Who’s Drawing Muhammad Now?

Members of the Secular Humanists for Inquiry and Free Thought (SHIFT) group at Northwestern University in Illinois took a cue from the students in Madison, Wisconsin and drew stick figure images of Muhammad on campus Sunday night.

“We wanted to express the idea that there is no policy against talking about the prophet Muhammad,” Weinberg sophomore and SHIFT president Cassandra Byrne said. “It’s become a cultural taboo because of fear. We’re trying to dispel that taboo.”

“It’s not directed to Muslims who are offended,” she said. “It’s to everyone else for thinking this is so offensive.”

Representatives from a campus Muslim group are (yet again) saying they support free speech, but these — the evil scary stick figures — are offensive and should never have happened. They wisely call for dialogue, and I hope SHIFT members take them up on it.

Meanwhile, I don’t think this should stop. There are very good reasons for drawing these images and I think college is a perfect place for these conversations to happen. Let people see how harmless the drawings are. If anyone overreacts to them, it just reinforces the point. No one has the right to tell you what you can and cannot draw. No one can force you to accept their religious beliefs and the laws that come with it.

Kudos to the SHIFT team. Who’s next?

(Thanks to Ed for the link!)

  • Claudia

    Hmmm I’m of two minds about this.

    On the one hand, I think the Muslim group has to learn that in Western society getting really upset about a stick figure is considered absurd. How they can not know this considering that many (if not most or all) of them are probably American born, is beyond me.

    On the other hand though, they’ve reacted by calling for dialogue, which IS the appropriate, civilized way of reacting to speech you find offensive. In the same way people who threaten violence or otherwise try to shut down speech need to see how that will only backfire as people shout twice as loud, Muslims who go down the path of civilized values of dialogue and negotiation should get a positive reinforcement that those efforts will get them more places.

    However you can’t send the message that merely the absence of thuggish behavior will ensure that drawings dissappear. I don’t quite see how you can do both at the same time though.

  • http://snowbrush.blogspot.com/ Snowbrush

    I admire the bravery of the students who drew the stick figures, and I applaud the Moslems who called for dialogue. I NEVER hear about the actions of reasonable Moslems, so I find their invitation to talk refreshing. I wonder though, what they will do if dialogue fails to stop future drawings.

  • http://www.weaselmark.wordpress.com Thomas

    I’m a big fan of these stick figures, and I’m beginning to wish my school had a secular group to do it. (It’s my first semester, but I’m looking into trying to organize one for next semester.) For now, I’ve joined in by making a patch for my bag.

  • dg

    This seems to be turning into somewhat of a movement. I hope it keeps spreading, and that the Muslim responses are as civilized as this group’s (though outright rationality may be too tall an order).

    My only fear is that campus administrations will overreact and attempt to ban ALL forms of “chalking”, simply to prevent offense to Muslim groups. That’s definitely not a reason to stop these displays, but it would certainly be a step backwards.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    They wisely call for dialogue, and I hope SHIFT members take them up on it.

    I know exactly how that “dialogue” would go.
    Muslims: “It offends us, don’t do it. We support freedom of speech, but only as long as it doesn’t offend us.”
    SHIFT: “WTF?”
    Listen, I grew up being indoctrinated with the whole Islamic victim mentality thing. Discussing anything with them is a waste of time. Just go about your business and do your thing without feeling you have to stop and explain yourself to these folks. You don’t. Taking the time and energy to explain to them why you have a right to express yourself legitimizes their bullshit claims. They KNOW you have a right…stop acting as if we (Arabs and others) are so stupid as to be incapable of understanding the U.S. Constitution. It’s incredibly condescending and it’s a waste of your time. They know what they are doing and they are simply pushing the envelope to see how much they can get away with.

  • Stephen P

    Listen, I grew up being indoctrinated with the whole Islamic victim mentality thing. Discussing anything with them is a waste of time. Just go about your business and do your thing without feeling you have to stop and explain yourself to these folks.

    And this means you can somehow speak for every Muslim in the entire world?

    It is quite possible that discussing things may seem a waste of time, at least in the short term. But you don’t know that for sure. And one is never going to change people’s minds if one doesn’t even try.

    Yes, SHIFT should enter the discussion. And if (the leadership of) the Muslim group is indeed totally impervious to reason then SHIFT can stop the discussion, with reasons given. But even then they may have actually got a few Muslims to start thinking.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    “And this means you can somehow speak for every Muslim in the entire world?”

    No. Do you speak for every whiny multi-culturalist in the world?
    And no, SHIFT doesn’t have to do anything if they don’t want to.

  • Paul Zimmerle

    A strike against cowardice! Well done lads.

  • Bob

    @Stephen P:

    “And this means you can somehow speak for every Muslim in the entire world?”

    Um … isn’t that the point of the ‘where are all the MODERATE Muslims?’ refrain we hear so often?

    From a scientific standpoint, if you perform an experiment ten times and get the same results each time, an eleventh iteration is not going to produce radically different results. Even allowing for the capricious nature of human behavior, this kind of ‘dialogue’ routinely turns into ‘you must accept the rules of our faith’.

  • JT

    I’m of the opinion SHIFT should engage on the dialog. Not because they’ll get through to the Muslim group. I highly doubt that’ll happen and it’s unlikely they’ll get any of them to even think about what it is Muslims believe that gets them bothered by a stick figure.

    Really they should engage on this to reach everyone else. Make it a public forum. Perhaps get the avid multi-culturalists to see the folly of where their “tolerate everything different” can lead. Just because you have the right to express your opinion doesn’t mean it has merit and deserves respect. Additionally they can’t be seen as being unwilling to engage in a dialog without seeming like they just enjoy piss’n off fundies without a tinge of rationality and insight behind it.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    @JT,

    “Really they should engage on this to reach everyone else. Make it a public forum. Perhaps get the avid multi-culturalists to see the folly of where their “tolerate everything different” can lead.”

    You make a very strong and logical argument for engagement. I was wrong to dismiss any and all dialogue out of hand. Thank you for pointing that out.

  • http://doubtfuldaughter.wordpress.com/ Doubtful Daughter

    Perhaps they should also draw stick figures of Jesus. Make it equal opportunity and all.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    And here you go…the “religion of peace”. In a university setting no less. Of course, this is real and not theoretical, so it has no relevance to this discussion.

    http://thegodlessmonster.com/2010/05/11/video-swedish-cartoonist-savagely-attacked-by-muslims/

  • Brian Macker

    Shift should go to the dialog with a list of things that offend them about Islam like the Qur’an. So the Muslims can talk about how they are offended by smiling stick figures while the non-Muslims can talk about how they are offended by claims that they lower than dogs, are not to be befriended, are liars and cheats, deserve second class citizenship, need to be terrorized, enslaved, forced to convert, and the like.

  • Arab Muslim

    The only voice you get to hear about this issue is screaming clerics in the streets of Pakistan..they have nothing better to do than vent over cartoons…this issue wouldnt have gotten so much attention if it wasnt for them, I mean really, Jyllands Posten isnt exactly the New York Times of the world.

    So to me this issue is: over sensitive posers vs Provocateurs. No real winner in the end.