Why I Didn’t Participate in Everybody Draw Muhammad Day

Everybody Draw Muhammad Day was today, but if you weren’t aware of it, you’re not alone. I chose not to “celebrate” — despite having a few readers send me their drawings — because I just wasn’t motivated enough to do it. It’s not that blasphemy laws aren’t a problem in other countries or that moderate Muslims have changed their views on the issue, but the event is a reactionary one and there wasn’t much to react to this year.

When an American cartoon is censored from showing a Muhammad character (even in disguise) like South Park was in 2010, and when artists are killed or threatened for drawing cartoons featuring Muhammad, there’s plenty of reason for all of us to come together in solidarity and draw our own versions of the Islamic prophet. The fact that Islam forbids drawings of Muhammad is irrelevant — this is about free speech, pure and simple, not about disrespecting Muslims. Yet moderate Muslims have been quick to complain that this is just a way to “marginalize a community.” Not even close. It’s a way to fight back against oppressive religious dogmas that treat symbols as sacred cows. Drawing a stick figure with a smiley face and calling it Muhammad is not bigotry. If another group believes it is, then that belief deserves to be mocked. Remember: Respect people, not their bad ideas.

Maybe we’ll draw Muhammad again next year. But I hope there’s no reason to.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Guest

    Religious intimidation directed against free speech–and against honest teaching and education–continues to occur, as I discuss herein: http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/05/09/everybody-draw-mohammed-day-time-intimidation-or-freedom

    Including death threats, here in the USA.

    Of course, religious intimidation and evocation of special privilege is not confined to Islam.

    In the larger sense, today serves to reinforce the principles that religious intimidation of whatever kind should not silence free speech, and that religion should not not immune from criticism or even ridicule.

  • Anna

    OT, but what’s up with Disqus? The “Recent Comments” sidebar has not updated in over two days, and the count for the number of comments on every post is inaccurate.

    I also noticed just yesterday that I have a “follower” on Disqus, and I don’t even know who this person is. I feel slightly stalked, LOL.

  • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

    I forgot about it this year, but then again I do have my muhammed t-shirt that I wear whenever I feel like it, so I think I didn’t necessarily miss out.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I initially supported the idea of depicting Muhammad, and still do to a degree. But I admit increased reluctance to participate after seeing so many people use it as an opportunity to openly express their distaste for Arabs, Islam, non-Americans, “sand niggers,” “camel jockeys,” etc — to deliberately insult certain people rather than act to defend the right of free expression.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I’ve had some problems with new notifications for months. After an exchange with tech support, they claimed to have reproduced the problem, but it hasn’t been corrected. Let’s hope the recent quirks are a sign of things being improved.

    Also, I got my first follower last week, and I don’t know mine either. Disqus indicates that they might provide some new options for this later, but, for now, we have no control over our followers. Feels weird.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    This year, there’s lots to react to, but it’s about blogging and free speech, not cartoons. Atheist bloggers in the Arab world are being imprisoned and oppressed, just for speaking their minds the way we are free to do here. So here’s my tiny act of solidarity:

    There’s probably no Allah. So stop rioting and enjoy your lives.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    We have the same stalker Anna.

    Not sure about m6wg4bxw’s stalker however…

  • Carmelita Spats

    Islam got it right by declaring that Mohammed should never, ever, be depicted. If I had a cult, I would command my devotees to NEVER draw me because you will ALWAYS have that gum-snapping wise-a$$ or that overzealous groupie who will find a way to do this….


    Laughter is the first death knell of religion.

  • Anna

    I guess it’s like Flickr or YouTube. Anyone can subscribe to you, but you don’t have to reciprocate.

  • Anna

    Maybe we should be flattered? I guess he found us interesting enough to follow.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    The vast vast vast majority of what I have seen in prior years have been things like simple smiley faces and stick figures, without ANY of the racial insults you mentioned.

    When “moderate” Muslims publicly acknowledge that not only should people not be killed for drawing Mohammad but that we actually have every right to draw him if we want, then perhaps “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” will be beyond its usefulness.

    When followers of Islam publicly acknowledge that those OUTSIDE of their faith do not need to follow the religious rules that come from INSIDE their faith, then we will be on be beyond this day’s usefulness.

    But we are NOT there yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jett.hanna Jett Hanna

    I would never participate in a protest like this. What good does it do? The world already knows of the terrible acts of the few people who reacted against the cartoon depiction of Mohammed. What good did the further protest do except to confirm in the minds of the fanatics that they are right, that the west is decadent and irreverent? Protect free speech by helping the cartoonist stay safe, and report every action taken against him. Speak out about how free speech is a better way. Decry the policies of those who would impose rule by fanatics. But don’t say words just to piss off someone you don’t like even more, and to get smiles from those who already agree with you.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Our experiences have been different. I saw image after image of Muhammad portrayed as a pedophile, or with a cock in his mouth, or as a terrorist, or as a slave to an American, or …

    Any open event or group is likely to include participation by unwanted members. It’s a fact of life. Islamophobes expressing Islamophobia are exercising free speech too. I’d rather not be associated with them, and they, I think, significantly blunt the point of the exercise.

    Regarding moderate Muslims: Do you think a radical, speech-oppressing Islamist will cease demanding death to Muhammad-depictors because moderate Muslims have made a contrary public statement? This seems like fantasy to me.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    You may be right about it being a fantasy to think that comments by moderate Muslims in favor of free-speech would reign in the extremists, but I honestly don’t know where else to start.

    We are way more likely to be successful with the moderates than with the extremists.

    And religions do shift over time, depending where the bulk/masses of the believers are at. For example, Catholic dogma no longer holds sway over most Catholics when it comes to their opinions on divorce, contraception, etc. Eventually the dogma softens or becomes more nuanced (e.g., the Church won’t kill you at the stake for getting a divorce, but maybe they’ll suggest that you not receive communion or something like that).

    When I do a Google image search for “Draw Muhammad Day”, most are stick figures and silly sketches. But even the cruder, vulgar ones deserve protection, if we believe that free speech only means anything if even unpopular speech deserves protection (which I believe).

  • JA

    Everybody Draw Muhammad Day is now a yearly thing? Here I thought it was a one-off occurrence…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=543663946 Danny Klopovic

    It is inaccurate to say that Islam forbids the depiction of Mohammed. Certainly Wahabism (Saudi Arabia) forbids it but Islam is not monolithic on this issue. There are depictions of Mohammed in Islamic history and also in contemporary Islam. So Persian Islam has a rich tradition of representing Mohammed – so you can see some examples at http://www.zombietime.com/mohammed_image_archive/islamic_mo_full/

    Similiarly, in contemporary Islam, my own Bosnian Muslim relatives have icons of Mohammed along with other figures such as Abraham, Ishmael etc in their houses. Although, unlike the Persian examples given in the link above, these icons depict Mohammed and others with a nimbus of fire in place of a face.

  • Rollingforest

    Because if you specifically don’t draw something because of a terrorist threat, then the terrorists have power over you. Yes we should protect the cartoonists and report actions against him and speak out about free speech. But we should also still be able to draw Muhammad if we want. If we can’t then there is a problem.