Muhammad is not a Swastika

by Jesse Galef –

When is society justified in discouraging certain ideas from being expressed? I see this question at the heart of the controversy around our recent “Chalking Muhammad” campaigns.  The issue has never been about the law. Pretty much everyone is on the same page that death threats are unacceptable and that people have the legal right to draw images of Muhammad if they so choose.  But wherever secular students actually try to do it, they’re met with outrage and the school’s Muslim Student Association asks them not to.  Even the atheist community is divided about whether we should choose to draw Muhammad.

Despite being something of a free-speech fanatic, I actually do believe that we should try to self-censor ourselves when the circumstances call for it. Critics of the “chalking Muhammad” campaigns point to many of those cases – but then go wrong by pretending that smiling stick figures of Muhammad fit in the same category. I couldn’t have asked for a better distillation of the misunderstanding than the following passage.  Regarding the freedom to draw Muhammad, Eboo Patel wrote:

Will the free speech cloak protect you from social outrage if you went to a party dressed in blackface? If you chalked a swastika on the sidewalk leading to the campus Hillel? If you stood on the college quad and chanted “fag” at every male with blow dried hair who walks by?  If you applauded as champions of free speech the handful of Palestinian kids horrifically dancing in the streets after 9/11?

The key issue here isn’t free speech – it’s actions that intentionally and effectively marginalize a community.

Indeed, there should be social outrage if these things happen! Wearing blackface expresses the idea that blacks are stupid. Chalking a swastika expresses support for Nazi Germany. Using the derogatory term “fag” at people expresses the idea that homosexuals are inferior. Dancing in glee about 9/11 expresses the idea that the victims deserved to die. Society has good reason to discourage those views (though not through coercion, be it legal or threats of violence).

… But what idea does drawing Muhammad express? Does drawing a smiling stick figure labeled “Muhammad” somehow marginalize, demonize, or criticize a community? No. This expression doesn’t deserve to be stifled.

I spoke with a leader of the Muslim student group at OSU who told me that depictions of Muhammad are as offensive as swastikas.  The drawings, he said, disrespect the person Muslims consider the holiest and detract from his message. What are non-Muslims being asked not to express? The notion that Muhammad and his teachings are not so holy that he cannot be drawn. That is a request I cannot honor.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker tried to treat Muhammad the same way they treat other religious figures. Revolution Islam responded by saying “We’ll kill you for not giving Muhammad the ultimate respect we feel he deserves.”  Moderate Muslims on campus who asked the secular students not to proceed were saying “We won’t threaten to kill you, but please give Muhammad the ultimate respect we feel he deserves.”

The Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers at UIUC (AAF), the Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics at UW-Madison (AHA!), and Northwestern University Secular Humanists for Inquiry and FreeThought (SHIFT) responded with a simple “Sorry, no.”

It is profoundly disturbing to me that such a statement – “I will not treat the person you consider holy with ultimate respect” – is equated with a swastika.  They’re not even close, and we shouldn’t shy away from asserting it.

That’s why I don’t believe we should censor ourselves in this case – we aren’t saying anything out of line.  As for the benefits of the campaigns, Ayaan Hirsi Ali puts it well in her Wall Street Journal Op Ed:

One way of reducing the cost [of protecting those threatened] is to organize a solidarity campaign…

Another idea is to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.

Another important advantage of such a campaign is to accustom Muslims to the kind of treatment that the followers of other religions have long been used to. After the “South Park” episode in question there was no threatening response from Buddhists, Christians and Jews—to say nothing of Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand fans—all of whom had far more reason to be offended than Muslims.

The reaction of moderate Muslims is understandable – nobody likes seeing something they value being given less respect than they think it deserves. But they really weren’t the sole target of the campaign. Chalking Muhammad sent the message to everyone in society: “We’re not afraid to show Muhammad less-than-ultimate respect and you shouldn’t be either. Stand with us in asserting that.”

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • http://www.nutzak.org/ hnutzak

    Demonize and marginalize? No. Criticize? Yes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It is critical of Islamic law, not Muslims on a personal level. That’s a big difference from screaming “fag” at people, or drawing a symbol that conjures images of mass murder. Drawing Muhammad in defiance of the wishes of Muslims and Islamic law simply says “your ideas are just as open to scrutiny as any others.”

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

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote:

    “there was no threatening response from Buddhists, Christians and Jews—to say nothing of Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand fans—all of whom had far more reason to be offended than Muslims.”

    I ask the reader to replace the words “Buddhists, Christian and Jews” with “Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians” and the word “Muslims” with the word “Nazis”.
    Disdain and intolerance for infidels is an important part of what Islam is – even “moderate” Islam. I make no distinction between a moderate Muslim and a moderate Nazi. If you lived in pre-war Nazi Germany, I have little doubt that you would have no problem identifying many kind, friendly moderate Nazis who were your neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc. That fact that many Nazis were “nice people” did nothing to lessen the impact of their horrific ideology on the civilized world. Islam has managed to hide in plain view under the guise of religious legitimacy. All religion is bunk and all religion is dangerous, but not all religion is dangerous to the same degree.

  • fea24

    It seems to me that the Muslim student associations have exactly the same right to express their outrage at the drawings as the “secular” students have to make the drawings.

    So, how does it end? When is the point proven?

  • Miko

    @Godless Monster:

    First off, Godwin.

    Second off, good comparison. Hitler was a dictator who controlled a secret police apparatus that stifled dissenting voices. The comparison holds up well when transfered to theocratic governments and other terrorist organizations. Just as we shouldn’t blame the vast majority of the people of Germany for Hitler (but rather should emphasize with them for doing the best they could in a horrible situation and celebrate every act of covert resistance), we shouldn’t blame Islam or its followers for the actions of its extremists.

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

    @fea24,

    “It seems to me that the Muslim student associations have exactly the same right to express their outrage at the drawings as the “secular” students have to make the drawings.

    So, how does it end? When is the point proven?”

    It ends when they agree to abide by the rules that the rest of the civilized world lives by.
    It ends when their “moderate Muslim” voices are heard just as loudly and indignantly as their non-Muslim neighbors every time an ugly threat is issued by a Muslim.
    The ball is in their court. They have chosen to let it sit there on the ground. They need to take positive action and engage the civilized world in a MEANINGFUL way. Defensive posturing, threats, excuses and whining about non-existent oppression is not meaningful dialogue.
    They need to accept responsibility. Then it can end.

  • Sue D. Nymme

    It seems pretty obvious to me that the stick drawings of Mohammed are designed to ridicule the Islamic notion that images of the Prophet are taboo.

  • Miko

    It’s interesting to remember that the swastika was an ancient Hindu symbol of good fortune and that its use in art predates Nazi Germany by many many centuries. I’ve never heard of Jews becoming incensed over the use of swastika in ancient Hindu art (or, over the fact that a Jewish character in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby runs a business called IIRC the “Happy Swastika Company”), because they aren’t against the symbol, but against a message it conveys. One key difference here is that those against drawing Mohammed really are objecting to a symbol rather than a message. As long as that remains the case, I’ll have absolutely no respect for their position and absolutely no interest in accommodating it.

  • http://centerforinquiry.net/dc Simon

    I’m sorry but I disagree with your analysis re: free speech. Speaking for myself, I don’t “self-censor” my views on swastikas or blackface. I simply disagree with the underlying ideas and will tell someone so if need be. Both parties are entitled to their opinion and an open society allows everyone to express them as long as they do it in a peaceful manner.

    The drawing Mohammed affair is the same thing. One group’s right to draw the prophet is no different than another group’s right to protest.

    As far as “self-censorhip” goes, look no further than the Wall Street Journal which does a great job of withholding key information on it’s op-ed writer. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is employed by the American Enterprise Institute, a neocon think-tank home to “freedom fighters” like Lynne Cheney and Newt Gingrich which actually recently fired Bush speechwriter David Frum for committing the heresy of not condemning the Obama health bill.

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

    @Miko

    Throwing “Godwin” into the discussion does nothing to refute my argument. I found the comparison convenient, but I could just as easily have substituted Stalinists or some other authoritarian/totalitarian group.
    Yes, many of the German people were victims. Many of the German people were also Nazis and victimizers. I distinguish between the two and I celebrate every time one of them is found out and punished, even 50 years after the end of the war.

  • SteveC

    “Indeed, there should be social outrage if these things happen! Wearing blackface expresses the idea that blacks are stupid. Chalking a swastika expresses support for Nazi Germany. Using the derogatory term “fag” at people expresses the idea that homosexuals are inferior. Dancing in glee about 9/11 expresses the idea that the victims deserved to die. Society has good reason to discourage those views (though not through coercion, be it legal or threats of violence”

    Society also has good reason to discourage the practices and beliefs of Islam (and Christianity, and any other religion you care to name.)

    Islam is idiotic. Period. Same for the other religions. (if you disagree, explain how it isn’t idiotic. I think you’ll have a tough time not looking like an idiot if you attempt this.)

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

    @SteveC,
    You make a valid point. It is Islam, after all, that is making outrageous claims for itself.

  • Jerry Priori

    What the so-called “moderate” Muslims don’t seem to understand is that the more they insist that non-believers show their pedophile prophet the ultimate respect they think he deserves, the more likely it is that I’ll proclaim on message boards that Moho was a degenerate human being, wholly unworthy of any kind of respect. If smiling stick figures are a blasphemy, it’s only because the chalk drawings hide the truth about the so-called prophet.

  • Alan E.

    The drawings, he said, disrespect the person Muslims consider the holiest and detract from his message

    This is just doublespeak here. They are doing what they are trying not to do by making Muhammad some taboo figure, thus making him out to be a god that they don’t want him to be. You can’t have both! If it were just:

    It is against our religious beliefs to draw the holiest prophet, Muhammad, but we won’t try to censor you, threaten you, kill you, or have a price put out on your head.

    and leave it at that, then there wouldn’t be an issue! Hardly nobody would even try to draw Muhammad because it won’t sting as much. If only those who are offended would realize that there are other religious viewpoints and grow a spine, then the world would be a slightly happier place.

  • Claudia

    Blackface, swastikas, “faggot”, 9/11 celebrations and stick figures of Muhammad. One of these is not like the others. Its the stick figure, but NOT because its less offensive. It is less offensive than the others of course, but that’s not the point.

    All of the other things are symbols, words or actions made to convey a message of hate and aggression to another group of people. The stick figure of Muhammad isn’t, no matter how much they insist that it is.

    The stick figure isn’t a message of hate to Muslims, its not even a message of hate to Muhammad, who is dead anyway. No, the stick figure of Muhammad exists ONLY as a message of free speech. The message is not “Islam is bad” or “Muslims are bad” its “We reclaim the right to say whatever we want, and we will not bow to threats!”.

    Like I’ve said before, if people weren’t targeted for death and murdered for the ultimate crime of drawing a cartoon, no one would bother with the stick figures. If they were being threatening about drawing zebras, it would be zebras we drew because the message is about standing up for free speech in the face of threats.

    Also, when I see them rise up in outrage over things like this, I’ll be a lot more inclined to listen to them about cartoons:
    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/05/20105124959408607.html

  • JulietEcho

    I agree that it’s about the message, not the symbol. Two of the main characters on Mad Men (which takes place in the early 1960s) put on black face for a weird performance at a party, which is definitely seen from an audience perspective as racist and bizarre. The point of the actors wearing it wasn’t to promote bigotry or stereotypes – they were wearing it to show how obtuse and insensitive the upperclass was during that time period. The scene was powerful, successful, and cringeworthy – which is, I’m guessing, what the producers and writers intended.

    Again, as others have pointed out, swastikas as older Hindu symbols don’t elicit the same response as swastikas in a white supremacy context.

    The chalkings of Muhammad are absolutely not, by anyone’s standard, intended to denigrate the character or express hatred. If anyone meant to do that, they could include obscenities or disgusting imagery or whatever. The point is to show that what’s holy to some isn’t to – and shouldn’t be demanded from – others. I love what South Park did, because they poked fun (in a pretty caustic way) at a bunch of religious figures (and Aqua Man…er… Sea Man) and treated the character of Muhammad with *more* respect, not less. They just wanted to depict him, which anyone should have the right to do.

    Rights stop being rights when they aren’t exercised, due to fear.

  • vivian

    I think maybe a picture where Muhammad is hugging Jesus is in order. Then we can compare the muslims reaction to the christian ones.

  • Woody Tanaka

    My view on this issue is that it depends upon the context.

    If there were Muslims in the area of this chalking that provoked this demonstration of free speech (perhaps if there was a rally against a cartoonist or something), that would be one thing. But from what I’ve seen, the people behind this decided to demonstrate their right of free speech in this context not in any response to something that Muslims in this area did, but merely because there are Muslims there and the chalkers surmised that these drawings would anger those people (who the chalkers presumably believe need to be taught a lesson). That reeks of nothing but anti-Muslim bigtry.

    The analogy with the use of the swastika, blackface, etc., are imprecise, but not out of bounds. Would you excuse someong chalking swastikas outside synagogues and performing in blackface outside the NAACP on the strength of their assertion that they were merely trying to assert the right to exercise their right to argue that the concepts of racial equality and non-discrimination “are just as open to scrutiny as any others” or if the message being sent is “We reclaim the right to say whatever we want, and we will not bow to threats!”?

    It seems to me that even if making a point about the exercise of free speech was the motivation for the behavior, that would not excuse the behavior.

    In this matter, if the Muslims who would be expected to see these chalk messages have not made threats and done nothing but be Muslims, then it would seem to me that the chalkers are drawing these figures in this place precisely in order to anger people who’ve done nothing to provoke it.

    Nor is it a valid excuse to say that other Muslims in other places have reacted poorly to these drawings. That is true. But the fact that was done by other people who happen to share religious beliefs with the people who the chalkers could reasonably suspect of seeing the chalk drawings and being angered by them is rather bigotted. Would it be appropriate to angrily picket a Jewish Community Center in Florida to protest the actions of the Israeli government simply because they share the same religion as the Israelis? No. And the same here.

    (General disclaimer to hopefully eliminate nonsensical responses: For the record, I abhor the response of the Muslim community to the cartoons; support everyone’s right to speech in this issue; am and athiest and not a Muslim; etc., etc., etc.)

  • Philbert

    “Social outrage”? Meaning violence if you say the “wrong” things. How perverse that a person making excuses for fascism would invoke the Swastika against us.

  • http://findingmyfeminism.blogspot.com/ Not Guilty

    What the Muslims need to understand is that if they didn’t flip out, make death threats and actually kill people, nobody would feel the need to do this.

    I had a discussion with a friend last night about this, and her response that as human beings we shouldn’t aim to just piss people off. I agree for the most part. I don’t go out into the world with the goal to offend people. But at the same time, I retain the right to do so. I don’t enjoy offending Muslims for the sake of offending them. I really just wish they’d take a pill so we could move past this foolishness. But until they stop making threats, I am going to continue offending them. This is the point where I depart with the Canadian Liberal Party – I do not believe in government censorship aside from censoring incitement of violence (like the Muslims in this case…)

  • http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/ Skeptico

    Patel is making a category error – most of the things he compares to drawing the stick figures are in a different category from drawing the stick figures.  Racism (blackface) and discrimination against gays (chanting “fag”) are insulting people for what they are.  Drawing the stick figures is insulting people for what they believe.  What someone “is” can’t be wrong – it doesn’t make sense to say that being black (say) is wrong.  What someone believes can be wrong.  Different categories of things.

    Chalking a swastika is closer to drawing the stick figures, since the swastika represents certain ideas.  So, offensive though it is, people should be allowed to draw swastikas – and for the most part they are, so there would be little need for the protest.  The protest is against  the view that religious views are beyond criticism and should be respected without justification, and so this doesn’t really work as an argument against drawing stick figures either.

  • http://findingmyfeminism.blogspot.com/ Not Guilty

    Here’s the difference between the Swastika and Muhammad. People DIED under the image of the Swastika. 6 MILLION people DIED under the image of the Swastika. Think about that. Can you conjure up an image of 6 million people? Unlikely.

    That image is loaded with their deaths. THAT is why drawing the Swastika on a synagogue is offensive and wrong. BUT the only crime in that case is vandalism, and perhaps hate speech. I’m sorry, I am not willing to equate the deaths of 6 million men, women and children in the most horrific ways to the drawing of a prophet, no matter how much respect his followers. And claiming that they are somehow equal is akin to spitting on the graves of those 6 million people who died under the Swastika.

    [For the record, I'm not Jewish but took a course in undergrad, the Holoucast in History, and that course haunts me.]

  • Sam

    I’m gonna start a religion that forbids beards, and then I’m gonna threat people with beards and headbutt lecturers who have beards.

  • Guy G

    Islam is idiotic. Period. Same for the other religions. (if you disagree, explain how it isn’t idiotic. I think you’ll have a tough time not looking like an idiot if you attempt this.)

    I disagree.

    I think that the phrase “Islam is idiotic” implies that only an idiot would hold such a belief, which is plainly untrue.

    In my opinion, it is this kind of simple-minded tribalism which is the root cause of most of humanities woes, not religion itself. And whilst you can congratulate yourself on not being so stupid as to fall for that religious nonsense, you are the same as those “idiots” in many more ways than you may care to realise.

  • truthseek

    I would say that anyone who is truly in favor of free speech should, by definition, be in favor of speech that one doesn’t like, or even thinks is wrong: swastikas, stick figures and all.

  • Sarah TX.

    I do not see how Mohammed to be any more holy or more taboo than the eucharist. Or has that incident been forgotten outside the atheist community?

  • fiddler

    @Guy G
    Just because YOU equate having an idiot view with being an idiot doesn’t make it so. When I tell someone that they have just said the stupidest thing possible, does not mean that I’m calling the person stupid.

  • L.Long

    And what is wrong with the swastika?
    It is a sign of peace.
    Unless you are a white anglo-saxon protestant asshole euro-centric bigot who can’t see beyond his own prejudice.
    Or are you a bigoted asshole xtian who only sees satanism in the pentagram??
    Let’s get over our selves!!!
    Various symbols not only have various meanings they really have no meaning except WHAT THE VIEWER PUTS INTO THEM!
    If you see someone with dyed blond hair, military uniform, and a swastika arm band walking down the street, do you start shooting because he is a supporter of a dead nut-job or do you ask him where the Sound of Music is being played????
    If you see black-face? Is that an insult to blacks or someone playing Al Jolson in a play???
    Before any judgment is made throw off your own bigotry and get the facts 1st!!!

    About muhammad? They said..The drawings disrespect the person Muslims consider the holiest and detract from his message. What message is that…fuck 9yr-olds, hate women, and everyone else in the world as well??? Some message. And it aintmuch different then the xtian one either.

    If muhammad, g0d, allah, jepus, and anyone else in the afterlife doesn’t like what is being done … then THEY can come down here and make me stop, they don’t need YOU to do it for them!!!! Or are they so terribly inferior that they can’t do anything? Most imaginary creations are not all that powerful.

  • Guy G

    Just because YOU equate having an idiot view with being an idiot doesn’t make it so. When I tell someone that they have just said the stupidest thing possible, does not mean that I’m calling the person stupid.

    If you tell someone that they have just said the stupidest thing possible, it’s probably hyperbole, but I take your point.

    However, I still think that if you tell someone that their beliefs and the way they live their life is idiotic, it’s pretty much tantamount to calling them an idiot (and it’s certainly not a compliment to their intellect). Maybe that wasn’t the original poster’s intent, but it came across that way to me. I’ve seen too many message-board atheists proclaim intellectual superiority over religious people, and from my experience, that’s doesn’t reflect the reality.

    SteveC: If you did not mean to imply that Muslims are idiots for their beliefs, then I apologise.

    However, I have seen enough people unambiguously claim that religious people are idiots that I feel my point is still a valid one.

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

    So glad the self-appointed “politeness police” have stepped in to clean things up in this thread.

  • Robert Thille

    What is wrong with the religious symbol of Jainism?
    Or of the Finnish Airforce?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika

    The symbol isn’t the important thing, it’s the intent. And the Atheists/Free-Speech Advocates chalking Mohammad aren’t trying to terrorize Muslims, they are trying to draw attention to the fact that Muslims terrorize people who hold free speech more dear than the Muslim prohibition against creating images of Mohammad.

  • Aj

    Guy G,

    However, I still think that if you tell someone that their beliefs and the way they live their life is idiotic, it’s pretty much tantamount to calling them an idiot (and it’s certainly not a compliment to their intellect).

    This is quite an egregious failure at comprehending the language used. It would be understandable if you weren’t a native speaker. It’s simple really, depending on context the word idiot isn’t even refering to intelligence, and even when it is, it doesn’t necessarily refer to the intelligence of the person it is being applied to, but that they are behaving as if they were an idiot. It’s quite absurd that someone would take the phrase “you’re being an idiot” literally.

    I’ve seen too many message-board atheists proclaim intellectual superiority over religious people, and from my experience, that’s doesn’t reflect the reality.

    It could be that you’re misinterpeting many people in the same way. In my experience, when talking on the subject of religion, atheists are intellectually superior. Apologetics tend to be idiotic, that doesn’t mean that those who create or repeat arguments for gods are all idiots. When people respond that an apologetic is idiotic, they don’t mean that the person using it is an idiot.

  • Johann

    6 MILLION people DIED under the image of the Swastika.

    11 million, NG, if you’re talking about the concentration camps.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Woody Tanaka said:

    From what I’ve seen, the people behind this decided to demonstrate their right of free speech in this context not in any response to something that Muslims in this area did, but merely because there are Muslims there and the chalkers surmised that these drawings would anger those people (who the chalkers presumably believe need to be taught a lesson). That reeks of nothing but anti-Muslim bigotry.

    I think you have a very strange definition of bigotry if it involves not feeling intimidated into following the dictates of a faith you don’t accept as your own.

    There’s also the fact that the chalkers asked for the input of the Muslim students before doing it, and stressed their intentions were to express their free speech. But if you want to paint that as bigoted, go ahead; it’s just not any formulation of the word I’ve ever seen used before.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Guy G said:

    However, I still think that if you tell someone that their beliefs and the way they live their life is idiotic, it’s pretty much tantamount to calling them an idiot (and it’s certainly not a compliment to their intellect).

    Following this view to its logical conclusion, it is insulting to an intelligent person to tell them that anything they believe is idiotic.

    Sorry, I’m not buying it. Plenty of intelligent people believe stupid and strange things. People can be wrong in their beliefs without being idiots.

  • AxeGrrl

    JulietEcho wrote:

    Two of the main characters on Mad Men (which takes place in the early 1960s) put on black face for a weird performance at a party, which is definitely seen from an audience perspective as racist and bizarre. The point of the actors wearing it wasn’t to promote bigotry or stereotypes – they were wearing it to show how obtuse and insensitive the upperclass was during that time period. The scene was powerful, successful, and cringeworthy – which is, I’m guessing, what the producers and writers intended.

    Indeed. A similar example is Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”. And yet, I read some online comments from African Americans who basically said ‘it doesn’t matter what the context is, the appearance of blackface is ALWAYS offensive’

    Which is how Oprah feels about the ‘n’ word.

  • AxeGrrl

    Johann wrote (in bold):

    6 MILLION people DIED under the image of the Swastika.

    11 million, NG, if you’re talking about the concentration camps.

    On behalf of all of the gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, etc and other Nazi victims who get left out everytime the number ’6 million’ is mentioned, thank you for pointing that out :)

  • http://mingfrommongo.livejournal.com mingfrommongo

    Will the free speech cloak protect you from social outrage if you went to a party dressed in blackface? If you chalked a swastika on the sidewalk leading to the campus Hillel? If you stood on the college quad and chanted “fag” at every male with blow dried hair who walks by? If you applauded as champions of free speech the handful of Palestinian kids horrifically dancing in the streets after 9/11?
    The key issue here isn’t free speech – it’s actions that intentionally and effectively marginalize a community.

    The answer to Eboo Patel’s question is yes.
    In the examples given, I believe that the actors, not their targets would be the marginalized. And that’s OK, because they’re assholes. The students who chalked Muhammad on the sidewalk were trying to marginalize the assholes, like Eboo Patel, who cannot or will not realize that it’s a big world with lots of people who have lots of different ideas, and that that’s great.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “I think you have a very strange definition of bigotry if it involves not feeling intimidated into following the dictates of a faith you don’t accept as your own.”

    The bigotry comes into play in believing it is appropriate or acceptable to take an action which you know will cause distress to an identifiable group of people in order to make a comment about actions taken by a completely different group of people, who happen to share religious characteristics with the first group, and where the motivation for taking the action in the area and manner that it was taken was on account of the presence of the first group and the desire to cause that distress. Especially when the motivation of the group causing the offense is to “teach them a lesson about the proper way to think.”

    Again, to me it is little different than picketing a Jewish Community Center in Florida to protest the Israeli attack on Gaza, solely because the JCC members are Jewish. Most people would say that such protesters are misguided at best and bigoted at worst. I don’t see any difference in principle in this situation (other than the rather passive-aggressive nature of this chalk project.)

    At any rate, that’s where the bigotry comes in.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I think you’re quite a long way from showing us that “the motivation for taking the action in the area and manner that it was taken was on account of the presence of the first group and the desire to cause that distress.

    Also, are you implying that this would not be bigotry if the Muslim students weren’t there? Would it be bigotry if the students were Muslim extremists?

  • Beijingrrl

    For the person saying this is bigotry, as far as I can tell, these drawings aren’t being done at the Muslim students’ meeting places, but around the campus in general public areas. If these drawings were only being done in front of mosques or other places that Muslims exclusively gather, I’d think it was a bit rude, but not bigotry.

    But drawings in public areas that Muslims may or may not pass through? Fair game. Which I think is the point. Are we to censor ourselves of all expression that might possibly offend a person who may or may not see/hear it? If they wanted to be extra nice, they could inform Muslim students of where these drawings were going to be done so that they could avoid seeing them if they didn’t want to. Just like I avoid religious meeting places because I don’t want to be offended by what I’d hear inside of them.

  • SmittyTheKitty

    Great post, I think this is exactly the correct response to Patel’s argument. He rightfully makes the point that intentions and effects matter, but in order to demonize drawing stick figures of Muhammad in the way he wants to, he has to equate the intentions and effects of drawing stick figures of Muhammad with displaying swastikas and “God hates fags” signs. This comparison is unconvincing, to say the least, especially considering that the Muhammad-drawers have been quite clear that their intentions are not to make a statement about Muslims, but to stand up to death threats and ensure that extremists don’t ever gain the power to quell free speech through fear.

    These drawings do have the unintended affect of upsetting Muslims, but they do not have the effect of demonizing them or provoking hatred or distrust toward them, and they do have the much-needed effect of spreading the potential targets of death threats, as Hirsi Ali pointed out.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    Woody said: “Especially when the motivation of the group causing the offense is to “teach them a lesson about the proper way to think.” …
    Again, to me it is little different than picketing a Jewish Community Center in Florida to protest the Israeli attack on Gaza, solely because the JCC members are Jewish.”

    That is very possibly the most inane analogy I ever read. The Comedy Central cartoonists were THREATENED WITH DEATH for depicting Mohammed. Anyone who draws a figure and labels it “Mohammed” is being told they are risking death… here … in America!

    No jews in florida have told anyone in this country (that I know of) that unless you support Israel/gaza invasion/ or anything that they will kill us.

    Now, you may think that respecting the delusion of a specific religion is more important than demonstrating that in the US you do not impose your will to truncate the right of free speech. You don’t threaten with death people who enjoy the freedom of expression. You do not impose your culture or theistic mind virus precepts on a free people. You have no right to expect that your delusion is entitled to a higher degree of reverence or respect than some alien abductee’s delusion, or Obama “birther” delusion, or 911 conspiracy theorist’s delusion.

    The problem lies THERE…not with Americans who will not kowtow to threat and diminishment of a 225 year hard fought right.

    The Brits can no longer fly their flag from their home flag pole except on holidays. Know why? Because Muslims, and Indians felt it was an insult and harkened back to colonialism.

    How much freedom are you willing to surrender to gain a little safety?

  • Woody Tanaka

    @MikeTheInfidel:
    “I think you’re quite a long way from showing us that ‘the motivation for taking the action in the area and manner that it was taken was on account of the presence of the first group and the desire to cause that distress.’”

    I think that at a minimum, the fact that in one case the chalkers specifically emailed with the Muslim group ahead of time is sufficient evidence of the desire to cause the distress. (Perhaps if “desire to cause that distress” is problematic for you, then “gross disregard for whether the action causes distress to that first group” would suffice.)

    Anyway, without there being someone there to get distressed the whole passive-aggressive act, there is no point to it. The chalkers may think that the Muslims shouldn’t feel distress over this, but they do and the chalkers know they do and are counting on it, because without the act causing the offense, they wouldn’t get to do their first-amendment-chalk-warrior self-aggrandizement schtick.

    They didn’t do this in the privacy in their dorm rooms or on web pages that people don’t just stumble across. They do it in publicly accessible areas where they knew that Muslim — the people who the chalkers just have to teach a lesson about the proper way of thinking — would come across the pictures.

    All these things scream intent to me.

    “Also, are you implying that this would not be bigotry if the Muslim students weren’t there?”

    No, I’m not implying that. Obviously, it could still be motivated by bigotry, but the dynamic would be different.

    “Would it be bigotry if the students were Muslim extremists?”

    It wouldn’t be bigotry if there were people at that school who were threatening cartoonists and stuff like that. It that situation, you are making a legitimate protest at a legitimate place, even if someone is offended. But doing this protest where you know that you are causing distress to people who’ve done nothing wrong, simply because they are close by and are the same religion as some person in Peshawar or wherever who is doing something wrong, is bigotry in my opinion.

  • Woody Tanaka

    ” The Comedy Central cartoonists were THREATENED WITH DEATH for depicting Mohammed.”

    Did any of the college students at these schools make this threat?

  • Slickninja

    Y’know Mr Patel uses all the classic arguments against free-speech, but being offended isn’t a good reason to censor anyone. Most of the time protecting freespeech and freedom of expression really means defending racist/bigotted assholes. As much as some racial slurs offend me, people have every right to use them. Its an all or nothing deal.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “These drawings do have the unintended affect of upsetting Muslims, but they do not have the effect of demonizing them or provoking hatred or distrust toward them”

    I would disagree. If the Muslims on these campuses have done nothing wrong (and I’ve seen nothing to indicate that they’ve done anything wrong) then lumping them together with people who are making death threats, calling them idiotic or whatever, for no other reason than they predictably take offense when deliberately provoked and are the same religion as those who have committed outrageous acts, is provoking hatred toward them and demonizing them, in my opinion.

  • Aj

    Woody Tanaka,

    I think that at a minimum, the fact that in one case the chalkers specifically emailed with the Muslim group ahead of time is sufficient evidence of the desire to cause the distress.

    To warn Muslims that this protest was “not intended to mock, intimidate, or harass anyone” and to explain what it was for i.e. freedom of speech. That you have decided to interpret the meaning of the email as the exact opposite of the content doesn’t surprise me.

    Anyway, without there being someone there to get distressed the whole passive-aggressive act, there is no point to it.

    The whole point is to break rules others wish to impose on us. If the rule makers get distressed that’s their problem, and not the point. You have missed the point, this is unsurprising.

    They didn’t do this in the privacy in their dorm rooms or on web pages that people don’t just stumble across.

    I don’t think you have quite grasped the concept of protesting.

    They do it in publicly accessible areas where they knew that Muslim — the people who the chalkers just have to teach a lesson about the proper way of thinking — would come across the pictures.

    That’s a wild accusation backed up by zero evidence and no rational argument. I’m sure it would offend and distress some people, not that you give a shit. Bigot.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    In reference to: ” The Comedy Central cartoonists were THREATENED WITH DEATH for depicting Mohammed.” ….
    Woody said: “Did any of the college students at these schools make this threat?”

    It’s irrelevant.
    This isn’t about muslim students at any one particular school. This is about establishing that the mindset of truncating free speech and forcing cultural demands on the USA as their adopted or native country doesn’t work . Not for Muslims, not for any group, irrespective of threat.

    That you don’t see the bigger picture is likely due to your unwillingness to recognize it. How fucking hard is this to grasp?

  • NP

    This is Muhammad: O>-<

  • JB Tait

    The way this is going, the classic stick figure will attain the status of the swastika, the burning cross, and any other symbol that represents some philosophy that a group opposes or finds offensive. I wonder if the donkey is offending Republicans now.

    Does this have any parallel to the way the Star of David, the yarmulke, the peyos, and the like were offensive to the Nazis?

    As in, does the offensiveness of the symbol depend on the blamelessness of the offended?

  • SmittyTheKitty

    <blockquote cite=
    I would disagree. If the Muslims on these campuses have done nothing wrong (and I’ve seen nothing to indicate that they’ve done anything wrong) then lumping them together with people who are making death threats, calling them idiotic or whatever,…

    They’ve done nothing wrong, and nobody is claiming they have. Nobody is lumping them together with anyone, and nobody is calling them idiotic (or whatever). In fact, the organization that made the drawings bent over backwards to make it clear that they weren’t doing any of those things.

    <blockquote cite=
    …for no other reason than they predictably take offense when deliberately provoked and are the same religion as those who have committed outrageous acts

    *This is not the reason the drawings were made.* How many times do people have to say this? They were made to show the extremists that their fear tactics won’t work as a means to control the thoughts and actions of others. The only way to effectively make this point is to do it in a very public way, so it’s unavoidable that some local Muslims would happen to stumble upon the drawings. It’s too bad that they were offended, just like it’s too bad a if republican is offended by Obama bumper stickers. In both cases, the one expressing his views isn’t obliged, ethically or legally, to stifle himself just because someone else happens to be offended by it. If he’s doing it to anger people, then he’s an ass, but in neither case is that the intent.

    Your argument seems to hinge on the fact that the intent was to harass local Muslims, despite the fact that everyone supporting the drawing has explicitly stated that this isn’t so, and has given good reasons for the drawings that have nothing to do with harassing local Muslims. If you completely ignore what people actually say and do, you can absolutely convince yourself that they’re malicious and out to oppress the local minority, but you’re unlikely to have a decent grasp of the facts at hand.

  • anon

    It was intended to upset Muslims—free speech was the excuse…..If they had sincerely wanted to protest voilence or threats of voilence—they could have done it without involving the Prophet(pbuh)or his depictions. This would have enabled Muslim students to also participate in such a protest.

    The protest was about offending Muslims—-a COUPLE of insane Muslims in an obscure website warned of threats !!!! and this offended some people who retaliated by offending Muslims.—who then expressed they were offended!!!!

    …if this insanity is “Western Civilization”—then I really don’t know what to say………

  • Guy G

    It’s simple really, depending on context the word idiot isn’t even refering to intelligence, and even when it is, it doesn’t necessarily refer to the intelligence of the person it is being applied to, but that they are behaving as if they were an idiot.

    Right, I agree. It depends on the context. In my view, the tone and context of the post implied this. In “Islam is idiotic. Period.”, the “Period” implied a large amount of arrogance. An “I’m right, and there’s no more discussion on the matter” attitude. Maybe that wasn’t how it was intended, which is why I said:

    Maybe that wasn’t the original poster’s intent, but it came across that way to me.

    Plus, as someone who enjoys arguments, this:

    (if you disagree, explain how it isn’t idiotic. I think you’ll have a tough time not looking like an idiot if you attempt this.)

    was like a red rag to a bull to me, particularly since it was the black & white nature of the statement which I disagreed with. Arguing for more subtlety on the internet is quite a challenge.
    And finally:

    So glad the self-appointed “politeness police” have stepped in to clean things up in this thread.

    Fuck you, I’m not the politeness police ;) I don’t care one way or the other about politeness (on the internet, anyway). I actually think that it’s incorrect, (or at least a gross simplification) to call Islam idiotic. I’m more than happy to say that *fundamentalists* of any religion are idiotic. In fact: fundamentalists of any religion are idiotic. However, it’s my view that “Islam” (replace with any religion you feel like) is a concept which applies to more than the fundamentalist concerns. It’s something malleable, which can be interpreted differently for different people, many of whom are highly intelligent (and many of whom are not). Are some of the core tenets illogical (given the sum of human knowledge/state of society today)? Undoubtedly. Does that make the whole thing idiotic? Of course not.

    Fundamentalism is a problem (IMO) because it is a particularly nasty manifestation of tribalism. “Us vs them” is a key concept of fundamentalist religion. I think that with the rise of the internet, there has been an increase in the amount of atheistic tribalism. I think this is a bad thing. Just because you disagree with a belief in gods does not mean that the other point of view is idiotic. One of the reasons I particularly like this site is that it tends to try and be inclusive, rather than divisive.

  • Woody Tanaka

    Dromedary Hump wrote:

    In reference to: ” The Comedy Central cartoonists were THREATENED WITH DEATH for depicting Mohammed.” ….
    Woody said: “Did any of the college students at these schools make this threat?”

    It’s irrelevant.

    No, it’s precisely relevant. If these Muslims students have done nothing wrong, then these chalkers are acting with gross disregard for whether their action is causing unwarranted distress to the Muslims, which flies in the face of the basic decency to which every individual is entitled. And in doing so, the chalkers are stripping these students of their individuals humanity, ignoring their interests as humans and reducing them to exemplars of the particular demographic group to which they belong, making them suffer for and answer for the misdeeds of other Muslims around the world solely because the Muslim students are Muslim and close at hand and, thus, involuntary players in the chalkers’ juvenile street theater. That’s bigotry.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “*This is not the reason the drawings were made.* How many times do people have to say this? They were made to show the extremists that their fear tactics won’t work as a means to control the thoughts and actions of others.”

    And if I told someone that by calling his mother is a pig-fucking whore, I’m really not out to cause him distress, but am merely making a point about the importance of the First Amendment, my opposition to the fighting words doctrine, and how the threat of violence should not cause us to self-censor, that person would rightly think I’m full of shit, even if this is exactly and precisely my subjective intent. Same here, because the outrage-causing actions are inflicted on these extremists you speak of, but on their fellow students who happen to be the same religion as these extremists.

    “Your argument seems to hinge on the fact that the intent was to harass local Muslims”

    As I’ve think I’ve made clear, I am willing to say that these chalkers demonstrated gross disregard for whether the action caused unwarranted distress to the local Muslims. And, further, that gross disregard was done because absent the offense and outrage, these campus crusaders couldn’t strut about pretending that they are chalk-dust clad defenders, protecting the matriculated against the onslaught of “theistic mind virus precepts” that they fear, notwithstanding the fact that none of the people that they are causing distress (either intentionally or with gross disregard for common decency) actually did anything wrong or are seeking to impose these “theistic mind virus precepts” on anybody.

    When one says, “I am entitled to disregard whether you, my fellow human, are distressed by my actions because you belong to the same [racial, religious, ethnic, gender, whatever] demographic as someone who has acted in a way that would justify my actions” – which is precisely what the chalkers are doing here – that is bigotry and frank bullshit.

  • Woody Tanaka

    The last sentence of the first paragraph in my previous post should read:

    “Same here, because the outrage-causing actions are not being inflicted on these extremists you speak of, but on their fellow students who happen to be the same religion as these extremists.”

  • Guy G

    The Brits can no longer fly their flag from their home flag pole except on holidays. Know why? Because Muslims, and Indians felt it was an insult and harkened back to colonialism.

    I’m genuinely interested in what makes you say this, because it’s pretty much at odds with my experience (of being a Brit).

    Any negative association of flying the flag is generally seen as being the fault of racists such as the BNP who confuse “nationalism” with “getting rid of brown people”.

    Having said that, I’ve never heard of anyone actually getting in any trouble for flying a Union Jack/St Georges Cross.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    Guy: My friend Greg on Isle of Wight told me that hanging a flag out his window, or displaying the Union Jack on other than national holidays was made illegal… and for the reasons I stated. This was over five years ago. If no such statute exists, then he was mistaken, and was quite irate about it for no reason.

    Woody: I can’t tell if you’re playing the troll or are completely obtuse. Either way, wasting any more typing on you is obviously futile.

  • Guy G

    Guy: My friend Greg on Isle of Wight told me that hanging a flag out his window, or displaying the Union Jack on other than national holidays was made illegal… and for the reasons I stated. This was over five years ago. If no such statute exists, then he was mistaken, and was quite irate about it for no reason.

    Interesting. Either:
    * It’s true, but I’ve never heard of it (entirely possible)
    * Your friend was mistaken (possible, since the right-wing press here often provokes outrage at such measures which often turn out not to be true anyway)

    This:
    http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=60265
    would suggest that there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just a messageboard, so nothing too concrete either way.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “Woody: I can’t tell if you’re playing the troll or are completely obtuse. Either way, wasting any more typing on you is obviously futile.”

    Those are the two only reasons you can come up with for someone disagreeing with you? You must have an enormous regard for the rightness of your own opinion that you cannot even conceive that someone might truly, thoughtfully and intelligently disagree with you.

    I am envious that you get to go through life, constantly illuminated in the glow of your own awesomeness.

  • http://www.alhamdulilah.info Loga’Abdullah

    Although it is from last year, I think you may find this book review useful. The author comes from a Muslim perspective and reviews her works. The link is here … it is good to hear other opinions and ideas.

    http://loga-abdullah.blogspot.com/2008/11/defending-our-diin-ayaan-hirsi-ali.html

    Hope you find it interesting.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    Guy: Maybe my brit friend was overstating it. It seems he wasn’t alone based on that inquiry in the snopes link. Thanks.

    Woody: It’s not your disagreement that makes you a troll or obtuse. It’s your failure to accept the logic that a protest against a threat from a world wide entity that has threatened death all over the planet for not accepting their religious & cultural demands is not only appropriate, it’s the duty of freedom loving people.

    Your fixation with one small college Muslim group and their having no direct involvement with promoting that threat thus renders the protest action on their campus … a protest against the greater evil not THEM per se … invalid or “bigoted” is , well… short sighted at best, fucking moronic at worst.

    But I suspect you are too invested in and too embarrassed to reconsider your position.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “…your failure to accept the logic that a protest against a threat from a world wide entity that has threatened death all over the planet for not accepting their religious & cultural demands is not only appropriate, it’s the duty of freedom loving people.”

    If you think that these childish pranks are capable of doing even slightest thing to actually affect the people who are making these threats then you are a fool. My issue isn’t that these kids are protesting, but how they’re protesting.

    “Your fixation with one small college Muslim group and their having no direct involvement with promoting that threat thus renders the protest action on their campus … a protest against the greater evil not THEM per se … invalid or ‘bigoted’ is , well… short sighted at best, fucking moronic at worst.”

    No, if I’m “fixated” on anything, it is on people who are being unfairly maligned by a group of passive-aggressive children, who are being purposefully hurtful in order to live out fantasies that they’re fighting some global boogie-man. Too much evil in the world stems from the facile notion that it is okay for someone to disregard another’s humanity because they’re pretending to fight “the greater evil.” That’s all that’s happening here.

    These people not fighting the people who are making threats; they’re scribbling on the sidewalk. Which wouldn’t be a problem if they could do it without jettisoning the basic human decency that we all owe to our fellow humans. But the fact that they can’t — as they just don’t give a damn that they’re causing causing great distress to others for absolutely no purpose — is what makes them bigoted assholes.

    “But I suspect you are too invested in and too embarrassed to reconsider your position.”

    LOL. There’s the glow of your own awesomeness blinding you to reality again.

  • Greg

    Re: The flag thing:

    My flatmate received a complaint from a lady down the street for having the Red Cross in his window a few years back.

    Of course, we were in uni in Scotland, so maybe it’s not surprising that the English flag got that reaction… :p

    I also am unaware of this – and have seen plenty of flags in windows, so I suspect that if it is in fact true, it’s ignored.

  • Aj

    Woody Tanaka,

    …maligned… …purposefully hurtful… …disregard another’s humanity… …bigoted assholes…

    Last time I checked human decency included not lying about others. You’re the bigoted asshole around here. I’m not sure whether you’re delusional or just hateful, but you’re scum. I don’t know why you’re stubbornly and irrationally prejudiced against these people, and I don’t care. If you keep repeating these wild accusations without backing them up with any argument or evidence then we can assume you indeed are a troll.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “Last time I checked human decency included not lying about others.”

    Opinions aren’t lies. And you might disagree with my assessment and opinions of these kids, but I reached by opinion on what I see is a fair view of the situation from both sides of the question.

    “You’re the bigoted asshole around here.”

    Nope. I’m not bigoted at all. I think these chalkers are acting like assholes, but not based on who they are, but on what they are doing. (And if it makes me an asshole to not run around in hysterics about the big, bad, world-wide Muslim conspiracy to steal way OUR FREEEDDOOMMSSSS!!!!! in the guise of a couple of students wanting to be left alone while earning their degrees, then so be it.)

    “I’m not sure whether you’re delusional or just hateful, but you’re scum.”

    Feel free to believe what you like.

    “I don’t know why you’re stubbornly and irrationally prejudiced against these people, and I don’t care.”

    Apparently you do care, very much; if you didn’t you wouldn’t take the time to pen such an oh-so-impassioned little screed.

    “If you keep repeating these wild accusations without backing them up with any argument or evidence then we can assume you indeed are a troll.”

    Believe what you want, Aj. I’ve been quite clear about what my opinion is and why. If your ego is also too fragile to accept that someone disagrees with you, without throwing a temper tantrum, then that’s your issue.

    Have a swell day and an even better weekend!!

  • Aj

    Opinions aren’t lies.

    When you accuse people of something, without evidence or reason, that’s you making shit up. That it’s your opinion doesn’t stop it from being a lie.

    Apparently you do care, very much; if you didn’t you wouldn’t take the time to pen such an oh-so-impassioned little screed.

    I care that you’re lying about people, but if you actually read the sentence then perhaps you’d be able to understand it. Although it seems like you don’t give a shit about the truth, you just make shit up and put words in peoples mouths, intentions in peoples minds. I’m not sure if this is an intelligence problem on your part, or you’re so delusional you ignored every word in that sentence apart from the last three. Although this fits the pattern of you acting like you have telepathic powers.

    I’ve been quite clear about what my opinion is and why.

    Bullshit. You didn’t even attempt to justify your accusations. It’s actually pretty hard to prove intention without getting a confession, that’s probably why you didn’t attempt to, you started with an accusation of intention, and plenty of circular reasoning later, you have convinced yourself into this delusion or you’re not sincere, just a troll.

  • Hitch

    I just wanted to express my support.

    Our culture is so wrong on many levels. Anybody noticed that there are many living people right now who are called Muhammed? Who is to say that a stick figure labeled Muhammed is a prophet? And they are smiling! Yes very offensive.

    And if we stop drawing stick figures now next time holding up a picture without a label but a stick figure is offensive because people will claim that we meant to insult the prophet.

    See one can choose ones offense. And people choose to be offended by a smiling stick figure labeled Muhammed. This is how far down the drain of hyper-sensitivity we have gone! It’s not even saying that passages of the Qu’ran endorse violence or cruel and unusual punishment. It’s just innocent pictures. Yet there is a tradition of depicting Muhammed, which apparently contemporary Muslims have forgotten. So why are all these pictures that have been made in the past not offensive but now depicting Muhammed is?

    But the issue here is indeed deeper. There is violence and oppression and attempts to pass blaphemy laws and all that going on and we in fact have to speak up. Freedom of speech really only is important when we have to talk about difficult issues, issues that someone may not like to have discussed.

    No religion is beyond criticism. This is the very notion of a secular society. We have separation of church and state so that a state-church can not legislate how we have to be speak with respect to beliefs we do not hold.

    Ultimately noone I know wants to offend. We want positive coexistence. But positive coexistence is a two-way street. One world view cannot dictate how we all have to behave. That is not an open society.

    So Theo van Gogh got killed and Danish cartoons verbalized the violence that happens in the name of Islam. Instead of moderates coming out in support of such speech he too falls under criticism and lives under protection. These are not issues one can be silent about.

    Islamophobia is real, but not speaking critically of Islam is not the solution and furthermore criticising Islam is not islamophobic. Fanning irrational hate and anger and false stereotypes is. But we cannot even talk about these differences if speech in the area is limited or stifled.

    But calling people who criticise Islam islamophobe is an attempt to silence, one of many attempts.

    Recently a singer in Poland was charged under a blapshemy law because she said that the bible read like it was written by someone drunk and drugged up. Now reading the revelation I sympathize with that statement, and blasphemy law prevents us to just honestly state what we perceive.

    Or to put it another way, if you want something to not be spoken, form a religion and claim it’s sacred.

    Free speech is more important than protecting people from taking criticism.

    In fact what is asked of us is to lie, to stand silent and not speak about what we see, hear and perceive. We are not to speak about violent verses in the Qu’ran and the Hadith. Because that makes us islamophobes rather than honest. Indeed moderate Muslims should come out more and support this. Muslims should have come out and drawn Muhammed with you guys and in fact celebrated him! But no, instead we have to make it about confrontation and taking offense. An offense, ultimately over a smiling stick figure that only means anything because some people demand to be offended and that being very horrible.

    Heck D’Souza said that atheists are responsible for 100 million deaths by Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Atheists could be offended, but no. We allow the criticism and invite debate on it! This is what enlightenment is paraphrasing a quote that actually isn’t by Voltaire: I disagree vehemently with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.

    Currently we face this: I disagree vehemently and I demand that you are silent.

    Is that respectful? No. Respect here only swings one way and it’s by the one who unilaterally demands it.

    We should all draw smiling stick figures all day until people realize, we are friends.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    To Hitch:
    Kudos.

  • Pingback: “Those who paint pictures would be punished…” « For I Have Tasted the Fruit

  • Woody Tanaka

    “When you accuse people of something, without evidence or reason, that’s you making shit up.”

    Perhaps, but “making shit up” and “lying” are not the same things.

    Second, I am not accusing anyone of anything without evidence or reason. To the extent that I am accusing them of anything, I am doing it based on their actions, their purported reasons for doing so, the likelihood of the people that they are allegedly protesting actually being affected by the alleged protest, the likelihood of other people of the same demographic group being affected by the alleged protest, the likelihood that a reasonable person in the place of the alleged protesters knowing that the response their alleged protest would cause, the likelihood of the alleged protest having any effect without provoking an angered response by the innocent group, etc. These are all what is called “evidence.”

    To that evidence, we apply things such as moral evaluations as to how people should treat groups of people who have done nothing wrong, the legitimacy of taking action which they know or reasonable know will cause others distress, the legitimacy of doing so in order to further the actor’s goals, and so forth. This is what is called “reasoning.”

    I’ve applied the latter to the former. You can disagree with the conclusions I’ve reached, but I don’t really care.

    “That it’s your opinion doesn’t stop it from being a lie.”

    Actually, it pretty much does, by definition of the word “opinion” and the word “lie.” With the sole exception of my saying that something is my opinion while it is actually something else, then the fact that it is my opinion absolutely stops it from being a lie. (And even in that example, the opinion itself still isn’t a lie; the statement about my opinion is the lie.) It might be a misinformed or logically incoherent opinion (which it isn’t), but it is not a lie.

    Come on, Aj, this is like first-grade level reasoning here.

    “I care that you’re lying about people, but if you actually read the sentence then perhaps you’d be able to understand it.”

    Oh, I both read it and understood it. I simply ignored it because it is factually wrong. I’m not stubborn about my opinion, as I even detailed an obvious situation which, if true, would cause me to change my opinion about the legitimacy of this alleged protest (i.e., if Muslims in this community were the people making the threats.) As for the claim of irrationality, well, that’s just dumb. (and false, as the first part of this post shows.)

    “Although it seems like you don’t give a shit about the truth, you just make shit up and put words in peoples mouths, intentions in peoples minds.”

    Nope. I analyze their actions, their alleged motivations, incorporate what I believe to be the moral precepts applicable to the situation, and make a determination about the veracity of the alleged motivation and the likelihood of it being a true motive, a pretext, or some combination of both.

    And this is done all the time on boards like this when people call bullshit on claims by Christian preachers, for example, who say that they aren’t prejudiced against homosexuals, but oppose gay marriage they are wishing to preserve what they see is the historical and what they see as the “sacred” nature of marriage as being exclusively heterosexual.

    I imagine that if I did a review I will find absolutely zero posts by you taking to task the atheists who are calling bullshit on the ministers for “put[ting] words in peoples mouths, intentions in peoples minds.” The reason, of course, is that it is not your ox that’s being gored there, where as with my opinion, it is.

    “I’m not sure if this is an intelligence problem on your part, or you’re so delusional you ignored every word in that sentence apart from the last three.”

    No, I simply found them to be so lacking in value that I found little reason to consider them.

    “Although this fits the pattern of you acting like you have telepathic powers.”

    I’ve stated what I believe their motivation to be. Nothing more, no telepathy required.

    “Bullshit. You didn’t even attempt to justify your accusations.”

    Yes, I have, and often. I’ll write it in all caps, bolded and italicize for you to make it clear: IT IS MY OPINION THAT IT IS BULLSHIT TO TAKE ACTIONS IN PROTEST AGAINST ONE GROUP, WHEN YOU KNOW OR REASONABLY SHOULD KNOW THAT THAT PROTEST WILL MAKE NOT DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER IN THE ACTION OF THOSE WHO YOU ARE PROTESTING, BUT WILL INFLICT DISTRESS UPON A GROUP OF INNOCENT PEOPLE WHO HAPPEN TO SHARE A DEMOGRAPHIC SIMILARITY WITH THE GROUP OF PEOPLE BEING PROTESTED.

    “It’s actually pretty hard to prove intention without getting a confession, that’s probably why you didn’t attempt to, you started with an accusation of intention, and plenty of circular reasoning later, you have convinced yourself into this delusion or you’re not sincere, just a troll”

    No, it isn’t. One can get a reasonably good idea as to what intent is by examining the facts and circumstances, and applying some common sense. And, indeed, I even conceded that even if these chalkers’ subjective intent was what they claim (something I find dubious, but whatever) that would still be irrelevant because they are acting with gross disregard for basic human decency. In other words, they could have the purest motivation, but be so deaf to that which morality would demand of the average person that their failing isn’t in their subjective intent, but in their failure to modify their actions in light of the countervailing moral demands.

  • Carlie

    How about if the chalk drawings were of Mohammed using a menorah to set fire to a Bible?

  • Bigbillstar

    Conversations such as this one are in themselves offensive. The United States of America was founded in part to get away from the kind of non since going on here.
    While there may be some situations where PC is necessary, this is certainly not one of them. The “Profit” in question here was a man who lived and died like every other man. The fact that over a Billion people revere him is impressive, however in the big picture of historical characters there are many others who have had greater impact. Their followers are not afraid of having their “Profit” depicted, discussed and dissected. If America stands for anything it stands for the rights of all of its citizens to express opinions (in any way they choose), especially when it concerns long dead historical figures. To allow any group to silence those opinions (in any form) is offensive. If people want to live under that kind of oppression there are plenty of places in the world that would accommodate them but God help us if we ever allow that kind of self serving non-since to take root in this country. Every time I see anyone bow to that kind of pressure I am offended. Many people have given thier lives to prevent this kind of threat from taking hold in this country, if people want to be a part of this society they have a responsibility to practice the principals that this society have established, if they can’t take the heat of freedom of expression then they need to get the hell out of our kitchen because that is what we serve here.

  • Bigbillstar

    I wanted to say that I do applaud the conversation, the fact that the situation has gone far enough to warrent this conversation is what I find offensive.

  • Fuck Ragheads

    Fuck all these ragheads! Worshiping Muhammad is the same as worshiping Satan!


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