Everybody draw Muhammad Day

May 20 is “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” We looked at coverage of this event a month ago. It was the brainchild of an illustrator upset at Comedy Central’s censorship of the South Park show. South Park, which has depicted the Prophet Muhammad in the past to no criticism, was pretending to depict Muhammad again. Comedy Central fearful of Muslim violence, blocked the pretend depictions and censored previous shows.

So what does recent coverage show? Some pretty balanced reporting but also some typical errors. The Christian Science Monitor had a very helpful review to bring readers up to date on the controversy. Here’s the Associated Press report on Pakistan’s reaction to the day:

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s government ordered Internet service providers to block Facebook on Wednesday amid anger over a page that encourages users to post images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The page on the social networking site has generated criticism in Pakistan and elsewhere because Islam prohibits any images of the prophet. The government took action after a group of Islamic lawyers won a court order Wednesday requiring officials to block Facebook until May 31.

Oh, “Islam” prohibits “any” images of the prophet? Really? According to whom or what? Of course, not all Muslims believe that Islamic teachings forbid showing images of Muhammad. Muslims are most definitely not unanimous in their belief that any physical representation of Muhammad is blasphemous. Pictured here is a postcard from Algeria. The man about to enter the cave is Muhammad. And there are physical depictions of Muhammad going back for many centuries. You can view a few of them here.

I have absolutely no idea which Muslims believe what about depicting Muhammad, why they believe it or what any of the finer doctrinal points are. But I know that the AP report is not true.

This Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog was not one of the better discussions on the matter. Monica Guzman apparently doesn’t like the idea behind the Everybody Draw Muhammad Day, which is fine, but this language was curious:

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” took off within days of [Molly] Norris’ April post and a subsequent appearance on “The Dave Ross Show” she says she also regrets. Thousands of images have already appeared on at least two related Facebook pages she did not create that boasted upwards of 71,000 members Thursday afternoon and features not discussion or debate but streams of verbal and visual vitriol.

Online causes form a yin-yang, so here’s the bright side: A Facebook page against these Facebook pages had 72,000 fans Thursday.

The “bright side” is a Facebook page against other Facebook pages? Okay. I thought this FoxNews report did a much better job of presenting the case for all sides — celebrating the day, protesting the day, etc. It explained the various Facebook groups and looked at comments posted on the various sites, including from Muslims explaining why they opposed the day. And it ended with an anecdote about someone who entered a drawing and why he did it.

Into this mix, the libertarian magazine Reason hosted a contest for who could draw the best entry for the day. Earlier this week, the editors reminded readers that it was Muslim clerics who drew the three “worst” cartoons (in the Danish cartoon controversy) and took them on a tour in Muslim areas, sparking riots that led to violence, property damage and death.

Today they announced the winners of their contest. The winner and runners up are all interesting as is the fact that Reason says they were all drawn by different people with the same name — Spartacus. You can check them out here, if you’re so inclined.

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    There may have been a long history of depicting Mohammed in the Islamic world. But none of those depictions I have seen have been disrespectful or nasty or grossly insulting. This is unlike the working over Jesus and Mary get from our Western media cartoonists and artistic elites.
    It is amazing the way so many of these Westerners were boastfully brave in saying “Drop dead!” to Christians when they complained (and adding more insults at the complaining) but who are now still cowering at defending freedom. As I hopped around the internet to look at stories in the MSM on this topic I ran across no what should be natural illustrations by cartoon in the stories–just photos of Moslem protestors.
    But then I didn’t get a chance to look in every deep foxhole.

  • Jettboy

    “just photos of Moslem protestors.”

    Are not these, then, little Mohammads (Spartacus like)? I really liked the Reason’s picks. They are more than simple caricatures and make some very salient points about the whole controversy. Here is my entery:

    MO
    ham
    m
    ad

    see of it what you want.

  • Jerry

    I found the fox news report bad although perhaps it’s a bit better than the very low level of reporting which ignored the doctrinal background. Once again the media missed a story which could have served to educate the watcher/reader.

    There is an interesting historical and religious background to this issue. The prohibion against idolatry is part of Judaism and Christianity:

    Christianity interprets the commandment not to make “any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above” to mean to not “bow down and worship” the image in and of itself nor a false god through the image.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idolatry_and_Christianity

    This was carried over into Islam as this fatwa indicates

    “Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade his followers to make the images of living beings whether human or animals. The images of pious and religious figures were often worshiped by many people in Arabia as well as in other cultures and societies. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was very conscious that these images lead to idolatry. He always wanted to remind his followers to keep their faith in Allah pure from any idolatry or image worship.

    http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543622

    So from a more balanced view, the attitude of Muslims and Christians toward images are similar with some groups believing that they are OK and others believing they should be avoided because they are or lead to idolatry.

    The difference between Christianity and Islam comes with the numbers that believe one way or the other, the reaction of those who believe that images are to be shunned, and, of course, how the media represents their beliefs.

  • Jettboy

    No Jerry, the difference is that Christians and Jews get upset and offended. Muslims murder, riot, and otherwise endanger lives.

  • http://www.mormoninmichigan.blogspot.com John Pack Lambert

    If a Catholic went on a shooting spree over a National Endownment for the Arts funded depiction of Mary using human excrement, it would not lead to less but more of such, I gaurantee it.

    The issue is deeper than fear of Muslim violence. At heart, Muslims are a protected “minority” class while Catholics are the quintessential enemy of all good in the minds of western Liberals.

    I am not sure why this is. It has not always been so. Modern Liberals love nothing more than denouncing past people for their being “anti-Papist”. Yet, the Quebec Act forced citizens of that Province to pay tithes to the Catholic Church, and I doubt any 19th century American actually called for the arrest of a Pope as many modern Atheists have.

  • Jerry

    No Jerry, the difference is that Christians and Jews get upset and offended. Muslims murder, riot, and otherwise endanger lives.

    Stereotyping a billion Muslims demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the actual numbers involved in rioting etc.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    John Pack Lambert – there were certainly a lot of diplomatic protests about the Edgardo Mortara affair, also in the 19th century.

    Jettboy –

    No Jerry, the difference is that Christians and Jews get upset and offended. Muslims murder, riot, and otherwise endanger lives.

    …though Catholics do issue death threats sometimes. And Jews don’t always refrain from violence either.

    Those incidents don’t tend to get quite the same coverage, though.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    The last time this came up here, I said I was considering joining in.

    I decided to do so, and put up a video explaining why. (Note: one brief expletive at the end.)

  • Dave

    The press presents such a piquant inconsistency, sometimes fearing to name Muslims as perpetrators of violence and other times seemingly daring a violent response to emerge by promoting depictions that many Mulims find blasphemous.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    On the never blame Islam media front:
    According to a Reuters report the French religious drama “Of Gods And Men” has a good chance of winning the prize as the best movie of the year at the Cannes Film Festival.
    The movie is about the true story of 7 Trappist monks who were executed by Moslem terrorists in Algeria in 1996.
    However, the Reuters article only says they were “mysteriously murdered” (By Scotch Presbyterians, I suppose.)
    Mark Cousins, a film historian and Cannes veteran is quoted as saying “It’s got crucial things going for it–” Among them “..and nowhere is Islam blamed.” (I suppose the terrorists were inspired by Walt Disney cartoons, not the violence drenched life of Mohammed).
    For the record: The monks were taken hostage by militants of the Armed Islamic Group (today affiliated with the Al Quaeda network). Two months later the severed heads of the monks were were found in a tree not far from the monastery. Their bodies were never recovered.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Dave –

    The press presents such a piquant inconsistency, sometimes fearing to name Muslims as perpetrators of violence and other times seemingly daring a violent response to emerge by promoting depictions that many Mulims find blasphemous.

    I know, it’s almost like “the press” isn’t monolithic or something!

  • Shaun G

    A blog post from Dreamhost, describing its worst-ever denial of service attack:

    http://blog.dreamhost.com/2010/05/21/yeah-about-that-downtime/

    Dreamhost was the web hosting provider for DrawMuhammadDay.com.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Please keep comments focused on journalism.