Why I Wont Participate in ‘Draw Muhammad Day’

I’m not a fan of ”oppression of free speech” but I’m also not a fan of offending people either.


The ‘Draw Muhammad’ day event on Facebook has escalated out of hand.  I don’t know what the initiators of this day  were thinking;  but if it was to protect the freedom of speech of South Park’s creators,  that was borderline retarded  given that they would also offend a sixth of the world’s population in the process. The 200th episode of south park depicted various religious leaders and the Prophet Muhammad was depicted in a bear suit. The creators of South Park were threatened because of this. In a response to these threats, a Facebook event was created.


According to their office page:


“We are not trying to slander the average muslim , it’s not a muslim/islam hatepage. We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Mohammed depictions, that we’re not afraid of them. That they can’t take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us to silence.”


(http://www.facebook.com/pages/Everybody-Draw-Mohammed-Day/121369914543425 )


Now what I’m going to do is show you the number of viewers of South Park’s 200th episode.


See how many people who watched the 200th episode of South Park?  3.3 million?  It’s probably their highest rated episode in years. This graph does not account for all the people who illegally downloaded the episode since I don’t have access to these statistics but you can make them up and tack them on for your own intellectual amusement.


In  order to protect the South Park’s creators’ rights to entertain under the guiseof ‘free speech’ , they’ve offended a whopping 1.2 billion people.


There will be the odd muslim or so that will not have been offended by this, and also accounting for the people who don’t have access and would not have heard about this at all; so we’ll assume the number of people offended as 1.1 billion.


For fun I’m going to make the graph 3D just to give you a better idea of scale.


This Facebook event was started by a so called cartoonist. See I’m a cartoonist as well. I’m just as much of a satirist and a storyteller as much as any other real cartoonist.  There are few things that I know.


Being an artist is understanding that what we have is a gift and we’re to use that wisely. To simply use it to prove a point and in the process offending another’s religious views and feelings is abusing it.


There’s freedom of speech and then there is license to be offend.


There’s a lot of things that you can attack, criticize, insult, satirize, plagiarize, but you have to be very careful with another person’s religion.  There are plenty of things that you can debate in Islam – for example the Hijab – it’s something that’s debated by Muslims amongst themselves.  Depiction of the Prophets is expressly forbidden and this law is sacred.


It’s like going out and telling a Jewish friend that ‘hey the holocaust didn’t happen and I just wanted you to know that!’  Now some people might call me a bigot or a racist, but the holocaust did happen, it was a horrible event that scarred humanity forever and I would be a complete asshole and totally insensitive to the millions of Jews around the world (not to mention the guy who probably won’t be my friend anymore).


Offending over a  billion people just because you want to believe in so called free speech is selfish and irresponsible. You live in a world where opinion in Ethiopia matters as much as opinion in Hoboken.  We live in a world which now has no boundaries thanks to the internet. There may be limitations of border control but there is no such thing regulating thought and feeling – and expressing it has no limitations.


I can get on my phone on Ayer’s Rock and comment on a YouTube video, send an e-mail, post pictures of myself for everyone else to comment on Facebook. Information is freely exchanged like never before, faster than the speed of thought, terabytes of information is exchanged globally within just a few hours – this world is like nothing ever before.


And because there are that many more ways to communicate and spread hate, and that too instantly across the world, people in the public view (hell any person who posts anything on the web) has that much more responsibility to be just a smidgen more respectful of other’s religions and know the difference between defending freedom of speech or any other right and offending and disrespecting another’s religion, race and whatnot.


Know the fine line between an intellectual argument & being a sophist buffoon.


Having said all this about the creators of this event, a word or two has to be said about the over-the-top reaction. Yes we as Muslims should react to and oppose this Facebook event. But it has to be done in a civilized and responsible manner. Banning Facebook is not the way to do it. Reacting this way is just feeding into their opinions about Muslim extremists. With Pakistan government going ahead with the decision to ban Facebook will just feed the frenzy and the proponents of free speech get another bone to chew on and say “look we were right – these extremists are against freedom of speech”. By such an over the top negative reaction we are simply making their argument stronger. A moderate and rational response would have shown the wold that we are the civilized party that is not going nutso over something and it’s the other side that is being unreasonable. But as always Pakistan is so good at punching itself in the face.


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26 Responses

  1. Nadia says:

    i agree with you on some points but what i wonder though is: do you feel the depicting Muhammad taboo should be broken? and if so, how would you go about it?
    having the whole world draw him on one day works for me since there’s safety in numbers. no way you can be mad at that many people spread that far apart right? ghehehe bombing everyone who participated in this would be a huge accomplishment XD

  2. Abbas says:

    see the thing is that as an artist we’re truly blessed with making statements with the drawn line. there is a very thin line between ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘license to offend’.

    you see this isnt just some performance art exhibition but something thats held dear to a lot of people – its personal and very much at the core tenet of their beliefs. just to respect that builds more bridges than burning them by exercising your pseudo attempts at freedom of speech and expression.

  3. Zain says:

    So far, this has the to be the most original piece that I’v read regarding the whole issue. good job

  4. semra says:

    I’m so glad you thought about the issue and expressed ur self logically instead of just reacting like everyone else does.

  5. satori says:

    non-muslim here and I agree with your stance, baka. childish. churlish. attention-grabbing.

  6. karline says:

    I couldn’t care less about offending Muslims, or Christians, or Jews, or Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, Pagans or anyone else. Cartoons are just passing comments and jokes. If people want to get offended well that’s their problem. However I could care a lot about the way Muslims (not anyone else) wishes to put their problem on all the rest of us. Do what you please in your own countries, but in the West and our allies, let us do what we please.

  7. Abbas says:

    ah but karline – you miss the gist of the argument. this is the internet. there is no border control here.

  8. Nadia says:

    still though,.. a muslim is not supposed to depict his or her prophet. I’m not sure those rules are supposed to apply on non believers.

  9. Very well written, Baka-san. You make some very valid points, and I don’t support the said event. I feel that if it was their intention to make a point regarding free speech and such, then they should have done it in a way that wasn’t directly a religion, as common sense would suggest that nothing good can come out of that. I actually feel this is just a cheap gimmick to express hate and racism by those who created this particular event, and that speaks volumes on what type of people they are.

  10. Umair says:

    Good read AB. I disagree on one point though. Pakistan’s government banning of FB isnt over the top at all. Burning FB logos on the street, throwing PCs/laptops on the roads would have been over the top =)

    If you go back to the Danish cartoons controversy, their governments stood stubbornly by their “freedom of speech” defense till the Muslim countries’ governments banned their products and the Muslim population boycotted Scandinavian products voluntarily. Their tone changed after we voted with our purchase decision. Once you hit someone’s bottomline, they do pay attention.

    FB’s owners need to pay attention to this. If Muslims boycotting FB or banning the site by governments hits their bottomline, they will take ownership of the fact that their medium is being used irresponsibly to insult a billion people on this earth. Money talks.


    To those who commented about wanting to do caricatures of Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him, I wonder what your reaction would be if someone were to insult your father/mother/sister/husband/wife/daughter on global media knowing very well that it would hurt you while claiming that its his/her right under the “freedom of speech” law. Ridiculous!

    And why all the talk about rights? Why not talk about responsibility? Management 101: responsibility, authority and accountability.

    Here’s an idea, try publishing cartoons on the holocaust in Europe and then challenge the governments there on your freedom of speech.

  11. Abbas says:

    here’s the thing umair. i would have been cool with it if individuals did and if individuals deactivated their accounts with the comment ‘protesting against facebook’s inaction against draw muhammad day’. i dont believe the state especially our idiotic legal system should go around banning flickr, youtube, facebook etc. there are 1.5 million cases pending in the Lahore High Court as we speak. a girl was raped for 21 days by policemen and is now pregnant and cant get a case against them registered much the less get a judge to hear her case… that’s what the courts need to be addressing.

    when the state apparatus starts messing with the internet… you have one hell of a pandora’s box youre opening

  12. Umair says:

    The government sucks, the legal system sucks, the police sucks. I will give you that.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that majority of Muslims are offended by this. Even you said the same in your post. So if a democratically elected government (as much I hate it) decides to ban access to something which most of the country’s citizens hate anyway, what’s the problem with it?

    Them banning certain links on BBC etc for their own political purposes is wrong. This act doesn’t fall in that category for obvious reasons.

  13. Shifa says:

    Symbolical portrayals of our Holy Prophet pbuh have been done before, but to show his face, is just not done. Now if art was the medium they were projecting, where were the real artists? From what i saw on the said facebook page, many people had resorted to blatant mockery of our Prophet. I, as moderate Muslim, was deeply shocked and hurt by what i saw.

    There should be a line drawn between so called freedom of speech and insult, and freedom of speech should ensue an educated thought, not hearsay. The problem is not many people are willing to think, and only react.

    I believe the motive behind the ban was to keep situations under control. We’ve had our share of riots, fires, deaths etc over things that could better have been avoided. With the publicity the event has gained, it could have caused damage in multitudes. I agree that other sites linking to fb shouldnt have been blocked either, but again, people can go to any length just to have a reason.

    And there are many examples of religious extremity and polygamy and what not in the West, but somehow its more fun to push a Muslim’s sensibilities. There may be many Muslims out there living by a ‘to each his own’ philosophy, but our respect for our religion goes beyond boundries. fb’s own indifference despite their so-called regulations has encouraged the creation of one of the largest hate pages evolve on their platform.

  14. Abbas says:

    Umair – have you even experienced this country’s judicial system. its turned into a joke and now some buffoons have taken it to the point where they are trying to get twitter and gmail banned? yes – gmail.

    i’m sorry but i cant agree with this. the state only needs to act when the individuals cannot. this is a very individual matter.

  15. Umair says:

    Abbas, just go through my last post and answer the question raised in it.

    P.S: its not an individual matter. As the Danish cartoons issue taught us, its a issue for the whole Ummah and not even the individual Muslim countries. The involvement of OIC then suggests as much.

  16. matt says:

    Wouldn’t it have been better to have had a day where everyone drew something that represented freedom of expression rather than deliberately insulting what others hold sacred? The “let’s draw Muhammad day” was nothing more than an insult to Muslims.

  17. Abbas says:

    umair – and if you learnt anything from the danish incident you’ll realize that it was more individuals and less governments that had brought them down to their knees. it was individuals who boycotted products rather than governments. the governments officially ‘boycotted products’ well after muslims in general had used the internet to rally a unified response. once their apathetic governments saw what was happenning… THEN they acted to cover their rather oblivious asses. the ummah exists in spirit and it uses the internet.

    also remember what happenned to telenor in pakistan – their operations were brought down to a standstill. citizens throbbed to throw away their telenor sims, refusing to take calls or messages from them and the worst bit was an infamous guerilla mobilink marketing sms that caused the telenor offices in lahore to be raided. of course mobilink and a few other companies got themselves affected in the process during which lahore and heck even daewoo was affected by idiot rioters.

    the state had nothing do do with this.

    as of my typespeak the following sites amongst 800 are now banned:

    facebook, youtube, flickr, shutterstock, blogspot, xanga, twitter, and myspace.

    muslim countries account for a whopping 37 percent of all internet traffic globally. what would happen to those sites if individuals stopped going to them using popular internet sites as opposed to governments banning them? well for one thing they wont be able to claim the usual ‘governments are after our free speech’ hyperbole (and lets face it muslim countries are terrible with that bit).

    voluntary individuals grouping together to shut a site’s traffic and banner click/views is a more powerful instrument than anything our ineffective states can put out.

    to create list of muslim friendly web sites is also detrimental to the whole idea behind the internet simply because it would ghettosize thought. the whole idea is to let people learn more about islam not to scare people with it.

  18. Umair says:

    Since you wont answer the question directly, I am gonna post it again.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that *majority* of Muslims are offended by this. Even you said the same in your post. So if a democratically elected government (as much I hate it) decides to ban access to something which most of the country’s citizens hate anyway, what’s the problem with it?

    If Pakistani Muslims are offended by FB’s callous attitude towards this “event” and are deactivating their accounts, then why blame the ban? Don’t quote the other shit that our government and legal system pull on us as that has *nothing* to do with this one ban.

    I for one am glad that Pakistan banned FB. It put FB’s bottomline at risk and if the top 20 muslim countries did the same, it would cost FB an approx 148 million USD of projected revenue in this FY. The maths is simple enough; the stats are available on facebakers.

  19. Abbas says:

    first i would like to say that this government, this legal system, heck even being part of a provincial naming process that was far from democratic and should have been put to a plebiscite had nothing to do with me.

    second government has no right to ban internet sites especially governments with bad governance records.

    thirdly those pages were taken down some time ago (go check it out – if you have trouble i’ll lend you my vpn so you can do so). the competition was shut down with enough protest. what the ban did do was attract it more attention that it should have.

    fourthly concerned citizens were already boycotting facebook during that time. there are multiple groups on faceboook that had more members than the ‘draw muhammad’ group on facebook.

    fifthly do you really think that if put to a vote they would have been able to ban the site? why do most people still have their accounts on it leading up to the competition. in fact youre one of two people on my list of 450 friends that actually deactivated theirs. if people cared enough about banning facebook, lat least two days of the competition my friends list should have been halved.

  20. Umair says:

    I welcome the ban as it is morally right to boycott an establishment which not only allows a party to use their platform to insult Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him but makes money off it. Would you ever go to a restaurant which allowed itself to be host to a party whose sole activity is to insult your family? And that restaurant hosted the party despite your protests and knowing fully well how you would feel about it? How low does one’s self-respect need to be to go back to that restaurant? It doesn’t really matter if that same restaurant allowed your friends to host another parallel party condemning the other party but at the end of the day, this restaurant made money of insulting you. Still a loyal customer?

    As for the competition being over, isn’t it supposed to be an annual event which is to allow people to insult our Prophet over and over again using the anonymity provided by the Internet? This is a pilot … if Muslims don’t act now it will become a regular occurrence.

    Should the Pakistani government have allowed that Danish newspaper to sell its junk in Pakistan? If not, then why should it allow FB which *makes* money of this to peddle its shit in Pakistan?

    As for the page being taken down, please share a news source discussing the same. As far as I know, it was taken down and then put back up.

  21. Abbas says:

    for the last time umair – its the internet. its not a physical commodity. dont like it. dont use it.

    there is plenty of stuff available in pakistan that the government does zero about. for example when i lived in an apartment building in f-10 there was a brothel in every floor. yes a brothel full of central asian women illegally trafficked to pakistan. i could call the cops day in and out about it but nothing happened. i had elderly parents living in that building and a two year down payment on an apartment that would have allowed them to transition into their under construction house. my neighbour even served a notice to the owner of the building to do something and then took it to court. its been eight months already and nothing happenned – the other side has not shown up. the judges dont seem to care to attend to it and it’s even passed the required ‘three chances to attend’.

    there are dubious little chinese massage parlors all over the place umair – and yes even a street down from the place where you live. it’s a menace.

    seen whats going on in hunza recently? check out the news. we’ve already lost baluchistan, swat, and waziristan… do we want to lose hunza as well?

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