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.”
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.