all, which is the most fundamental point (so to speak), and also that criterion would help make it easier to embarrass any Islamic organizations that might make any protests about “defaming the Prophet” or some such nonsense.

    ~David D.G.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    There are some early illustrations of Dante’s inferno showing Mohammed flashing his entrails and Virgil and Dante. I’ve got a copy of the Doré version at home.

    Mohammed is a sower of discord apparently. Bad Mohammed, naughty Mohammed. Anyway, as such he was consigned to the Eighth level of Hell. I wonder why God would treat one of his prophets so harshly. Bad God, naughty God.

    I like the Dali version too.

  • Aj

    Who wouldn’t gay Jesus do? Jesus, total slut.

    I’m all for breaking down barriers but I don’t have a death wish. They don’t call it the religion of peace for nothing.

    Hemant,

    That said, we shouldn’t fear depicting or even mocking other faiths. There’s no reason religion should get a free pass from satire or criticism.

    We’re not another faith, we’re not a worldview either. We mock the very idea of faith.

  • Gabriel

    I am in favor of their contest. I think they should put up a set of rules for the judging of the art work but aside from that I think what they are doing is great. This isn’t about atheism. This is about not being intimidated by violent fundamentalists. This should be open to anyone. Included chrisitians, jews, muslims, jains, etc. This is about the freedom of speech in a free country.

  • JimboB

    I’m curious to see the muslim response to this contest. Remember what happened when that British teacher named a harmless teddy bear “Muhammad” ? It was an unintentional blasphemy, and she was eventually pardoned. This drawing contest, by contrast, has an obvious intent. I don’t think muslims will take too kindly to it (even though I personally think they should lighten up.)

    The group has every right to run the contest, and muslims have a right to be offended… But what happens after that?

  • http://journals.aol.ca/plittle/AuroraWalkingVacation/ Paul

    Was PZ’s “desecration” of a cracker “done with the sole intention to piss off religious people”? Because this is exactly the same thing. It is a statement that says, “you can’t expect people of other religions, cultures, or even opinions, to hold your sacred symbols in the same regard you do.” To believe it is rational to expect non-muslims to observe muslim rules, or non-christians to observe christian rules, is silly, and we need to keep pointing that out to people.

    Also, after drawing a picture of Mohammed, if a Muslim threatens you, say, “oops, I made a mistake. It’s actually Jesus.” You can piss off muslims and christians with the same project.
    ;)

  • http://moizkhan.com/blog Moiz Khan

    As a strong opponent of Islam and also a treasurer/founding member of a group of non-believers on a university campus…this is certainly not something I personally would do. It is being offensive for the sake of being offensive and accomplishes little, while probably pissing people who wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to you…Its simply just creating a worse image of Atheists in general.

    What I would rather support (and perhaps a better means for a similar goal) would be to organize a discussion/event that explores the concept of censorship and the so-called sacred. Explore the ideas, and perhaps you convince others…but do this, and turn people off who wouldn’t otherwise be turned off.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X