"Well, at least it'll keep me from being so self-involved!"
September 15, 2010 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris, creator of the artwork announcing May 20, 2010 as Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, goes into hiding at the suggestion of the FBI, following the fatwa issued against her this summer.

(Previously, the controversy that led Morris to draw her cartoon in the first place.)
posted by eugenen (229 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Next up: Everybody Poke a Hornet's Nest With A Stick Day
posted by goethean at 1:23 PM on September 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


Fatwa. Noun.

1. (Islam) A legal opinion, decree or ruling issued by a mufti or other Islamic lawyer.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:24 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


In retrospect, (right or wrong) fanning the flames of what's quickly become a religious war between the east and the west was probably not a very good idea.

I wish it WASN'T a religious war, but there seem to be extreme elements on both sides desperate to turn it into one. While everyone else pays the price.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:25 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, sometimes when you play with fire you get burned. Yes, this shouldn't be happening, but seriously one should consider these things before "playing" with Muslims. Obviously not all of them are crazy, but the crazy ones are REALLY crazy.

Hopefully this'll end well, with her alive and not in hiding.
posted by nomadicink at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2010


I have a deep respect for anyone who puts their life on the line defending one of the defining principles of our society. One can argue about whether you're really making a stand at anything by refusing to answer a border guard's question about your business in China, but deliberately challenging those who would decree your death is a whole different business, and much more important in the long run.
posted by fatbird at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [28 favorites]



Fatwa. Noun.

1. (Islam) A legal opinion, decree or ruling issued by a mufti or other Islamic lawyer.


It's scary and foreign and we don't understand it! We are butchering that, aren't we?
I guess a proper use would be:

"...following _____'s fatwa decreeing that ______________."
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2010


You know... I've spent the past 12 years (it started a bit earlier than Sept 11 for me) trying to be tolerant and forgiving, and understanding that others have religious prohibitions that they consider universal and may wish to apply to the world at large.

But this shit is shit. It goes too far. You just don't kill the fucken comics. Laughter is what let's us all relax enough to understand exactly where each other lines in the sand are, and gives us the chance to be comfortable with having folk stand behind those lines waving whatever flags they wish to wave.

Fuck you Anwar al-Awlaki for the small and cowardly man you are.
posted by Ahab at 1:29 PM on September 15, 2010 [21 favorites]


Thank you God, for your healing gift of religion.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:33 PM on September 15, 2010 [31 favorites]


I think the solution to this is more drawings of Mohammed, not fewer. I for one will be outlining him in the snow this winter.
posted by found missing at 1:34 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Next up: Everybody Poke a Hornet's Nest With A Stick Day

And... the rape victim in the short skirt had it coming? Because if you're saying drawing a picture of Mohammed justifies the violent shitstorm that follows, that's exactly equivalent.

Poking a hornet's nest might not be the smartest thing to do but this particular nest is making life suck for a lot of people.
posted by klanawa at 1:36 PM on September 15, 2010 [47 favorites]


As a Muslim explained to me when some clown threatened the Southpark creators for depicting Muhammad, Muhammad (may peace be upon him) himself forgave the residents of Makkah who physically assaulted and beat him.

If the Messenger of Islam did that, why then should his followers threaten to kill people who merely draw pictures of Muhammad? Why should they get upset at all by what khaffirs do?

Well, I suspect because it's not about Islam or Muhammad at all: it's about some Muslims who feel personally disrespected by the West, and who are using "insults to Muhammad" as an excuse to whip up anti-Western anger. Who are looking to increase their own prestige as "defenders" of Islam.
posted by orthogonality at 1:36 PM on September 15, 2010 [45 favorites]


One of these things is not like the other:
A) mocking fundamentalist thought with offensive cartoons
B) murdering another human being because she offended you.

Offensive writing, on the other hand, is, of course, unforgivable. That Salman Rushdie fellow has it coming. Dan Savage, too.
posted by slab_lizard at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


She doesn't sound very impressive on the radio show link in this article... I didn't listen to the whole thing, but got halfway through, where she couldn't explain why she wouldn't make fun of the holocaust but still felt cartoonists shouldn't be PC and can make fun of Islam. (Not saying an argument couldn't be made, but she doesn't have one figured out).
posted by mdn at 1:38 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nobody should ever threaten to kill people, or otherwise terrorize them, for doing something legal and that falls within their human right to free speech.

It's a shame that crazies can stifle people's ability to talk openly about certain things.

I, for one, am looking nervously to my neighbours to the South and carefully reconsidering my plans for "Everyone Be Okay With Abortion Day."

Religious nuts, in other words, aren't just Muslim, and aren't just brown.
posted by Shepherd at 1:39 PM on September 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


She'll be on stage with U2 within 5 years no doubt.
posted by i_cola at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, if only I had some mad ASCII skills, then I could have a fatwa on me, too!
posted by phunniemee at 1:43 PM on September 15, 2010


"Going into hiding following a fatwa issued against me" is a great excuse for disappearing without a forwarding address. Soon everyone will be trying it.
posted by norm at 1:45 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've spent the past 12 years (it started a bit earlier than Sept 11 for me) trying to be tolerant and forgiving, and understanding that others have religious prohibitions that they consider universal and may wish to apply to the world at large.

You've spent 12 years trying to be tolerant of people who want to impose their religious prohibitions on the whole world? I'm sorry, but that sounds like a huge waste of time. Why would you tolerate intolerance?
posted by John Cohen at 1:46 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Being tolerant of others' intolerance leads to bad places really fast.

Stick your head in the sand if you like, but the rest of us will be up here pushing back against the extremist douchebags until they are gone, gone, gone.
posted by Aquaman at 1:55 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, sometimes when you play with fire you get burned. Yes, this shouldn't be happening, but seriously one should consider these things before "playing" with Muslims listening to crazy Christians advising action to incite fellow extremists. Obviously not all of them are crazy, but the crazy ones are REALLY crazy.

FTFY.
posted by yeloson at 1:56 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Everybody draw Mohammed day" is right up there with "Everybody give the finger to a cop day" and "Everybody wear white robes in South Bronx day"

The right to free speech is not the same as the right to consequence-free speech.
posted by rocket88 at 1:57 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Offensive writing, on the other hand, is, of course, unforgivable. That Salman Rushdie fellow has it coming. Dan Savage, too.

Rushdie was still kickin' last I heard. Dan Savage would never be subject to a fatwa because he lets his readers come up with every fucking creative thing in his column. He just gets paid for them.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:58 PM on September 15, 2010



"Everybody draw Mohammed day" is right up there with "Everybody give the finger to a cop day" and "Everybody wear white robes in South Bronx day"

The right to free speech is not the same as the right to consequence-free speech.
posted by rocket88 at 1:57 PM on September 15 [+] [!]

Actually, it is! In civilized societies, it's unacceptable to commit acts of violence against someone because of the political (i.e. not a threat, not "fire" in a theater) content of someone's speech.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 2:00 PM on September 15, 2010 [49 favorites]


She doesn't sound very impressive on the radio show link in this article... I didn't listen to the whole thing, but got halfway through, where she couldn't explain why she wouldn't make fun of the holocaust but still felt cartoonists shouldn't be PC and can make fun of Islam. (Not saying an argument couldn't be made, but she doesn't have one figured out).

I actually think "because there's nothing funny about it" is a decent answer, as far as it goes, given her position.

She does sound kind of ditzy.
posted by eugenen at 2:01 PM on September 15, 2010


Also, the hornet's nest comparison is pretty awful not only because of the rape/short skirt angle but also because hornets, unlike people, don't have any moral agency.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 2:01 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Rushdie was still kickin' last I heard.

So incitement to violence isn't a problem if they're incompetent at it? Plus, not everybody associated with Rushdie was so lucky.
posted by kmz at 2:04 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can we agree that a.) we believe and cherish the ability to say what you want but b.) certain things you say can incite people to commit violence against you?
posted by iamck at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The right to free speech is not the same as the right to consequence-free speech.

When the "consequences" are of the sort at issue here ... yes it is!

She has the right not to be executed for drawing a certain cartoon or encouraging people to draw certain cartoons.

Are you honestly saying you think she doesn't have a right to physical safety since she drew an offensive cartoon or talked about drawing offensive cartoons?

You've written over 1,000 comments on Metafilter; I'll bet I could find some that would offend someone. How offensive would they have to be before you would lose your right to life and liberty?

I'm disappointed that any of this even needs to be pointed out.
posted by John Cohen at 2:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [19 favorites]


The right to free speech is not the same as the right to consequence-free speech.

Oh to be sure. And I think any offended Muslims would be quite right to write strongly worded letters explaining that they disagree with what she's done. And to refuse to patronize the Seattle Weekly as long as it continues to publish such objectionable works. And even to complain to the Seattle Weekly's advertisers and ask them to pull their ads unless the paper stops carrying Ms. Norris's work.

Wait, they want to do what?
posted by Naberius at 2:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [17 favorites]


In civilized societies, it's unacceptable to commit acts of violence against someone

.
posted by iamck at 2:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thinking a bit more about why I'm so oogy about both sides of this equation, I find my own mind starkly divided between

(a) People should be able to draw whatever the hell they want without getting threatened with death, absolutely. Killing somebody is pretty much the most profound possible expression of disrespect.

and

(b) People who insist that "nigger" is just a word and stridently insist on yelling it at black people because "they use it and it's a double standard" richly deserve the slap in the face they're bound to get.

which both together parse into

(c) Respect's a two-way street: if you engage in behaviour you know will be considered deeply, inviolably disrespectful just to goad somebody into reacting, and that person reacts violently, then their disrespect -- while disproportionate -- is a result of your own catalytic disrespect.

and all of this results in

(d) an asshole acted like an asshole to try to prove some asshole point, and a bunch of other assholes that the first asshole was trying to upset, got upset, decided to act like assholes.

with the inevitable conclusion

(e) assholes gonna asshole. And I'm going bowling.
posted by Shepherd at 2:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [55 favorites]


Can we agree that ... certain things you say can incite people to commit violence against you?

Yes, I think we all agree that that's a fact.

The disagreement, apparently, is how to react to this fact.
posted by John Cohen at 2:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


hornets, unlike people, don't have any moral agency

But they are predictable.
posted by klanawa at 2:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Previously our fatwa issuers lawyers demand the US revoke its fatwa against him. Shouldn't Molly be afforded appropriate protections under Islamic Jurisprudence. What are those protections again?
posted by humanfont at 2:09 PM on September 15, 2010


Human beings should not kill one another.
posted by Xoebe at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you God, for your healing gift of religion.

Seems to be Jon Stewart once introduced a piece with: "Religion. It has the power to heal a world torn apart by... religion."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:12 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fatwa. Noun.

The Imam lifted his leg and issued a Fatwa.
posted by mmrtnt at 2:12 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh to be sure. And I think any offended Muslims would be quite right to write strongly worded letters explaining that they disagree with what she's done. And to refuse to patronize the Seattle Weekly as long as it continues to publish such objectionable works. And even to complain to the Seattle Weekly's advertisers and ask them to pull their ads unless the paper stops carrying Ms. Norris's work.

Wait, they want to do what?


Thank you for this.

Violence -- murder! -- is not acceptable no matter what your religion is, and no matter how easily offended you are. Period.

There is no special, lowered standard for Muslims.
posted by John Cohen at 2:13 PM on September 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


The only problem I have with drawing Mohammed, is that it also offends the more reasonable Sunnis who aren't going to issue a call for your death. Do we need to further polarize Christian vs Muslim worlds like this? As a cultural outsider, why do this? I understand the desire not to have your statements censored, but that desire doesn't make me tour the bible belt, doing performance art where I wipe my ass with a picture of Madonna and child in order to taunt the fundie Christians. Is this the way to change these cultures, or are we just locking in the attitudes of xenophobia and persecution that intensify fundamentalist movements in the first place?

I guess I'd consider depicting Mohammed if I were an artist, but I'd at least try to understand what it meant within the broader culture of the religion I was targeting, besides the zealots and fundamentalists. If only so I could be articulate in an interview about my reasons.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:16 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


she couldn't explain why she wouldn't make fun of the holocaust but still felt cartoonists shouldn't be PC and can make fun of Islam. (Not saying an argument couldn't be made, but she doesn't have one figured out).

The prohibition on pictures of the Messenger of Islam (pbuh) arises because creating such might lead to shirk the worst sin possible for a Muslim. Shirk, or "splitting", is the worship of anything other than the one God, Allah. If there are pictures of Muhammad, ignorant Muslims might start to worship Muhammad, or even the icons themselves, instead of or in addition to, Allah.

Shia Islam is less concerned about images than Sunni Islam, and up to about 300 years ago, Shia produced images of Muhammad.

According to hadith, the (reputed) sayings of Muhammad, one should avoid pictures of all kinds (not just of Muhammad) presumably for the same reason: peopel might start treating them as idols, or people seeing you with a picture might assume that you use it as an idol even if you don't, thus (unintentionally) promoting shirk.

(Sunnis are big on "this might lead to that": a look leads to a smile leads to a touch leads to zinnah, music leads to wine leads to zinnah, so don't look, don't listen. Zinnah, adultery, is the next worst sin after shirk.)

Also according to hadith, keeping pictures inside your dwelling prevents teh angels from entering it.

But all of these prohibitions apply to Muslims. Pictures of Muhammad are bad because a foolish Muslim might start worshiping them, tempting him into shirk. I supposed a Muslim might also worry about the Ahl al-Kitab being tempted into idol worship, but the non-Muslim People of the Book wouldn't have any particular reason to worship Muhammad -- they'd be vulnerable to pictures of, say, Mary or Jesus or Moses. And al-Mushrikeen are already practicing shirk.

So why care what the khaffirs do with pictures of Muhammed?

That's what makes this different from pictures making fun of the Shoah -- respectful pictures of Muhammad do no harm to khaffirs, who aren't going to be tempted to worship Muhammad's pictures. And no Muslim is going to erroneously worship those pictures, because they know better than to follow a khaffir's lead in matters of faith.

The pictures only even potentially become a problem if a foolish Muslim is purveying the pictures in a way that suggests they could be objects of worship. Which isn't the case here.
posted by orthogonality at 2:20 PM on September 15, 2010 [26 favorites]


This "well, speech has consequences, therefore it's OK if she gets killed because she should have known better than to be 'offensive'" argument is blowing my mind.

Does that standard also apply to pro-choice women and/or out gay people in conservative areas? Or does it only work for things that are "offensive" to Muslims?
posted by vorfeed at 2:20 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is it really asking too much to differentiate between "Muslims" and "a radical Muslim cleric who's been linked to a plot to blow up Times Square and issues fatwas on Westerners with roughly the same frequency with which normal people go to the bathroom?"

Just checking.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:21 PM on September 15, 2010 [23 favorites]


It's not religion, it's politics. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in Islam that says that infidels cannot draw Mohammed. It is only Muslims who are forbidden to depict their prophet.

It's politics because people can use these events as an "I toldja so" about the West, and issue fatwas to increase their standing as anti-Western.
posted by cell divide at 2:21 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


John Cohen - You've spent 12 years trying to be tolerant of people who want to impose their religious prohibitions on the whole world? I'm sorry, but that sounds like a huge waste of time. Why would you tolerate intolerance?

Because it's always seemed reasonable to distinguish between speech and action on the other side of the fence as much as I do on mine.

I will cheerfully grant a Muslim religious extremist leeway to proclaim that he wishes me dead. I tolerate that because I believe he's got a right to express himself as much as any man. Where it becomes intolerable is where he acts upon it and tries to kill me or orders others to do so. Then we've probably got a fight on our hands.

But where I fully spit the dummy is at the point at which that man tries to remove the conditions under which any present or future dialogue might be possible. And killing jesters seems to me to be a near perfect way of doing that.
posted by Ahab at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2010


because hornets, unlike people, don't have any moral agency.

I'm not so sure about that.
posted by ovvl at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2010


"I'm not saying they don't have a right to build a mosque a few blocks away from Ground Zero. I'm just saying that they knew what the reaction would be and so it was tasteless to try it."

"I'm not saying she doesn't have a right to draw pictures of Muhammad. I'm just saying that she knew what the reaction would be and so it was tasteless to try it."
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2010 [10 favorites]


But aren't we violating Anwar Alawlaki's right to Free Speech when we tell him he can't say "this person deserves to die?" It's not like he's hiring a hit man to do the killing... (I know, absolute false dichotomy/straw man/devil's advocate bullshit). Having worked in "the media" for small pieces of 35 years, I know there are lots of lines that should not be crossed (and "free speech heroes" like the South Park guys have danced around a lot more of them than they have crossed).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:26 PM on September 15, 2010


I guess I'd consider depicting Mohammed if I were an artist, but I'd at least try to understand what it meant within the broader culture of the religion I was targeting, besides the zealots and fundamentalists. If only so I could be articulate in an interview about my reasons.

Ah, they'll like that. They'll kill you last.
posted by Naberius at 2:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suppose if we were to recognize that this is the work of one marginalized radical cleric and one marginalized radical group, it would take the wind out of the OMGCRAZYMUSLIMSOUTTOKILLUSALL!!! argument. So best not to mention that.

When was the last time Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula managed to kill anyone in America?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I guess I'd consider depicting Mohammed if I were an artist, but I'd at least try to understand what it meant within the broader culture of the religion I was targeting

Did you actually look at the artwork? Did anyone who's making "she had it coming" comments? It's not a depiction of a grim-looking bearded guy beheading someone while ogling his four wives; it's not a depiction of a human being at all. It's a depiction of a bunch of household objects (a teacup, a spool, etc.) each saying "I am the real likeness of Mohammed!" "No, it's me!" etc. It's funny and completely non-offensive to anyone but an insane person like the mufti in question. If the fatwa had not been issued, how many of you would have looked at that cartoon and thought "Uh-oh, she's in trouble, she'd better go into hiding"? If you're going to take the position that she should have known better (and, honestly, I'm very disappointed that so many are taking that position here), you might as well go the whole hog and suggest that no one ever mention Muhammad, Islam, or anything connected with them again, because there's just no knowing what's going to set off a crazy person somewhere.
posted by languagehat at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2010 [35 favorites]


If Terry Jones had indeed burned those Qur'ans last Saturday (September 11), I wonder if a fatwa would have been issued against him.
posted by ericb at 2:35 PM on September 15, 2010


I declare the at sign to be an ASCII depiction of Mohammed.

because I hate Twitter
posted by zippy at 2:38 PM on September 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


I suppose if we were to recognize that this is the work of one marginalized radical cleric and one marginalized radical group, it would take the wind out of the OMGCRAZYMUSLIMSOUTTOKILLUSALL!!! argument. So best not to mention that.

Well, yeah, but then we'd have to acknowledge that the guy who made death threats to the South Park creators is just a lone nutjob in Brooklyn and not leading an international brigade of screaming fanatics, so ... fuck it. Can of worms and all that.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:41 PM on September 15, 2010


Whoa, I'm not taking the position that she should have known better. I suspect she did know what she was doing had some risk, and was brave about it. I am always going to wonder if it's going to accomplish anything positive, but it's definitely her right to do it, and to expect the assistance of those around her in protecting her ability to exercise her rights.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:43 PM on September 15, 2010


You know, I can question the wisdom of her decision, but in terms of morality she is full stop in the right. Those that would threaten her life are full stop in the wrong. I guess she shouldn't have worn that outfit either, she was asking for it.
posted by I Foody at 2:47 PM on September 15, 2010


Having said what I said -- and even a whiff of artistic ability -- would I draw the prophet? Fuck no, I'm not (that much of) a jerk.
posted by klanawa at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2010


I understand the desire not to have your statements censored, but that desire doesn't make me tour the bible belt, doing performance art where I wipe my ass with a picture of Madonna and child in order to taunt the fundie Christians. Is this the way to change these cultures, or are we just locking in the attitudes of xenophobia and persecution that intensify fundamentalist movements in the first place?

The obvious alternative to "locking in the attitudes of xenophobia and persecution that intensify fundamentalist movements in the first place" is to recognize and obey the fundamentalist moral code in order to avoid offense. That doesn't just include refraining from blasphemous performance art and leaving your Mohammed drawings at home, it includes any number of other things that we who are not fundamentalist simply don't have as cultural values. We've already gone pretty far down the rabbit hole trying to keep the Christian fundies from getting offended, which has brought us such lovely values as intelligent design and "death panels"; I can hardly wait to do the same thing for the Muslims, all the while exclaiming that culture is immutable and unassailable... as long as it isn't ours.

I for one am not willing to re-write my morality to match someone else's. This is the entire point of free speech and freedom of religion -- if we're all going to stop doing things which cause fundamentalists offense, we may as well just declare fundamentalism our state religion while we're at it. It'd be more honest.
posted by vorfeed at 2:51 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Next up: Everybody Poke a Hornet's Nest With A Stick Day
posted by goethean at 9:23 PM on September 15


Hornets are dumb creatures who don't know better than to go nuts when provoked. Human beings should be smarter than that.
posted by Decani at 2:51 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think she did some good. I think shaking the hornets' nest, so that everyone can watch hornets do what hornets do, does some good.
posted by gurple at 2:55 PM on September 15, 2010


The right to free speech is not the same as the right to consequence-free speech.
posted by rocket88 at 9:57 PM on September 15 [+]


What, even if those consequences are threats, violence and murder?
posted by Decani at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


slab_lizard: "One of these things is not like the other:
A) mocking fundamentalist thought with offensive cartoons
B) murdering another human being because she offended you.

Offensive writing, on the other hand, is, of course, unforgivable. That Salman Rushdie fellow has it coming. Dan Savage, too.
"

Don't forget Stephanie Meyer!
posted by symbioid at 2:57 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


> would I draw the prophet? Fuck no, I'm not (that much of) a jerk.

A jerk? Really? Because there are people who think it's bad?
posted by languagehat at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


                  .--------------.
               ___|  _  _  _  _  |____________________________
              /   |  || || || ||_|___             _      _   /;
             /.--------------.      /|___       +(_)    (/) //
            / |  _  _  _  _  |     / ___ \      _  OUT     //
           /  |  || || || || |____/ ___ \(\)  -(_)        //
          /   |  || || || || |    | /  \(\)   _          //
         /    |______________|____|/   (\)  -(_)        //
        / _                                 _  BAT _   //
       / (\) MJP                          +(_) 9v (=) //
      /______________________________________________//
      `----------------------------------------------' 

I am the real likeness of Mohammed
posted by everichon at 3:03 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did you read about the thousands of Muslims who attended the peaceful 'not in our name' protests around the world in support of free expression? Me neither. Not in the mainstream, not on blogs, not on Muslim news sites. I did and do read about thousands of Muslims protesting comics and murdering artists. Weekly. And that's just in English. Moderate Muslim world, now is time time to step up.
posted by eccnineten at 3:05 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


But aren't we violating Anwar Alawlaki's right to Free Speech when we tell him he can't say "this person deserves to die?" It's not like he's hiring a hit man to do the killing...
When was the last time Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula managed to kill anyone in America?


From Wikipedia: Al-Awlaki's sermons were attended by three of the 9/11 hijackers. He reportedly met privately with at least two of the hijackers in San Diego, and one hijacker moved from there to Falls Church, Virginia, as al-Awlaki moved. ... His sermons were also attended by the accused Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan. In addition, U.S. intelligence intercepted at least 18 emails between Hasan and al-Awlaki from December 2008 to June 2009, including one in which Hasan wrote: "I can't wait to join you [in the afterlife]." "Christmas Day bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met with al-Awlaki, and said he was one of his al-Qaeda trainers, involved in planning or preparing the attack, and provided religious justification for it,"

That's 13 dead in Texas, about 3,000 in 9/11, and 289 potential victims in the failed Christmas Day bombing. How many victims do you need before you think he crossed the line?
posted by msalt at 3:05 PM on September 15, 2010


Moderate Muslim world, now is time time to step up.

The same argument is easily made toward Christian moderates when Christian fundamentalists do something crazy.

The trouble, to my understanding, is that Christian moderates don't see themselves as tied to the fundamentalists in the same way that non-Christians do. They think, "what do those crazies over there have to do with me and my beliefs?"

I would imagine it works the same way for Muslims.
posted by gurple at 3:08 PM on September 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


> would I draw the prophet? Fuck no, I'm not (that much of) a jerk.

A jerk? Really? Because there are people who think it's bad?
posted by languagehat at 3:01 PM on September 15 [+] [!]


Well, I don't have to worry about Christians trying to kill me for drawing and publishing a cartoon of Mary blowing Jesus, but I wouldn't do it out of consideration for their beliefs, yes.
posted by barrett caulk at 3:08 PM on September 15, 2010


Actually, I probably would. Never mind.
posted by barrett caulk at 3:09 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of you are focusing on the distinction between the right to poke a hornet's nest and the wisdom of doing so. That misses the point: Some hornet's nests need to be poked, because that's how you knock them down.

Whether or not it's wise to draw a cartoon of Mohammed, it's worthwhile to do so to confront people like al-Awlaki. It's no different in kind from Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders directly confronting the culture and laws of segregation in the American south, at great personal risk.
posted by fatbird at 3:09 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


>>Next up: Everybody Poke a Hornet's Nest With A Stick Day
>I think she did some good. I think shaking the hornets' nest, so that everyone can watch hornets do what hornets do, does some good.


You know, I'm not OK with describing Moslems as mindless hive insects, whatever side of this issue folks are on.
posted by msalt at 3:10 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Moderate Muslim world, now is time time to step up.

They do step up--continuously--and get ignored. The fact that you don't see it in the media doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.
posted by fatbird at 3:11 PM on September 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


You know, I'm not OK with describing Moslems as mindless hive insects, whatever side of this issue folks are on.

OFFS.
posted by gurple at 3:12 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm ok with it because it works well as an analogy.
posted by found missing at 3:13 PM on September 15, 2010


Moderate Muslim world, now is time time to step up.

Hah! Time for you to step out. It's a big world, and Islam's a big religion. It's not up to the "moderate Muslim world" to do your work for you. Perhaps I can suggest you start in Senegal?
posted by iamck at 3:13 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did you actually look at the artwork?

Mea Culpa, I'm too damn ADD today, I'm coming back to MeFi when I'm a little more focused.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2010


A jerk? Really? Because there are people who think it's bad?

Possibly, languagehat, because this sort of thing is often, if not generally, done to offend. And to do something primarily to offend a person or group of people generally makes one a jerk.

As both a Muslim and a liberal person, I don't take real offense at people drawing pictures of Mohammed or what-have-you. Do what you like. I wholly (and I do mean wholly) support free speech, but my intuition is that many of these people behind things like "Draw A Picture Of Mohammed Day" aren't nearly as concerned about free speech as they are secretly happy to have an opportunity to express a lot of prejudice and hatred in a manner that's "safe" from criticism. Perhaps I'm sensitive to this, as I've been in dreadful situations viewed by the whole world, where innocent people were slaughtered by a "Western" power bent on genocide, ignorance and suppression of many basic human values, and much of what I witnessed from the outside world - while all this was going on - was a deafening silence. So I don't buy a lot of this "concern" for free speech; it feels mighty convenient in a testy time and does nothing but rattles wacky segments of the Muslim world and plays into the hands of racists and haters in the Western world. Even if that weren't the case, I'm not sure what it's really meant to achieve.

I'm not a vegetarian, but if you are, and I were to invite you over for dinner, I would not spike your soup with chicken broth. Some things are just basic etiquette.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:32 PM on September 15, 2010 [23 favorites]


A jerk? Really? Because there are people who think it's bad?
posted by languagehat at 3:01 PM on September 15 [+] [!]


If I had a friend who was Muslim, and he or she said to me, "please don't depict the prophet because it would hurt my feelings," I'd think to myself: "religion is stupid and what harm will drawing an old bearded dude cause? But this person is my friend, and there's nothing really to be gained from it, so I won't."

And I'm not one of those people who thinks it's alright to treat friends well and others badly. My girlfriend went to Bible school, but I don't go out of my way to ridicule Christianity, simply because I think a statement needs to be made.... well, maybe a little bit.

I guess the point is, exactly what good does drawing pictures of Mohammed (or anything else designed to poke fun at the prohibition thereof) do as far as neutralizing extremism? Nothing. As someone else said, extremism is a political (and social, and economic) problem, more than a religious one. Making people angry by disrespecting their religion doesn't really solve any of the problems religion contributes to in the first place, to the extent that any particular religion contributes to said problems, which I don't believe it necessarily does. Religious justifications are generally applied after the fact.
posted by klanawa at 3:35 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I had a friend who was Muslim, and he or she said to me, "I'm going to kill anyone who draws a picture of the prophet," I'd report them to the crazy police.
posted by zippy at 4:07 PM on September 15, 2010


> Possibly, languagehat, because this sort of thing is often, if not generally, done to offend. And to do something primarily to offend a person or group of people generally makes one a jerk.

But that isn't what klanawa wrote. He didn't say anything about doing something "primarily to offend a person or group of people"; he said that he would be a jerk to "draw the prophet," period. I think that's crazy talk. Obviously nobody but a jerk would go up to a group of Muslims, pull out a pen and paper, and say "Look, I'm drawing your Prophet!" But his position is tantamount to saying (to take another well-known example of sensitivity) "I wouldn't use the word niggardly even if there was nobody around who could possibly be offended."
posted by languagehat at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2010


The prohibition on pictures of the Messenger of Islam (pbuh) arises because creating such might lead to shirk the worst sin possible for a Muslim. Shirk, or "splitting", is the worship of anything other than the one God, Allah. If there are pictures of Muhammad, ignorant Muslims might start to worship Muhammad, or even the icons themselves, instead of or in addition to, Allah.

This is as willfully stupid as mixing contaminants with pure alcohol so that people won't drink it. And about as effective.

"These are the rules for civilization, people, and if you don't want to follow them a)you risk losing your claim on the benefits of civilization, or, b)we're going to ditch civilization for a moment and kill you."

Pathetic.

But good! but good!!
posted by carping demon at 4:11 PM on September 15, 2010


> what good does drawing pictures of Mohammed (or anything else designed to poke fun at the prohibition thereof) do as far as neutralizing extremism?

So you should only say or draw things if they will be effective at neutralizing extremism? "Why are you drawing that tree? It won't do anything to neutralize extremism!" What if someone simply wants to draw a set of major religious figures? For, you know, their own reasons, which (we'll stipulate) do not involve pissing people off? You're saying that they should censor themselves because somebody somewhere has declared a certain subject off limits. I repeat, I'm very disappointed in the general attitude here.
posted by languagehat at 4:11 PM on September 15, 2010


(That last line's a joke, son.)
posted by carping demon at 4:12 PM on September 15, 2010


So you should only say or draw things if they will be effective at neutralizing extremism?

No, but if there's no greater purpose to what you're doing, simply "because I feel like it," isn't necessarily the strongest justification when you know that people will be negatively affected. This is, of course, my personal choice to make. I would not excuse the violence done to anyone who chose otherwise, nor would I object to an artist's exercise of their freedom to create.

If I had a friend who was Muslim, and he or she said to me, "I'm going to kill anyone who draws a picture of the prophet," I'd report them to the crazy police.

I'd ask to talk to a sane one.
posted by klanawa at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it would make a lot more sense (and be a hell of a lot riskier) for people from a Muslim background and probably also living in Muslim-majority societies to draw Muhammad, in terms of free speech and criticizing/critiquing religion. Otherwise it comes across as "pick on a despised minority in American (European, etc.) society day." You can't successfully export or import revolutions, including secular anti-clerical ones. Along with the fact that in this era the US (and Denmark, but moreso the US obviously) have been killing and causing suffering to a lot more Muslims than vice-versa

In terms of the specific cartoon, it reminds me of Roz Chast and I certainly imagined much worse, since a number of the famous Danish cartoons were racist caricatures beyond any religious spoofing or critique. I also don't think a specific person's fatwa should be followed to kill her...uh, obviously.
posted by Gnatcho at 4:30 PM on September 15, 2010


Dee Xtrovert wrote: Possibly, languagehat, because this sort of thing is often, if not generally, done to offend.

Really? You think Molly Norris set out to offend people?

I've been in dreadful situations viewed by the whole world, where innocent people were slaughtered by a "Western" power bent on genocide, ignorance and suppression of many basic human values, and much of what I witnessed from the outside world - while all this was going on - was a deafening silence.

So ... Molly Norris ought to die because NATO didn't act fast enough to stop the Serbs killing people? Or do you mean that we ought to follow Anwar al-Awlaki's fatwa as a gesture of respect to the victims of a different xenophobic murderer?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


But aren't we violating Anwar Alawlaki's right to Free Speech when we tell him he can't say "this person deserves to die?"

Who's "we"? And who told him he "can't" say it? Honest question, not rhetorical -- I don't know if the government has taken any action against him. Have they?

What I gather from the links (and if I'm missing something, please point it out) is that the government is taking action to protect the target of a death threat. Does it really need to be pointed out why this doesn't violate anyone's right to free speech?
posted by John Cohen at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2010


If I had a friend who was Muslim, and he or she said to me, "please don't depict the prophet because it would hurt my feelings," I'd think to myself: "religion is stupid and what harm will drawing an old bearded dude cause? But this person is my friend, and there's nothing really to be gained from it, so I won't."

The problem with this is that there are spoken and unspoken prejudices which determine whether or not one is entitled to take offense at the actions of others. This sort of "respect" toward some belief systems serves to shore up that system of prejudice and limit the sphere of expression -- it's not just a consequence-free part of "treating others well", and there is something to be gained by rejecting it.

There's a reason why the Constitution specified that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, even though most people in early America were religious. In order for religion to be safe from censorship, even "voluntary" self-censorship, offensive blasphemy must also be safe, because what's sacred to one man may be blasphemous and offensive to another. The early Americans knew this, because it was actually the case at the time... and frankly, had they accepted your definition of "going out of your way to ridicule" religion, there would probably be no free exercise of Catholicism in this country today, as Nativist Protestants at the time thought Catholics were deliberately doing exactly that.

In short: I don't buy the idea that "making people angry by disrespecting their religion" is somehow worse than "making people angry by disrespecting their politics" or "making people angry by disrespecting their country". All of us have to deal with ideas that offend us, and this country was founded on the ideal that one man's sense of offense is no more or less important than anyone else's.
posted by vorfeed at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


Well, either we're playing on a global stage, where we need to take into account other cultures and their sensitivities, or we are not, and we can ignore people who may have different views on what is appropriate and what isn't. You can't have both. In the US, we give a bit more than lip service to the concept of free speech, but in much of the world (particularly countries where the type of people who issue fatwas calling for the death of someone live), free speech doesn't exist.

So, do we then seek to impose our own values on these countries? Maybe by overthrowing the current regime and doing hard-core nation building? So we can have free speech within our borders in the context of a global culture? Or do we find within ourselves the ability to compromise our own speech, which may be as free as we can make it within our own borders but which, in our age of instantaneous world-wide communication, may offend those who live in more closed societies?

It's a difficult line to walk.

I seem to recall a passage in a book by Sherri S. Tepper which described an idea of communication as the "shit on your doorstep" concept. Without tracking it down immediately, the idea is that, the further you get from your own parlor, the more attention one should give to community standards, spoken or non, as to what that speech might contain. I'm free to shit on my own doorstep if I choose, but shitting on the public sidewalk is less acceptable. Shitting in the middle of a shopping mall or public market is even less acceptable. Etc etc.

I'm sure I'm not representing that clearly, but it makes sense to me. I should try to dig up that passage.

When we live in a world of global communication, perhaps we need to have a more global understanding of what may be taken the wrong way. After all, travelers to other countries have to learn which hand to extend in greeting (if any), or what hand gestures might be vulgar, and that's just as tourists. Getting into issues like the entanglement of religion and politics, you undoubtedly have to tread even more carefullly.
posted by hippybear at 4:42 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I don't have to worry about Christians trying to kill me for drawing and publishing a cartoon of Mary blowing Jesus, but I wouldn't do it out of consideration for their beliefs, yes.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:08 PM on September 15


And would you similarly refrain from drawing a picture of David Duke blowing Will Smith out of "consideration for his beliefs"?
posted by Decani at 4:43 PM on September 15, 2010


I don't know if the government has taken any action against him. Have they?

He's reportedly "on a targeting list signed off on by the Obama administration" to be extrajudicially killed by the CIA or the military.

This is problematic at best, as it's not clear that the President has the legal right to order the killing of individuals, much less individual US citizens such as Awlaki.
posted by orthogonality at 4:46 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cleric's just talking all this shit about offending the Prophet as a front for his real motivation: Dude can't stand Comic Sans.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2010


Wake up, cartoonist hating murderers, and recognize the real enemy.
posted by crazylegs at 4:56 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ah, here it is. I have found it.
"Students of history will recall that prior to Dispersion, our Earthian ancestors espoused civil liberties, " Haraldson explained. "Theoretical liberties, however, were too often assured at the expense of actual civilities, and as such civilities were lost, litigation emerged as a way of life with a consequent reduction in real liberties for all persons except lawyers, who, like mercenaries, are profiteers of discord. Persons were actually allowed, by law, under the guise of free expression, to shout into the faces of those who held different opinions and to intrude on their privacy. Liberty has two legs. Vigilance is certain one, but civility is as certainly the other.

"With this in mind, I hereby establish the defecation rule: A defecator is at liberty to commit the act, but he may not commit it on his neighbor's doorstep or in the quiet street in front of his neighbor's house, or in his neighbor's alley, or in his neighbor's customary place of work, or anyplace where the neighbor or any other passer-by may step in it by accident in his own zone of privacy and tranquility.

"This means that any opinion may be expressed privately or in incorporated communities of the likeminded from which the non-likeminded are at liberty to depart. When an opinion moves into another's zone of privacy and tranquility, however, civility shall reign. If the Hairless Supremacists of Thor plan to march through a quiet community of furry Krumats with the sole intent of discomfiting the Krumats thereby, they may not do so, for though freedom of expression is guaranteed, a captive audience for an incivility is not.

"Our neighborhoods are an extension of our homes. Our right to privacy does not stop at our front doors. Our rights to the tranquility of our own senses and the privacy of our own space only gradually decrease as we move from our homes to the neighborhood street, down that street through our incorporated community of like minded persons, out of that community and into the arteries of public commerce, waning gradually as we come to areas also used by other persons and ideas. Even there, we hold about ourselves a bubble of privacy which we lose totally only when we relinquish both senses and space by voluntarily choosing to become a tourist or part of a live audience.

"Despite this rule of civility, departure from the community and open expression of opinion must remain absolute rights, and every community and every government must provide both opportunities for departure and venues for expression. Such opportunities and venues shall be both fully accessible to and fully avoidable by all citizens. No one shall attempt to control the coming and going from such venues or the events occurring within them."
--Sherri S. Tepper, Six Moon Dance pages 28-29
posted by hippybear at 5:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really? You think Molly Norris set out to offend people?

Why'd she do it then?
posted by elsietheeel at 5:08 PM on September 15, 2010


Stick your head in the sand if you like, but the rest of us will be up here pushing back against the extremist douchebags until they are gone, gone, gone.

posted by Aquaman at 3:55 PM on September 15 [1 favorite +] [!]


You're sounding a little extremist yourself there.
posted by goethean at 5:08 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


>>You know, I'm not OK with describing Moslems as mindless hive insects, whatever side of this issue folks are on.

>OFFS. [It's a metaphor].


Yeah, well calling Africans monkeys is a metaphor, too. The problem with using animal world metaphors on people is that it reduces them to less than human. As in this case, removing their individual identity and responsibility.
posted by msalt at 5:20 PM on September 15, 2010




Stick your head in the sand if you like, but the rest of us will be up here pushing back against the extremist douchebags until they are gone, gone, gone.

You're sounding a little extremist yourself there.
\

Let's not pretend all extremism is the same. When you're extremely on the the side of free speech/expression/free will etc. then it's not the same bag as religious extremism, which is only extreme in it's narrowness.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:23 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Or do we find within ourselves the ability to compromise our own speech, which may be as free as we can make it within our own borders but which, in our age of instantaneous world-wide communication, may offend those who live in more closed societies?

No.

> Theoretical liberties, however, were too often assured at the expense of actual civilities

What utter crap.
posted by languagehat at 5:26 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why'd she do it then?

Why is this even an issue?

Here's a hypothetical.

Let's say that instead of being about a woman who had to fear for her life because of public threat to kill her, this FPP were about a different woman, someone who was afraid because of a public threat to rape her. Let's say a man wrote this threat on an online message board (which wouldn't be the first time that's happened). And let's say he added something about how she was asking for it, always enticing him by looking so hot in her short skirt, etc.

Think of the reaction you would see in this comments section. Would any commenter spend any time talking about how she was bringing on the threats herself? It wouldn't matter how salacious her choice of clothing or makeup or anything else was. If any commenter dwelled on this point, this would be -- to put it mildly -- denounced.

However ... you could still understand the mindset of the man who makes the rape threat and feels that he's justified by how she dressed or acted or talked or whatever. And you can, if you want, understand the mindset of the man who threatens to kill a woman for drawing a satirical cartoon.

It's fine to understand these things. But understanding should not turn into condoning the crime or blaming the victim.
posted by John Cohen at 5:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


understanding should not turn into condoning the crime or blaming the victim.

*shrug* difference of worldview, I guess. I don't expect people living in foreign countries to conform to my countries laws or my culture's method of approach.
posted by hippybear at 5:44 PM on September 15, 2010


The best way to handle extremism is:

a) Show that your society is friendly to normal folks, thereby negating the arguments of extremists and winning more of the normal folks over to your side (who, then, also produce a dampening effect on extremists)

b) Mock all the people, thereby proving the extremists' points, piss off the moderates so they don't care if the extremists go off on you... because pissing contests with crazies always are worth it because you can claim the higher moral ground.

Hmm, yes. I see, the best way to defuse hate is by inciting hateful reactions. That'll totally work!
posted by yeloson at 5:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why can't these Muslim authorities declare fatwas on drug lords, genocidal maniacs...or even something as huge and silly as world hunger rather than people whose profession rhymes with frogger, and whose names are "Molly".

Silly Muslims worrying about small shitty inconsequential problems.

Now back to my western tv, so i can watch paris on cocaine charges telling us where on her body she hides her drugs and tiger getting busted for sexing up hos in all sorts of area codes...in between commercials about that war thing.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:53 PM on September 15, 2010


Let's not pretend all extremism is the same. When you're extremely on the the side of free speech/expression/free will etc. then it's not the same bag as religious extremism, which is only extreme in it's narrowness.

Exactly what part of "the rest of us will be up here pushing back against the extremist douchebags until they are gone, gone, gone" is "extremely on the side of free speech/expression/free will"? Seems to me someone of that political bent wouldn't be calling for the eradication of people whose words and ideas they disagree with.

Just sayin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:57 PM on September 15, 2010


I guess the point is, exactly what good does drawing pictures of Mohammed (or anything else designed to poke fun at the prohibition thereof) do as far as neutralizing extremism?

It forces the real extremists, the would-be murderers, out into the open, provoking them to take immediate action (which is likely to be less well thought out and thus less successful), when instead they might have taken their time and done more damage later.

It forces the not-quite-extremists, the cant-bring-themselves-to-be murderers, to confront the fact that in the face of a provocation to murder they just aren't doing it. And because there's a human bias which pressures us to rationalize our own actions, people who find they can't commit murder are more likely to question the beliefs which told them they should have committed murder. If you grow up being taught that you should kill the idolators, and there's none of them around to kill, but then when you turn 27 someone creates (by your definition) an idol, then you might be a danger to that person. If you grow up being taught that you should kill the idolators, but there's idolators regularly in the news and neither you nor your teachers seem to ever getting around to killing them... then your disregard for the practice of that vile idea may turn into disregard for the idea itself, making the world a safer place for everyone.

Finally, violations of various prohibitions typically provide data which often serves to undercut the rationalizations for the prohibitions. Not sure if this one applies to drawings of Mohammed, but I know that the War On Drugs and the Defense Of Marriage (From Queers!) wouldn't seem quite as ridiculous if there weren't plenty of counter-examples around.
posted by roystgnr at 5:58 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


The war on terror has a certain pathetic refrain to it. Every few months, the FBI entraps a poor moron attending a mosque to buy fake Stinger missiles, or the obsequious media reprints government talking points about some guy in a turban acting like a barbaric fanatic. Gotta keep reminding the public who the enemy is I guess.
posted by simms2k at 5:59 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


you might as well go the whole hog and suggest that no one ever mention Muhammad, Islam, or anything connected with them again, because there's just no knowing what's going to set off a crazy person somewhere.

I'm guessing there's a whole lot of people out there doing just that.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:02 PM on September 15, 2010


*shrug* difference of worldview, I guess. I don't expect people living in foreign countries to conform to my countries laws or my culture's method of approach.

According to Wikipedia, Anwar al-Awlaki was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and lived in the United States for over thirty years.
posted by timing at 6:09 PM on September 15, 2010




According to Wikipedia, Anwar al-Awlaki was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Everytime I come across that tidbit (Las Cruces in my hometown, and I lived there until 29 years old), I do a double-take.
posted by hippybear at 6:16 PM on September 15, 2010


The idea that Anwar Alawlaki is at all representative of mainstream Muslim thought is moronic. The fact anyone gives this idiot air-time, and that we're even bothering to discuss his predictable and marginal opinions on anything astounds me - much less that a lot of people here are acting as if his retrogade opinions are somehow representative of a faith practised by billions of people.

But then, here in Australia there was plenty of coverage of that idiot Jones who wanted to burn the Koran, so I guess the media is an equal-opportunity faux-outrage shit-stirrer.

Alawlaki's opinion is wrong and stupid - most everyone in the world would agree on that. Talking about it as anything other than a the rambling of a marginalised loon gives it a legitimacy it neither deserves, nor can claim, and whichever side you fall on ultimate buys into the clash of civilisation nonsense that Christian, secular, and Muslim aggressors are trying to fuel.
posted by smoke at 6:22 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sometimes people just draw Mohammed, too. I mean South Park had Mohammed in the show in "Super Best Friends", uncensored. He was just one of the crew (he even helped defeat David Blaine! he was a hero! ), it made sense given the episode, and he certainly wasn't given any more disrespect than others on South Park are (OK that's a ludicrously low bar, but you get the idea).

People depict religious figures for all sorts of reasons, and often in ways that at least some of their followers would disagree with (I'm sure there are fundie Christians are offended by the fairly mild treatment of Jesus on South Park, for example). Sometimes this is done with explicit intent to offend, but it's not like there is no other artistic reason to draw Mohammed, and worrying about what some people believe is not really a good reason not to.

After all, there would be NO PORN AT ALL if we worried about that. Think about that!
posted by wildcrdj at 6:31 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


*shrug* difference of worldview, I guess. I don't expect people living in foreign countries to conform to my countries laws or my culture's method of approach.

This isn't about "expecting" everyone to conform to our "approach." We're talking about the most basic respect for human life. It's like you're saying you don't expect people in other countries to be human. I don't understand it. Nothing people do in other countries bothers you?
posted by John Cohen at 6:46 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why can't these Muslim authorities declare fatwas on drug lords

They did. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan created the largest increase in opium production in the country since the Soviet era.

Not sure what else to add because it seems that there's nothing you can say here that will satisfy a handful of people who have Tea-Party level objection to contrary thoughts about it. I vocally opposed the stupid, stupid "Draw Mohammed Day" idea when it was first proposed and I won't backpedal on it now. It is horrible that a very small, very insignificant and very stupid decision escalated into something that ruined a person's life. If saying that means I support rapists then yeah, we're having a conversation here, really.

Norris, for the record, disavowed her own "campaign" days after proposing it when she naively failed to realize it would become a right-wing calling card. (I scoffed, as her comments were "I had no idea this would go viral;" a rather silly defense to offer about a cartoon you posted on the internet asking to gather people together to all do a specific thing at a specific time.) But if I do feel like there should be blame on Norris, it's a millionth of the blame that belongs to the racist, obnoxious and single-minded assholes who like always leaped on this as if they had some kind of instinctive need to validate their ability to do whatever they wanted.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine a better reductio ad absurdum of moral relativism than shrugging off someone threatening a woman with death for drawing a cartoon.
posted by John Cohen at 6:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sometimes people just draw Mohammed, too. I mean South Park had Mohammed in the show in "Super Best Friends", uncensored. He was just one of the crew (he even helped defeat David Blaine! he was a hero! ), it made sense given the episode, and he certainly wasn't given any more disrespect than others on South Park are (OK that's a ludicrously low bar, but you get the idea).

People depict religious figures for all sorts of reasons, and often in ways that at least some of their followers would disagree with (I'm sure there are fundie Christians are offended by the fairly mild treatment of Jesus on South Park, for example). Sometimes this is done with explicit intent to offend, but it's not like there is no other artistic reason to draw Mohammed, and worrying about what some people believe is not really a good reason not to.


When the controversy first started in April I wrote a long post about it, and the last graf pretty much explains why this is frustrating to me: "I couldn't draw Mohammed right now if I wanted to, because right-wing bloggers and whiny pundits have turned a religious symbol- yet another religious symbol- into an obligatory message of vitriol against that very religion. We've made the prophet Mohammed mean to Islam what Hitler made the Manjii mean to Hinduism. I've lost the ability to use that image in any way I see fit because you've all branded it. And that's a freedom that's been taken from me and I don't see a lot of people upset about that perspective."

Yeah, Mohammed appeared in nearly a hundred episodes of South Park because of the opening credits. And no one gave a shit. Then they did a two part episode about "tee hee, people are angry when we draw Mohammed so we're going to mock that." You can bark and bray about their rights to do that forever, it doesn't affect that this is what happened. Something something nice things.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:52 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm hereby claiming rights to produce merchandise that has a picture of a guy with the words "THIS IS NOT MOHAMMED" beneath him. This will inevitably lead to my petitioning for an "Everybody Draw Not Mohammed Day," which I believe will be the first holiday that everyone on the planet can take part in.

Unless this has already been thought of, in which case, shucks.
posted by Brackish at 6:59 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem with this is that there are spoken and unspoken prejudices which determine whether or not one is entitled to take offense at the actions of others. This sort of "respect" toward some belief systems serves to shore up that system of prejudice and limit the sphere of expression -- it's not just a consequence-free part of "treating others well", and there is something to be gained by rejecting it.

I live in Canada under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I also have a dynamic personal moral code. If a religious person wants to, say, perform genital mutilation on a child or deny deny a woman her rights, I say "fuck 'em." There is a line. Offending religious people by demanding that they respect rights bestowed on individuals by legal or moral codes in a secular country is different than offending people through petty acts of desecration, unless those acts have a legitimate political purpose.

PZ Meyers can shit on a mountain of communion wafers if he likes, but it's not going to do anything to save alterboys from pedofile preists. It's a stunt. Depicting Mohammed is a stunt. Protecting people from opression or disfigurement is a moral imperative. There's a difference.
posted by klanawa at 7:00 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


*pedophile
posted by klanawa at 7:02 PM on September 15, 2010


*altarboys
posted by klanawa at 7:02 PM on September 15, 2010


In civilized societies, it's unacceptable to commit acts of violence against someone because of the political...content of someone's speech

I agree, but nobody had committed an act of violence. So far the only consequence has been that one guy, Anwar al-Awlaki, has called for her death. I think it was wrong of him to do so, but I also think she should have expected this kind of reaction.

Are you honestly saying you think she doesn't have a right to physical safety since she drew an offensive cartoon or talked about drawing offensive cartoons?

No, I'm not. I'm saying she knew there would be consequences and she chose to do it anyway. Whether those consequences are moral or right or legal doesn't change that fact.

And I think any offended Muslims would be quite right to write strongly worded letters ...
Wait, they want to do what?


There is no special, lowered standard for Muslims.

These two statements are kind of offensive. "The Muslims" haven't done anything to this woman. One cleric has. Why do you feel the need to blame them all for this?
posted by rocket88 at 7:03 PM on September 15, 2010


This "well, speech has consequences, therefore it's OK if she gets killed because she should have known better than to be 'offensive'" argument is blowing my mind.

It would blow my mind too, if anyone had actually made it. Nobody here has said she deserved it. I'm just saying she shouldn't have done it. I think al-Awlaki is criminally stupid and Norris is just stupid. There's plenty of wrong to go around here.
posted by rocket88 at 7:09 PM on September 15, 2010


It forces the real extremists, the would-be murderers, out into the open, provoking them to take immediate action (which is likely to be less well thought out and thus less successful), when instead they might have taken their time and done more damage later.

The old, "make them so cross that they make a mistake!" strategy, eh? You might be right. You might also be alienating the moderates, the people with whom you would have had the potential to form an alliance had you reached out in friendship, rather than taking potshots at their sacred figures.
posted by klanawa at 7:13 PM on September 15, 2010


Yes, it is clearly the correct thing for nobody to ever do anything that might offend the most radical and unhinged members of Islam, and if in the course of that dedicated evasion of offense-giving we sacrifice the sanctity of our constitutionally-protected and historically hard-won right to free expression, so much the better!
posted by clockzero at 7:16 PM on September 15, 2010


*shrug* difference of worldview, I guess. I don't expect people living in foreign countries to conform to my countries laws or my culture's method of approach.

This isn't about "expecting" everyone to conform to our "approach." We're talking about the most basic respect for human life. It's like you're saying you don't expect people in other countries to be human. I don't understand it. Nothing people do in other countries bothers you?


Yeah, actually, it is about expecting just that. Although at no time did I ever equate my acknowledgement that there are other countries and other laws with an attitude of dehumanization toward non-US citizens, so I hope you discontinue with that accusation.

Basic respect for human life comes in many forms. It's terrible that people can have international death threats leveled against them for the threat of drawing a cartoon. But without any kind of equivalency of extremity being implied, I also think it's terrible that there's a huge amount of basic disregard for the belief system of 1/3 of the world's population.

I'm not saying that all of Islam wants to kill people who go against the strictures of their religion. Far from it -- I believe that it's a faith which, in its non-extreme forms, contributes a lot to the lives of those who follow it. But, similar to the Amarillo Quran burning thread, there seems to be an awful lot of "well, fuck them, what they think doesn't matter" attitude toward Muslims expressed here lately on MetaFilter. And that is disturbing on some level.

If, as many here seem to have expressed in this thread, the general belief is that people should be respected and given a path to lead their lives as they see fit, that should extend beyond the cultural fishbowl in which one swims. Respect is given usually in equal measure as it is granted. And from most evidence that I've followed over the last decade or so, the great complaint from Islam toward the west is that it generally isn't respected by those in the West.

This isn't specific to the US. Look at the head scarf thing going on in France right now for a non-US example.

Do I believe that there are egregious human rights issues practiced in many countries? I do. In many, they relate to the dominant religion of the culture. It's entirely possible that the state of the prison system in the US stems from its Puritan beginnings. We tend to sublimate and disguise the religion-based crimes against humanity we perform here better, because of the supposed wall between church and state. Some religions seem to have developed in ways which allow them to commit horrible crimes against their own; the continuing revelations of systemic child sex abuse within the Catholic Church is solid evidence of this.

These things should be spoken out against, and working toward ending them is admirable.

But a lot of what I seem to be reading in this thread isn't written with any kind of tolerant, informed eye toward ending them. Instead it's outrage that anyone could get worked up over drawings of Mohammad, period. I agree, issuing a world-wide death threat isn't a measured kind of "getting worked up", but the continued "they don't see the world like us so they are wrong wrong wrong" rhetoric is culturally blind.

What are the correct solutions? As far as evolutions of Abrahamic religions go, the Muslim faith is right about at the Spanish Inquisition point in their development. Do we kill all the religions teachers who would issue a fatwa such as the one we are discussing? Do we take over their countries and demand that they cease and desist? Most of our talk in a discussion thread such as this one, if read by someone who is a Muslim extremist who would support such a fatwa, will be read as "they won't let us have our beliefs". So, what is the way to counter this?
posted by hippybear at 7:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why can't these Muslim authorities declare fatwas on drug lords, genocidal maniacs...

Because the particlar Muslim authorities we're talking about are crazy nutjobs who really only have an interest in political gainsmanship by trying to get their followers to blame all their problems on Western culture. These particular Muslim authorities aren't moral or religious leaders, they're paranoid politicians. They do not in any way represent Muslim authority.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


This will inevitably lead to my petitioning for an "Everybody Draw Not Mohammed Day," which I believe will be the first holiday that everyone on the planet can take part in.

What about Jehovah's Witnesses?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:21 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Holy shit there are so many strawmen in this thread it's like when you stage the Wizard of Oz in first grade and three kids have to play the Scarecrow so no one in the class is left out.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:22 PM on September 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


Yes, it is clearly the correct thing for nobody to ever do anything that might offend the most radical and unhinged members of Islam

No, she did something that she *knew* would offend *all* Muslims.
posted by rocket88 at 7:26 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's what makes this different from pictures making fun of the Shoah --
...The pictures only even potentially become a problem if a foolish Muslim is purveying the pictures in a way that suggests they could be objects of worship. Which isn't the case here.


So as long as there are no practical repercussions to making fun of the holocaust, it isn't problematic? I think the only reason this is an issue at all is the intent behind it, which is nothing to do with getting people to worship idols. It is clearly seen as being disrespectful to members of the religion. The whole point is "haha they're so dumb they think it matters whether you draw a picture of some stupid guy!"

Did you actually look at the artwork? ... It's not a depiction of a grim-looking bearded guy beheading someone while ogling his four wives;...It's a depiction of a bunch of household objects (a teacup, a spool, etc.) each saying "I am the real likeness of Mohammed!" "No, it's me!" etc. It's funny and completely non-offensive to anyone but an insane person

Really? To someone who thinks Mohammed is a sacred figure and that not representing him is a meaningful law, it seems believable to me it is mocking and bullying.

I'm not saying people shouldn't have the right to do this, or that members of religions shouldn't relax and take their beliefs less seriously - but I do think that is a very western angle on things. Some people will truly be shamed and angered by someone making light of things that are profound and all-important to them.
posted by mdn at 7:32 PM on September 15, 2010


There is no special, lowered standard for Muslims.

These two statements are kind of offensive. "The Muslims" haven't done anything to this woman. One cleric has. Why do you feel the need to blame them all for this?


Could you please do a better job of reading what I wrote?
posted by John Cohen at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2010


Yeah, actually, it is about expecting just that. Although at no time did I ever equate my acknowledgement that there are other countries and other laws with an attitude of dehumanization toward non-US citizens, so I hope you discontinue with that accusation.

No, I don't discontinue it. You have expressed an attitude that dehumanizes people of foreign countries.
posted by John Cohen at 7:40 PM on September 15, 2010


What about Jehovah's Witnesses?

If we don't tell them about it, they can still take part.
posted by Brackish at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2010


No, I don't discontinue it. You have expressed an attitude that dehumanizes people of foreign countries.

Nah, I didn't. But you're welcome to continue to THINK that's what I said, if it helps you get through the night. I don't have energy or time to try to dispel the willful misunderstandings of people such as yourself.
posted by hippybear at 7:43 PM on September 15, 2010


And of course it is not about the fact that you "acknowledge[] that there are other countries and other laws." No one would disagree with that.

It's that you specifically excerpted my point about not condoning death threats or blaming the victim, and you pointedly said you don't care about this (that's what "shrug" means, right?) because of his foreign-ness. That's moral relativism, and it's wrong.

Now, you can say you didn't say it. But it's right up there in black and white, or white and blue.

If you excuse the fact that someone from being a murderous brute based on the fact that he's in a foreign country, you're dehumanizing him. Period.
posted by John Cohen at 7:46 PM on September 15, 2010


John Cohen: I'm sorry if i misinterpreted you.

While we're on the subject:
Are you honestly saying you think she doesn't have a right to physical safety since she drew an offensive cartoon or talked about drawing offensive cartoons?
was in response to a comment by me in which I said nothing of the sort.
posted by rocket88 at 7:46 PM on September 15, 2010


rocket88: It was a question. You've answered my question.
posted by John Cohen at 7:46 PM on September 15, 2010


Sorry, I should have written:

If you excuse someone from being a murderous brute based on the fact that he's in a foreign country, you're dehumanizing him. Period.
posted by John Cohen at 7:48 PM on September 15, 2010


John Cohen, or jaltcoh, or whoever... you're being unreasonable and fighty for no real reason. If after my lengthy comment not too far up this thread you really think that's what I meant with the words you're choosing to twist as you please, then you're not really interacting with me in good faith.
posted by hippybear at 7:50 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Where in your lengthy comment did you clear it up? I must have missed that.
posted by John Cohen at 7:51 PM on September 15, 2010


Lemme be clear: I support and defend the right of anyone to publicly say racist, obnoxious, or something-I-don't- agree-with things. Freedom of speech blah blah patriotcakes. But while we're talking about cartoons and comics, there was a cartoon superhero who once said something about great power and great responsibility. Even if that is taking the responsibility not to be a frigging asshole to people that don't deserve it.

Draw Muhammed Day was not a thumb in the eye against radical violent fundamentalists, or terrorists. It was not even a wet fart.

What it was, was a way to insult a lot of other Muslims who aren't terrorists. It added more fuel to a fire of Othering and discrimination and rage that is stoked for...

Fuck... for what, actually? Really, did people think actual terrorists were seeing the work of DMD? It was more likely that they were just doing something jerkish to everyday Muslims, not sticking it to fundamentalists or terrorists.

Do you know how I like sticking it to the terrorists? What I frigging love seeing in this country, every friggin day, that make terrosists mad?

People of all faiths and creeds and races, living together, being part of a community.

And someone who is not a Muslim deciding to draw Mohammed isn't striking a blow for any right... it's not forbidden for non-Muslims to make images of Prophet Mohammed because you aren't bound by the shariat. Shariat is only applicable to Muslims. In other words, that artist has always had the right to depict or rather mock or whatever. What does that make DMD? Sure as shit doesn't make it an an exercise in a freedom she didn't already have.

Offense for the sake of offense which is called being a bully. Of course, she has every right to contribute to bullying a group which are a minority in America.

Eurozine had an article this year about the response of depicting the Prophet here:
"Far from Islam having always forbidden representations of the Prophet, it was common to portray him until comparatively recently... Even today, few Muslims have a problem in seeing the Prophet's face. Shortly after Jyllands Posten published the cartoons, the Egyptian newspaper Al Fagr reprinted them. They were accompanied by a critical commentary, but Al Fagr did not think it necessary to blank out Mohammad's face, and faced no opprobrium for not doing so. Egypt's religious and political authorities, even as they were demanding an apology from the Danish Prime Minister, raised no objections to Al Fagr's full frontal photos.

So, if there is no universal prohibition to the depiction of Mohammad, why were Muslims universally appalled by the caricatures? They weren't. And those that were, were driven by political zeal rather than theological fervour. The publications of the cartoons in September 2005 caused no immediate reaction, even in Denmark. Only when journalists, disappointed by the lack of controversy, contacted a number of imams for their response, did Islamists begin to recognise the opportunity provided not just by the caricatures themselves but also by the sensitivity of Danish society to their publication."

I support the right for people to say any ol' sort of bigoted, hateful shit in public. Doesn't mean it's right.

Just because someone CAN do something doesn't mean they should.

I also don't think people SHOULD gleeful depictions of black people getting lynched, Jesus schtupping sheep, Mary getting raped, or gay people getting skulls bashed in

People CAN draw those things, because we do have that right.

We also have the right to proclaim that we need to have a theocracy declare being gay a crime, as some in America do. White power groups have the right to advocate white supremacy.

I also have the right to not associate with people like that.

I have the right to speak out, to call out, to SHUN those who draw hateful derogatory hurtful or racist cartoons. That's what people mean about all speech having consequences.

DMW was about being a bully... no, it was worse. iT was being a COWARDLY bully. It was about degrading and hurting a minority. It was about punishing them for what far-right violent extremist murderous terrorists did on the other side of the globe. Like it or not, Muslims are a minority here. They already have to face derision and discrimination and hate and ignorance.

Fuck that nose. I don't need to add to that negativity, especially not to make some sort of point. And that's all that stupid little stunt was. The whole thing is strategically irrational. People think that they're striking a blow for free speech or against violent religious zealots but they're just hurting moderate Muslims and stirring up animosity to a group that's an oppressed minority anyway.

Every faith has their share of radicals. If you had actually bothered to do your homework you'd see that the Qu'ran does not in fact support terrorism or that all these atrocious acts are being done by radical groups. I don't see people arguing about striking a blow for freedom by going out of thier way to be offensive to Christians for the actions of radical that bomb abortion clinics. Meanwhile the Muslims living in the United States in peace who would never want to harm people get caught in the crossfire of your misguided anger. Do people honestly think it's fair to cast judgement on all Muslisms for something a minority in their faith did?
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:53 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


Do people honestly think it's fair to cast judgement on all Muslisms for something a minority in their faith did?

Who is doing that?
posted by John Cohen at 7:55 PM on September 15, 2010


Instapundit links to this thread.
posted by John Cohen at 7:57 PM on September 15, 2010


This story, and Molly Norris' original artwork, reminds me of the fundamental concept behind this famous Rene Magritte painting -- and not just because she too featured common household objects.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:21 PM on September 15, 2010


Sadly when some Muslims tried to build a community center focused on people of faith collaborating together and expressing more moderate views of their faith, Newt Gingrich lead an angry mob through manhattan to tear up the building plans and complain about the desecration of hallowed ground.
posted by humanfont at 8:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


...but it's not like there is no other artistic reason to draw Mohammed, and worrying about what some people believe is not really a good reason not to.
After all, there would be NO PORN AT ALL if we worried about that. Think about that!
posted by wildcrdj at 6:31 PM on September 15


You know, I was kind of on the fence about this whole free speech thing till you pointed that out. Is there a "everyone create some porno day"?
posted by 445supermag at 9:01 PM on September 15, 2010


What are the correct solutions? As far as evolutions of Abrahamic religions go, the Muslim faith is right about at the Spanish Inquisition point in their development.

Thank you, Hippybear. The problem I have with these discussions (in the US) is the GRAR between "Muslims are extremists!" and "Islam is exactly like any other religion, a few extremists don't count." I seriously think a lot of people are driven to the xenophobic side by the refusal of those on the left to acknowledge problematic aspects of Islam.

I mean, 99% of Mefites would happily agree that Christianity is an aggressive religion responsible for horrible crimes. Me too. It's even fine to criticize Buddhism for it's warring nature, here. But to a fair number of folks it's impermissible to say similar (but specific things) about Islam.

In the same way that IMHO Christianity has the most problematically obnoxious missionaries of any major religion, I think Islam has a particular problem -- not universal but not limited to Islamists, either -- of taking offense at actions of non-believers and at times attacking them in response. You may disagree, but we should at least be able to discuss the specifics without that being called "Tea Party level objections."
posted by msalt at 9:11 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


> But all of these prohibitions apply to Muslims. Pictures of Muhammad are bad because a foolish Muslim might start worshiping them, tempting him into shirk. I supposed a Muslim might also worry about the Ahl al-Kitab being tempted into idol worship, but the non-Muslim People of the Book wouldn't have any particular reason to worship Muhammad -- they'd be vulnerable to pictures of, say, Mary or Jesus or Moses. And al-Mushrikeen are already practicing shirk.


That's pretty much on the money. The rules about making pictures of the Prophet, peace be upon him, or other forms of idols apply to the Muslims, not the infidels. The infidels should at least try to abide by the Golden Rule, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 PM on September 15, 2010


Next up: Everybody Poke a Hornet's Nest With A Stick Day

In retrospect, (right or wrong) fanning the flames of what's quickly become a religious war between the east and the west was probably not a very good idea.

Well, sometimes when you play with fire you get burned. Yes, this shouldn't be happening, but seriously one should consider these things before "playing" with Muslims.
What a bunch of B.S. I'm sorry but this was just some minor joke that happened to go viral. It's like being singled out for your posts on metafilter.

Interestingly the guy who issued the Fatwa was Anwar al-Awlaki, This is the same guy -- A U.S. Citizen -- who the Obama administration has been criticized for putting on an "Assassination list". Although I think I recall hearing they were going to try to charge him with some crime.
1. (Islam) A legal opinion, decree or ruling issued by a mufti or other Islamic lawyer.
The word "Fatwa" doesn't appear in the article at all. What happened is that Awlaki wrote an Op-ed in his English-language magazine "Inspire" criticizing several western cartoonists, and apparently calling for their death.

Since the magazine was in English, it should be possible to find and link to the article that criticized her. I found this but it appears to be an older issue.
Instapundit links to this thread.
God Glenn Reynolds is an idiot. He says "Blaming the victim is what people do, when they’re scared and don’t want to do anything about what’s scaring them."

So if some dude blames a chick for going up to some drunk guy's room and getting date raped, it's because he's worried about getting date raped? What an idiot.
posted by delmoi at 9:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there a "everyone create some porno day"?

On the internet, it's every day.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 PM on September 15, 2010


Basic respect for human life comes in many forms. It's terrible that people can have international death threats leveled against them for the threat of drawing a cartoon. But without any kind of equivalency of extremity being implied, I also think it's terrible that there's a huge amount of basic disregard for the belief system of 1/3 of the world's population.

Beliefs are not owed any form of respect, be they political, religious, or otherwise. People are.
posted by ripley_ at 10:15 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


> Beliefs are not owed any form of respect, be they political, religious, or otherwise. People are.

Well, people are pretty much the identities they construct for themselves. It's kind of wrong headed to presume that disrespecting someone's guiding beliefs is not also a dig on them. No one lives in the Void all of the time.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't think of an example of a free speech controversy where the provocation is less extreme without it not offending anyone in the first place. If you can't take the pro-free speech line on this one, then being honest you should really just admit that you don't believe in free speech. You believe in promoting social harmony, and that it trumps freedom of expression. Hey, that's an opinion.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 10:22 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


>

Your comment confused me, shawnstruck. The article you quoted is pegged on a controversy which began in 2007, involving a cartoon which is clearly inflammatory and offensive, but you say that Molly Norris' cartoon, which doesn't depict Mohammed in an undignified way, is an insult to Muslims. How is her cartoon offensive? It's not directed at most Muslims, it's clearly intended for the ones like, y'know, Ayman al-Zawahiri, of Islamic Jihad fame, who "warned" the US to not depict Mohammed.
posted by clockzero at 10:31 PM on September 15, 2010


clockzero: ">

Your comment confused me, shawnstruck. The article you quoted is pegged on a controversy which began in 2007, involving a cartoon which is clearly inflammatory and offensive, but you say that Molly Norris' cartoon, which doesn't depict Mohammed in an undignified way, is an insult to Muslims. How is her cartoon offensive? It's not directed at most Muslims, it's clearly intended for the ones like, y'know, Ayman al-Zawahiri, of Islamic Jihad fame, who "warned" the US to not depict Mohammed.
"

I was more adressing her inflamatory draw muhammed day and the strawman being bandied about in this thread w/r/t Muslims and faith.
posted by ShawnStruck at 10:39 PM on September 15, 2010


Yeah, that's what I was trying to ascertain. What about it is inflammatory? And I made a mistake in my last comment, Ayman al-Zawahiri was obviously not involved here.
posted by clockzero at 10:46 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I think (going back to my Sherri Tepper quote above), that it kind of reflects on the correlation to free speech, which is whether people have the right not to be offended. And one concept in that passage which stands out to me is that people shouldn't be made an unwilling audience for things. Now, with most free speech issues we talk about, the audience is fully able to turn away and leave, and so the onus on them is for remaining exposed to speech they find offensive if they're unwilling to leave the auditorium or change the channel or click away from the website.

That's where free speech works for me -- when you're not being forced to consume things you don't want. Free speech coupled with social harmony (or civility) seems to be the path of true wisdom, as far as I can tell.
posted by hippybear at 10:47 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


but you say that Molly Norris' cartoon, which doesn't depict Mohammed in an undignified way, is an insult to Muslims.

I'm not touching you. Does this bother you? I'm not touching you.

Jesus Christ, I can't believe some of you people equate her to Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders. Those people raised us up. Molly Norris's childish crap brings us down.

Is David Duke striking a blow for freedom of speech if he walks through a black neighborhood carrying a sign depicting a coon caricature eating fried chicken and watermelon?

Make no mistake. The people who threaten her life are monsters who have no place in a free society. Just because some of her enemies are monsters doesn't make her a saint.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:51 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's a very troubling issue. On one hand, I am absolutely against anyone using violence, or the threat of violence, against another human being for thinking or saying something 'wrong'. On the other hand, I am totally for violence or threats of such made against mediocre cartoonists. Quite the quandry.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:56 PM on September 15, 2010


That's a good call, Hippybear. Say what one wants, but don't shove it in someone else's face. I don't know about social harmony, though. And offense is tricky -- each individual alone controls what they are offended by, so I can't see social rules determined by that.
posted by msalt at 10:58 PM on September 15, 2010


I generally side with free speech, and I do on this one too. I've always thought that free speech allows everyone to say whatever stupid thing they want to say, conversely everyone else is free to point out how stupid the thing you just said was, and this in no way should encumber one's right to express future stupid things. I think it goes without saying that doing or saying something offensive to someone, anyone, even billions of anyones should not come with the consequence of being killed. Unless you're a Cubs fan, then all bets are off.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:16 PM on September 15, 2010


She stood to gain notoriety and readership. Her environment is hostile to Islam so she expected to be safe from criticism and reprisal. Also the sense of belonging and solidarity in "pegging one for the team" against a commonly recognized "enemy". The kind of behavior you would expect from an adolescent or a Mefite, frankly.

Also there is no distinction to be made between drawing cartoons of Mohammed and drawing cartoons of the Holocaust. They are sacrosanct roughly to the same degree in their respective cultures. In fact I regard and receive the Holocaust as I would a proselytizers or bible passages. The point about Muslims mistaking/adopting the cartoons as Idols was stupid. I can't stand her type and I can't stand the lot of you!
posted by Student of Man at 11:41 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


whether people have the right not to be offended.

Most people seem to be more interested in their right to be offended.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:01 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, Student of Man, you sure have a high opinion of Metafilter.
posted by Justinian at 1:18 AM on September 16, 2010


Shakespeherian wrote: These particular Muslim authorities aren't moral or religious leaders, they're paranoid politicians. They do not in any way represent Muslim authority.

The fatwa against Salman Rushdie was actually issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He wasn't just a political authority; he was one of the supreme religious authorities of Shia Islam. I have no idea what status al-Awlaki has in the eyes of his followers, but the point is that people can be expected to follow his religious views. Surely that's enough to make him a Muslim authority. How else would you define it?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:51 AM on September 16, 2010


I can't think of an example of a free speech controversy where the provocation is less extreme without it not offending anyone in the first place. If you can't take the pro-free speech line on this one, then being honest you should really just admit that you don't believe in free speech. You believe in promoting social harmony, and that it trumps freedom of expression. Hey, that's an opinion.
Pretty much.
I'm not touching you. Does this bother you? I'm not touching you.
You writing a comment on the Internet about how you're not touching me? No. How could it possibly bother me?

I know people don't like to have people come close to touching them in certain situations. But that generally involves people entering eachother's personal space. If you did that standing 4 meters away, people wouldn't be bothered. Except by how idiotic you'd be being

Honestly, if you look at the cartoon, I actually don't think she has a problem with Islam itself, just with censorship in general.
posted by delmoi at 2:57 AM on September 16, 2010


Joe in Australia: The word "Fatwa" was in this FPP, but it did not appear in the article. There is no evidence that a "fatwa" was issued. Please STFU. TIA.
posted by delmoi at 2:58 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


phunniemee : Man, if only I had some mad ASCII skills, then I could have a fatwa on me, too!

\O/ ---- Stick Mohammad says, "please don't kill the artists!"
 ||
 / \

Yeah, my "mad ASCII skills" kinda suck. :)


Seriously, though - The people here actually defending this BS don't really inspire me with the warm-n'-fuzzies as to the supposed benevolence of religion.

posted by pla at 3:33 AM on September 16, 2010


Wait...what the fuck? There is no fatwa against molly norris. Its just a hit put on her by a crazy dude...but even he didn't call it a fatwa.

A fatwa is huge (regardless of whether you think its crazy or not). its an actual decree...even if its against pokemon. just putting a hit on someone is akin to saying "im gonna kick your ass".

This fpp sucks, is misleading, and just plain wrong.

I can't find any source that doesn't ends with blogspot.com confirming this fatwa.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:51 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


http://voices.washingtonpost.com/comic-riffs/2010/09/report_draw_muhammad_cartoonis.html

Wait...so this is the "fatwa"?

From some dude in NEW FUCKING MEXICO?

That is not a fatwa.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:58 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The kind of behavior you would expect from an adolescent or a Mefite, frankly. (...) I can't stand her type and I can't stand the lot of you!

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posted by Shepherd at 5:44 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


----------------------------

Possibly, languagehat, because this sort of thing is often, if not generally, done to offend. And to do something primarily to offend a person or group of people generally makes one a jerk.

[...]

I'm not a vegetarian, but if you are, and I were to invite you over for dinner, I would not spike your soup with chicken broth. Some things are just basic etiquette.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:32 PM on September 15 [9 favorites +] [!]

---------------------------
So you should only say or draw things if they will be effective at neutralizing extremism?
No, but if there's no greater purpose to what you're doing, simply "because I feel like it," isn't necessarily the strongest justification when you know that people will be negatively affected. This is, of course, my personal choice to make. I would not excuse the violence done to anyone who chose otherwise, nor would I object to an artist's exercise of their freedom to create.
posted by klanawa at 4:24 PM on September 15 [1 favorite +] [!]

---------------------------
Really? You think Molly Norris set out to offend people?
Why'd she do it then?
posted by elsietheeel at 5:08 PM on September 15 [+] [!]

---------------------------
Look at what the cartoon poster itself says:
In light of the recent veiled (ha!) threats aimed at the creators of the television show South Park ... by bloggers on Revolution Muslim's website, we hereby deem May 20, 2010 as the first

"Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!"

Do your part to both water down the pool of targets and, oh yeah, defend a little something our country is famous for (but maybe not for long? Comedy Central cooperated with terrorists and pulled the episode) the first amendment.
She wanted encourage people to do their part in making it safer to criticize islam by making it harder, by sheer numbers, to issue credible threats. You should give her more credit.
posted by Anything at 6:09 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


wanted to encourage
posted by Anything at 6:10 AM on September 16, 2010


Oh, another correction! I clipped the above quote from Wikipedia. It misses the word annual. we hereby deem May 20, 2010 as the first annual "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!"

So, mark May 20, 2011 on your calendar if you are so inclined.
posted by Anything at 6:18 AM on September 16, 2010


So ... Molly Norris ought to die because NATO didn't act fast enough to stop the Serbs killing people? Or do you mean that we ought to follow Anwar al-Awlaki's fatwa as a gesture of respect to the victims of a different xenophobic murderer?

I made clear in my single post (prior to this one) here that I wholly support free speech.

And nowhere did I even imply that "Molly Norris ought to die" or anything like that. I know you have strong prejudices, Joe, but don't lie.

My point was simply more or less what ShawnStruck wrote out at length . . . a lot of people who support the whole "Draw A Picture Of Mohammed" thing aren't interested in free speech or human rights or any of that, they just come across as happy to be able to be insensitive without fear or criticism. Which is kind of jerkish.

But that isn't what klanawa wrote. He didn't say anything about doing something "primarily to offend a person or group of people"; he said that he would be a jerk to "draw the prophet," period. I think that's crazy talk. Obviously nobody but a jerk would go up to a group of Muslims, pull out a pen and paper, and say "Look, I'm drawing your Prophet!" But his position is tantamount to saying (to take another well-known example of sensitivity) "I wouldn't use the word niggardly even if there was nobody around who could possibly be offended."

I take your point, languagehat, although I assumed he meant drawing Mohammed in a sort of public way (I assumed this because the original post is about Molly N's "depiction" of Mohammed in a public sense; I don't think it's a stretch to connect the two . . . but fair enough, it was just my assumption.)

Then again:

Did you actually look at the artwork? Did anyone who's making "she had it coming" comments? It's not a depiction of a grim-looking bearded guy beheading someone while ogling his four wives; it's not a depiction of a human being at all. It's a depiction of a bunch of household objects (a teacup, a spool, etc.) each saying "I am the real likeness of Mohammed!" "No, it's me!" etc. It's funny and completely non-offensive to anyone but an insane person like the mufti in question. If the fatwa had not been issued, how many of you would have looked at that cartoon and thought "Uh-oh, she's in trouble, she'd better go into hiding"? If you're going to take the position that she should have known better (and, honestly, I'm very disappointed that so many are taking that position here), you might as well go the whole hog and suggest that no one ever mention Muhammad, Islam, or anything connected with them again, because there's just no knowing what's going to set off a crazy person somewhere.

I don't think the artwork quite as funny as you did, but it was amusing and I, for one, never thought to be offended in any way. On the other hand, I knew right away that a majority of Muslims probably would be either offended, or somewhat disgusted, and my first thought was, gee, many people will be upset by this.

I feel bad for her, not only because the fatwa is ridiculous, but because after hearing her, it's obvious that she was attempting a light-hearted joke, but that she had little real understanding of Muslim culture, of anti-Western bitterness in the Muslim world or much of any cultural awareness at all. The whole episode is unfortunate, both for her and for the majority of the world's Muslims, who will be more deeply marginalised by this idiot and his fatwa.

Then again, languagehat, I've got a lot of respect for your own intelligence and punditry, but you're either drastically underestimating the numbers of those who would be offended, or you are essentially calling the (say) two-thirds of the Muslim world who would find the artwork unfunny and insensitive "insane". I'm not especially religious, and I was brought up in a Western nation with Western values, so I'd probably find it charmingly kitsch myself to buy underwear depicting Mohammed if it were for sale. But I despair at the suggestion that a hefty proportion of the world's population is "insane" simply because they take offense at mockery of a strongly-held ideal. (I should add that all Muslims understand that Mohammed was a human being - not an angel, or the Son of God or anything like that - and it's important in Islam that he is perceived as human. A lot of what Muslims find offensive in the cartoon is the suggestion he may be less than that.)
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:22 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Phew! Who fatwa'ed?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:16 AM on September 16, 2010


Delmoi wrote: The word "Fatwa" was in this FPP, but it did not appear in the article. There is no evidence that a "fatwa" was issued. Please STFU. TIA.

I didn't say that a fatwa was issued against Molly Norris. I said one was issued against Salman Rushdie. I'll take your grovelling apology as read.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:35 AM on September 16, 2010


One curious aspect of the whole issue of drawing a picture of the Prophet is that if you do not label it "Mohammad" (or whatever alternate spelling you prefer) there is really no way to know what you have drawn. Mohammad is not like Jesus in this respect. Although neither of these historical figures ever had a portrait drawn or painted of them while they were alive (as far as we know) there have been lots of posthumous paintings of Jesus, and a certain consensus has emerged about what people imagine Jesus looked like, to such an extent that you could draw a picture of Jesus that would be recognizable without having to be labelled. (The Shroud of Turin has also added to this tradition, even though carbon dating shows that it is not old enought to actually have been the burial shroud of Jesus.) Since it has always been forbidden to draw pictures of Mohammad, no consensus has ever emerged as to what he might have looked like - although we can certainly imagine that he looked a lot like any other man of Arab heritage. But in a real sense, you can't actually draw a picture of Mohammad, since you don't know what he looked like and you don't even have any popular mythology about what he might have looked like. You can draw a picture and claim that it is a picture of Mohammad, but really, it is just a picture of a man, which could be of any man, except for your label. This point was even made by the picture drawn by Molly Norris; it is a picture of various household objects - not even people! - each of which is claiming to be Mohammad. Was Mohammad really a cherry claiming to be a person? I greatly doubt it.
posted by grizzled at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2010


She wanted encourage people to do their part in making it safer to criticize islam by making it harder, by sheer numbers, to issue credible threats. You should give her more credit.

She wanted to defend the first amendment despite the fact that it was in no danger of any sort, and in fact this is not and has never been a first-amendment issue; she took exception to Viacom's decision to bleep out or remove parts of an episode they owned, made with their budget, resources and airtime, due to the fact that credible death threats had been made towards their employees.

The best way she could think of to do this was picking a fight with a fringe extremist group composed of homicidal assholes and attempting to get coverage through relevant media outlets. As soon as she got precisely the reaction she was shooting for, she took her site offline and went into hiding.

I am giving her exactly the right amount of credit.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


"It's like Al Qaeda's Tiger Beat," said one senior U.S. counterterrorism official.

I want to claim this for us it's so damn wonderful, so:

Metafilter: It's like Al Qaeda's Tiger Beat
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:12 AM on September 16, 2010


And... the rape victim in the short skirt had it coming? Because if you're saying drawing a picture of Mohammed justifies the violent shitstorm that follows, that's exactly equivalent.

You know, I personally take issue with certain peoples' tendency toward ultra-sensitivity, regardless of the issue. It could be sexism. It could be racism. It could be GODism. That is, they erupt when a certain something gets said that transgresses some unwritten (or perhaps written) law and thus, HELL TO PAY!!! This offends me: that my freedom to speak is shut down by their inability to contain their outrage. I f***ing hate this.

So do I then, knowing what's likely to result, push my transgression, just cuz?

Sometimes. But usually, I just avoid it, bite my tongue and send out silent vibrations of resentment and loathing. But then sometimes a strange thing happens. In consciously avoiding eruptive conflict (not saying what I felt like saying) I actually manage to get closer to my potential foil, maybe even earn their confidence. I might even learn to like them, become their friend, earn their empathy as they've earned mine. Then, maybe we can really talk.

Did you actually look at the artwork?

I did. And to me it looks like making fun of of somebody's God. Something I'm entirely in favor of; something I would never do myself without at least preparing for a potential shit-storm.
posted by philip-random at 9:27 AM on September 16, 2010


A fatwa is huge (regardless of whether you think its crazy or not). its an actual decree...even if its against pokemon. just putting a hit on someone is akin to saying "im gonna kick your ass".
The thing is, he didn't actually even say "we should kill her", what he said was that he didn't think she deserved to live. Given the fact that he's a hard-core terrorist the threat is kind of implied, though.
From some dude in NEW FUCKING MEXICO?
He's from New Mexico, but he lives in yemen.
I didn't say that a fatwa was issued against Molly Norris. I said one was issued against Salman Rushdie. I'll take your grovelling apology as read.
What you actually said was this:
I have no idea what status al-Awlaki has in the eyes of his followers, but the point is that people can be expected to follow his religious views. Surely that's enough to make him a Muslim authority. How else would you define it?
Which is obviously talking about the topic of the thread -- Awlaki's threat against Norris.
posted by delmoi at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2010


> No, she did something that she *knew* would offend *all* Muslims.

Bullshit. She didn't "know" it because it isn't true. Lots and lots of Muslims wouldn't give a shit about this; lots and lots of Muslims have in fact violated the prohibition against pictorial representations (see: Persian art). Do you know any actual Muslims, or are you just lumping them all into one mass of intolerant fundamentalism?

> She wanted to defend the first amendment despite the fact that it was in no danger of any sort

The First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why. "Oh, my, yes, I'm in favor of free speech... unless it might cause problems."
posted by languagehat at 10:10 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The best way she could think of to do this was picking a fight with a fringe extremist group composed of homicidal assholes and attempting to get coverage through relevant media outlets.

You forgot: appealing to American xenophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice.
posted by goethean at 10:19 AM on September 16, 2010


The First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why. "Oh, my, yes, I'm in favor of free speech... unless it might cause problems."

I don't think a single person in this thread has stated that she didn't have the right to say what she wanted under the auspices of the First Amendment here in the US...

I think a LOT of people in this thread have tried to say that perhaps the First Amendment doesn't actually extend beyond the borders of the US, and when making speech an issue on an international stage one can expect to run into problems with groups who don't live under US law.

Or do you honestly think that the First Amendment, an internal US legal regulation, is somehow under attack when someone outside our borders takes issue with what someone else says? Because I actually only see in the text of that particular piece of the Constitution reference to the US and not making laws that abridge freedom of expression, and nothing said about whether that freedom exists outside US borders.
posted by hippybear at 10:22 AM on September 16, 2010


The First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why. "Oh, my, yes, I'm in favor of free speech... unless it might cause problems."

I disagree.

Constitutionally-protected free speech is not in danger here. We are no closer to new laws being made about speech than we were before this woman went into hiding. In point of fact the government is barely involved at all, except to have arrested the extremist who made the death threats that started all this.

The issue is not, and has never been, Molly's right to say what she said. There has been no effort to make speech laws as a result. Whether or not it's particularly smart to pick a fight with fringe bloodthirsty dipshits is another thing entirely, but please don't confuse a person's right to free speech with the guarantee that they will only ever use it to do wise things. They won't, and that's one of the glorious things about it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:26 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I note that Homeland Security has posted the magazine with the article here. I suggest those who are commenting on first amendment issues go and read it (page 26). It is my understanding that Al-Awaki's claim is that free speech is a western idea that is used as a tool to spread hate and blasphemy against Islam. He in fact uses this as a pretext to claim that all who participate in the act of supporting Molly, are legitimate targets of assassination, and that in fact any western target is a legitimate target. In additional depressing news I see that DHS has decided for what ever reason that the best way to obscure the bomb making instructions would be to reprint a few cartoons. Great job with the hearts and mind campaign guys (golf clap).....
posted by humanfont at 10:39 AM on September 16, 2010


Whatever her intent was it wasn't well thought out. She ends up insulting every Muslim while only enraging those that are beyond dialogue to begin with.
posted by tarvuz at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I don't think a single person in this thread has stated that she didn't have the right to say what she wanted under the auspices of the First Amendment here in the US...

I didn't say anyone had stated that.

> Constitutionally-protected free speech is not in danger here.

Both of you have misunderstood or misread what I wrote. I did not write "The reaction to this woman's actions violates the First Amendment." I wrote "The First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why," and I stand by it. The First Amendment would almost certainly not be passed today, and every time someone places values of civility, safety, and all the other good things that frequently conflict with it above the value of free speech, it weakens the ideal the amendment represents. Plenty of well-meaning Americans thought the Nazis should not have been allowed to march in Skokie, because Nazis are bad and it caused offense to Jews. Now plenty of people think this woman should have kept her mouth shut (or her pen in its container) because she created a Bad Thing that offended people. I predict that within a century the First Amendment will be in the dustbin of history, and it will be thanks to good, concerned people who didn't understand why it was so important.
posted by languagehat at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wait. Haven't we established that non-violence-inciting Muslims are not, in fact, offended by (non-defiling) depictions of Mohammed and that the recognized dictate is that Muslims should not worship depictions of Mohammed as idols (Christianity has the same thing, right?)?

So why are so many people assuming the cartoonist was doing this to be blithely offensive? Wouldn't your average Muslim take this to be the political statement it is - basically "This is America and like it or not, religious nutjobs do not and should not get to control what I can or cannot do without encroaching upon the rights of others"? However "ditsy" the cartoonist may be, it's an important point she's making.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Both of you have misunderstood or misread what I wrote.

You wrote, "The First Amendment is always in danger."

I wrote, "Constitutionally-protected free speech (in other words: the First Amendment) is not in danger here."

It is possible for someone to understand what you're saying and still not agree with it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I predict that within a century the First Amendment will be in the dustbin of history, and it will be thanks to good, concerned people who didn't understand why it was so important.

Indeed, America could become an oppressive hellhole like Canada.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:02 PM on September 16, 2010


I predict that within a century the First Amendment will be in the dustbin of history, and it will be thanks to good, concerned people who didn't understand why it was so important.

This is why we included the second.
posted by humanfont at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


do you honestly think that the First Amendment, an internal US legal regulation, is somehow under attack when someone outside our borders takes issue with what someone else says?

Look, people on both sides of this issue conflate "the first amendment" with free speech. but let's not pick nits. I think when we slow down to think, we all know that the first amendment is specific to America and specifically blocks government regulation of free speech.

But the real issue here is freedom of speech. This is a human right, a global right. It's wrong for governments to deny it, it's wrong for religions to deny it, and it's wrong for political activists to deny it. It's more wrong when any of them use violence, imprisonment or execution/assassination to punish people who speak in ways they disagree with. And it's triply wrong when they attack people in other nations and cultures for their speech.
posted by msalt at 12:25 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ach, that NY Daily News triggered, for me, the goddamnedest earworm cortex ever recorded. Just reading "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" is like being rickrolled. There goes the rest of the day.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:42 PM on September 16, 2010


> You wrote, "The First Amendment is always in danger."

I wrote, "Constitutionally-protected free speech (in other words: the First Amendment) is not in danger here."


In other words, you selectively quoted me to make a specious point. How many times do I have to repeat this before you understand, or are willing to acknowledge, my point? I wrote "The First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why," and I stand by it. I did not say "The First Amendment is specifically in danger in this particular case," and there was a reason for that, the obvious and irrelevant point you made in your attempted rebuttal ("Constitutionally-protected free speech (in other words: the First Amendment) is not in danger here"). The First Amendment is always in danger, and it is in danger precisely because of the cast of mind exhibited here. If you still don't understand me, I guess we'll have to agree to roll our eyes at each other and go our separate ways.

> But the real issue here is freedom of speech. This is a human right, a global right. It's wrong for governments to deny it, it's wrong for religions to deny it, and it's wrong for political activists to deny it.

Hear, hear.
posted by languagehat at 12:50 PM on September 16, 2010


I guess if you don't understand the difference between legal strictures on open, free speech, and questioning someone else's wisdom in expressing themselves in a way which doesn't imply any kind of creation of law... Yeah, we should just roll our eyes at each other.
posted by hippybear at 12:53 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other words, you selectively quoted me to make a specious point. How many times do I have to repeat this before you understand, or are willing to acknowledge, my point?

Okay. I will be as clear as I can here:

You stated that the First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why. I stated that the First Amendment is not in danger in this instance, that is to say, I don't believe the First Amendment is always in danger. One rules out the other.

I also don't believe this thread indicates anything one way or the other about the amendment in question other than that there are a lot of people who don't really comprehend what it is; for the record I am not saying you're one of them.

The First Amendment is always in danger, and it is in danger precisely because of the cast of mind exhibited here. If you still don't understand me, I guess we'll have to agree to roll our eyes at each other and go our separate ways.

I understood you the first time, I understood you the second time and now it is the third time and I still understand you. I just don't happen to agree. I again assure you that it is possible for a person to do both. It's a large and wonderful and crazy world, with a lot of people in it who bring different experiences to the table, and there's no guarantee that two people will look at the same data and draw the same conclusions.

If it pleases you to state the same thing again, then please don't let me stop you. I only wish to make it clear that I have read and comprehended what you've said, but don't see it the way you do.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:12 PM on September 16, 2010


> I guess if you don't understand the difference between legal strictures on open, free speech, and questioning someone else's wisdom in expressing themselves in a way which doesn't imply any kind of creation of law

I do understand that difference. I also understand that laws don't arise in a vacuum, and the more people exhibit a willingness to devalue other people's right to speak (and draw) exactly as they like, even if they're not "effective at neutralizing extremism" (or whatever Good Cause might be accepted as an allowable motive for speech), the more endangered the First Amendment is. The government has already taken away plenty of rights we thought we had (obviously I'm speaking as an American), rights that Americans of earlier generations fought for, and I see the trend continuing and accelerating. I hope I'm wrong.
posted by languagehat at 1:20 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, I don't want to get into a flamewar with anyone about this. Everyone in this discussion is well-intentioned and smart; it's just a difference in priorities. I am (in case you couldn't tell) passionate about the importance of free speech, and I sometimes get intemperate in its defense. If I have stepped on anyone's toes, I ask forgiveness.
posted by languagehat at 1:48 PM on September 16, 2010


I wrote, "Constitutionally-protected free speech (in other words: the First Amendment) is not in danger here."

It is possible for someone to understand what you're saying and still not agree with it.
Including you, since you clearly missed languagehat's point.
You stated that the First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why. I stated that the First Amendment is not in danger in this instance, that is to say, I don't believe the First Amendment is always in danger. One rules out the other.
What you don't seem to understand the nature of the threat to the first amendment that languagehat was talking about.
I understood you the first time, I understood you the second time and now it is the third time and I still understand you.
Maybe that's true, but nothing you have typed here indicates that it is.
posted by delmoi at 1:57 PM on September 16, 2010


What you don't seem to understand the nature of the threat to the first amendment that languagehat was talking about.

The gentleman in question delineated his reasons for believing that overarching attitudes such as those on display in this thread will ultimately threaten the First Amendment and render it obsolete. It was well-stated and clear. Where we differ is in our estimation of the long-term effect that these attitudes will have on the amendment being discussed.

It seems to be important to you to believe that I missed his point, or just plain didn't understand him. I have no desire to get in the way of your equilibrium, and even less am I interested in proving to anyone that I do in fact comprehend the conclusion with which I disagreed as part of a larger discussion. As such, if you need to believe that my disagreement owes solely to a failure of reading, please consider this my blessing to continue to do so; I will not argue.

That will be all. Thank you, and God bless.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:11 PM on September 16, 2010


God? How dare you.
posted by found missing at 2:32 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this is an important discussion, with good points all around. Let's not bog down in wording. Imagine if we searched and replaced "First Amendment" with "free speech."
Famous Monster, would you still say this?

"She wanted to defend free speech despite the fact that it was in no danger of any sort, and in fact this is not and has never been a free speech issue; she took exception to Viacom's decision to bleep out or remove parts of an episode they owned, made with their budget, resources and airtime, due to the fact that credible death threats had been made towards their employees."
posted by msalt at 2:34 PM on September 16, 2010


Could anyone who finds Molly Norris' cartoon offensive explain why that's the case? I don't understand what's offensive about it.
posted by clockzero at 2:50 PM on September 16, 2010


The First Amendment is always in danger, and this thread is an excellent illustration of why. "Oh, my, yes, I'm in favor of free speech... unless it might cause problems."

No one said the government should pass a law that forbids anything, though. Some people just thought the call to arms in bad taste. How did you feel about that guy who wanted to burn Korans last week? Some people saw that as a free speech issue. To me, he was just a jackass. That doesn't mean I would want anyone to pass laws that make it impossible for him to be a jackass, but it also doesn't mean I have to support the choices he makes.

Could anyone who finds Molly Norris' cartoon offensive explain why that's the case? I don't understand what's offensive about it.

I don't exactly find it offensive, but it seems to me unnecessarily mocking what is perceived as a tenet of someone's religion, and it's done in the context of, let's all mock this fundamental aspect of Islam (or what we understand to be a part of the religion - it actually doesn't matter how accurate it is; it's still the perception).

It comes off like, "ha ha, you idiots think you can't draw this, but I'm gonna anyway 'cause your religion is stupid." Just generally disrespectful, in that burn the koran way, although I realize the intent is not the same.
posted by mdn at 4:10 PM on September 16, 2010


Famous Monster, would you still say this?

"She wanted to defend free speech despite the fact that it was in no danger of any sort, and in fact this is not and has never been a free speech issue; she took exception to Viacom's decision to bleep out or remove parts of an episode they owned, made with their budget, resources and airtime, due to the fact that credible death threats had been made towards their employees."


You know, I'm not positive how to answer this.

One of the mistakes I believe Molly Norris made was to conflate the First Amendment (being able to speak your mind without having it suppressed by the government) with what Comedy Central did, which was to edit an episode of South Park after the unedited version was met with credible death threats. It's not what I would have done but it struck me as an attempt to handle a situation with what probably seemed like sensitivity to them.

The First Amendment is a powerful thing, worth fighting for and worth dying for, so it tends to get trotted out when it doesn't need to. By citing it - and I don't think she necessarily was wrong on purpose - she added weight to a notion which really doesn't extend far beyond Viacom's handling of being told "Shut up or we'll kill you."

And on some level, I don't see that as only a free speech issue. I see it as a criminal issue. It's my belief that there is currently a narrative in mass media that there is a clash between Western values and the Muslim world, and I believe that the invocation of free speech - again, a powerful thing - is part of it. It's why no one talks about free speech when the usual suspects receive death threats - we don't think about it, even though it's the same situation. There's no narrative there that our right to express ourselves needs to be protected, because that's not relevant. What's relevant is that there are bloodthirsty lunatics who want to kill people who commit the crime of being visibly unlike them. To frame it as a cultural clash, as I see happen every day in the news, is to include a lot of collateral damage and plays into an already-problematic Islamophobia.

This tends to get a lot of mileage as Molly Norris being censored to avoid offending some undefined mass of Muslims, and it's not like that. What I believe is that she deliberately picked a fight with a fringe extremist group, and that they responded the way they seem to respond to damn near everything: by saying she deserved to die. No one (but them) has said she shouldn't have the right to do that. I believe she has every right to, and also that I question the wisdom of doing it. I had the same reaction to Steve-O putting a leech on his eye in Jackass 2, you know?

Anyway. If it were reframed that she was pointing out that folks should have the right to speak without being silenced by death threats, then I would certainly agree with it, but again: her attempt to justify it as a First Amendment issue was something separate, and a bit more troublesome than that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:05 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Upon re-reading, I'd also like to be clear that she did not deserve these consequences. That her actions weren't super bright doesn't mean they were wrong. Standing outside a biker bar screaming "I BET EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU SISTERFISTING FRUITCAKES IS A BONESMUGGLING COCK-JOCKEY" doesn't mean you deserve what happens next. It just means that what happens next probably won't come as much of a surprise.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:11 PM on September 16, 2010


Like hornets.
posted by found missing at 5:18 PM on September 16, 2010


>

I don't exactly find it offensive, but it seems to me unnecessarily mocking what is perceived as a tenet of someone's religion, and it's done in the context of, let's all mock this fundamental aspect of Islam (or what we understand to be a part of the religion - it actually doesn't matter how accurate it is; it's still the perception).

It comes off like, "ha ha, you idiots think you can't draw this, but I'm gonna anyway 'cause your religion is stupid." Just generally disrespectful, in that burn the koran way, although I realize the intent is not the same.


That's interesting, mdn. I interpreted her cartoon as a humorous deflation of the gravity implied by the threats of violence the south park guys received. The multiple mundane objects aren't mocking Islam or its prophet, I don't think, they're making light of the intimidation itself. At the top of her cartoon it says that the purpose is to stick up for freedom of expression and to increase the number of targets, and the latter goal is obviously making fun of the unhinged fellow who suggested that matt stone and trey parker would end up like Theo van Gogh.
posted by clockzero at 5:30 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I think it's been established many times in this thread that representing Mohammed (pbuh) is not a violation of Islam's tenets in any meaningful sense. The people who say that it is are trying to control the expression of others for political reasons, they're not defending Islam.
posted by clockzero at 5:33 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The people who can pretend this isn't about murder are probably those on the religious left. We can blame it on phony liberalism, but hardly anyone knows what the real thing is anymore.
posted by Brian B. at 5:42 PM on September 16, 2010


Standing outside a biker bar screaming "I BET EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU SISTERFISTING FRUITCAKES IS A BONESMUGGLING COCK-JOCKEY" doesn't mean you deserve what happens next. It just means that what happens next probably won't come as much of a surprise.

This fails on just about every level. She was not standing outside of a mosque with her images on a big sign. She was not going into predominantly Muslim neighborhoods and stenciling her art onto the sides of buildings. She was not actually directing epithets at Muslims except in the most general sense possible. She was putting art she made up in places where people were willingly allowing her to do so. She was saying things that she knew would be offensive to some people on truly neutral ground. I honestly don't see how that is different from building a "mosque" (her art is as much a depiction of Muhammad as Park 51 is a mosque) three blocks from Ground Zero on land you own.

You can make a better case against Piss Christ since that actually got NEA funding.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:55 PM on September 16, 2010


She was not standing outside of a mosque with her images on a big sign. She was not going into predominantly Muslim neighborhoods and stenciling her art onto the sides of buildings. She was not actually directing epithets at Muslims except in the most general sense possible.

Wow.

No, I wasn't comparing what she did to any of that. I said that picking a fight means that a fight will often be subsequent, and that no one deserves to be injured as a result of their words.

The problem wasn't even that she drew (not) Mohammed but that she stated in plain terms that it was done as a provocation to the Revolution Muslim website.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:04 PM on September 16, 2010


> You know, I'm not positive how to answer this.

Thanks for that comment; I understand your position a lot better now.
posted by languagehat at 6:06 PM on September 16, 2010


(Er, by "that comment" I meant the whole comment, not just the bit I quoted; I hope that was clear, because if it wasn't, I sounded deranged and/or bizarrely sarcastic.)
posted by languagehat at 6:07 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sounded deranged and/or bizarrely sarcastic

someone should make a metafilter tagline out of that
posted by found missing at 6:10 PM on September 16, 2010


I said that picking a fight means that a fight will often be subsequent, and that no one deserves to be injured as a result of their words.

Yeah, but your analogy didn't work. She wasn't "picking a fight" by literally confronting Muslims, as per your biker analogy. She was "picking a fight" by expressing herself in a public forum. She should be subject to the whims of the marketplace of ideas and the tastes of her prospective publishers, but to suggest that she was asking for death threats (or "a fight" or whatever) by doing what literally every single American citizen is entitled to do is ridiculous.

This also might be important: I honestly believe that the moment a person threatens another person with death for expressing an image or idea that idea becomes imbued with artistic value it didn't previously posses. At that point the collateral offense such expression might cause becomes minimal in my calculation. I think minstrel shows are tasteless, but if there was a group out there credibly threatening people who put on blackface with death I would be far less sympathetic to the arguments against the public display. The same goes for holocaust cartoons, rape jokes or any other offensive display you care to name.

Free speech, for me, is a value beyond an articulation of what the government can and can't do. It's a value on which a society worth living in orders itself. Everyone gets the freedom to worship as openly as they like, and in return everyone grants that their sacred symbols need not be treated as such by the rest of the community. That's what I got from Norris's decision to depict the prophet in response to the threats.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:26 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


She wasn't "picking a fight" by literally confronting Muslims, as per your biker analogy. She was "picking a fight" by expressing herself in a public forum. She should be subject to the whims of the marketplace of ideas and the tastes of her prospective publishers, but to suggest that she was asking for death threats (or "a fight" or whatever) by doing what literally every single American citizen is entitled to do is ridiculous.

I agree! It certainly would be ridiculous, if I'd done that.

Here is what she wrote:

"In light of the recent veiled (ha!) threats aimed at the creators of the television show South Park ... by bloggers on Revolution Muslim's website, we hereby deem May 20, 2010 as the first 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!"

To clarify: As a response to an extremist group making death threats to others for depicting Mohammed, she called out that group by name and suggested that others antagonize them as well.

That's the extent of it. I'm not sure what part of this isn't clear. She set out to antagonize extremists known for death threats, and the extremists she antagonized responded with death threats. The bit about the biker bar was not an analogy but an example of the same idea. You seem to believe that I am somehow okay with the fact that her life was threatened over this, or that I believe the extremists behind the death threats are anything other than subhuman filth.

I think minstrel shows are tasteless, but if there was a group out there credibly threatening people who put on blackface with death I would be far less sympathetic to the arguments against the public display.

That's...hmm, okay. That's kind of loaded.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:41 PM on September 16, 2010


Could anyone who finds Molly Norris' cartoon offensive explain why that's the case? I don't understand what's offensive about it.
Her cartoon is not even very offensive at all. Anwar Awlaki would probably like to cut of her head for not wearing a burqa.
posted by delmoi at 7:21 PM on September 16, 2010


At the top of her cartoon it says that the purpose is to stick up for freedom of expression

Okay, but we could say the same about burning korans, right? Sticking up for freedom of expression can mean sticking up for the right of people to express some offensive things. In fact, how could it illustrate the freedom properly unless someone didn't want it said?

So the question is, who doesn't want something said? in a lot of cases of freedom of expression, the issue is power: you have to have freedom to say negative things about authority figures, in order to check their authority. But here the potentially upset parties are members of a group who will feel ridiculed. You could argue it is the authority figures of that group that are the targets, but it's still complicated to make fun of the authority figures of a group you don't belong to, plus the joke isn't about the cleric but the thing the cleric is angry about, which (though it may or may not be entirely true) is assumed to be a shared belief of muslims - just a dumb one.

Again, I'm not saying she shouldn't have the right to express herself, but to me, there isn't a danger of being taken over by muslim authorities and other than that, I don't see the practical benefit of making it clear that I don't have to follow their rules. i do that every day by living according to secular norms anyway.
posted by mdn at 7:38 PM on September 16, 2010


A we sink a little further into Anarcho-tyranny.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:56 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


To clarify: As a response to an extremist group making death threats to others for depicting Mohammed, she called out that group by name and suggested that others antagonize them as well.

Thank you for your thoughtful responses, I agree with a lot of what you say.

I think the framing of this particular sentence is a bit loaded though. "Antagonize" implies that she initiated the trouble. I'm sure she sees it more as offering support to someone who is standing up to violent intimidation, and encouraging many others to also stand up, so that thugs can't intimidate a few people. You know, "First they came for the Jews" and all that.

If she traveled to Yemen or rented a billboard there to provoke people, I might phrase it the way you did. But she was asserting the right of Americans to speak freely in their own culture and country, and doing so with humor which usually seems like the best response to thuggery. Where cultures disagree, the people asserting their will farther from home are generally wrong IMHO, and in my view she was defending her home.
posted by msalt at 8:09 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Her cartoon is not even very offensive at all. Anwar Awlaki would probably like to cut of her head for not wearing a burqa.

Her cartoon is nothing that Muslims should bother with (it's actually mildly amusing, but dull), nor should they feed those types of trollish stunts. Al-Awlaki and others make a fuss about this to assert their relevance. On of Al-Awlaki's wrongheaded followers called me an kafir and invoked God's curse on me once on his website when I question the logic of calling for continued jihad in Somalia since the sharia councils there had been established by a democratically elected government! He's no scholar, and I'm saddened that the media portrays him as anything other than an unqualified rabble rouse. Proper Islamic scholars don't give the cartoon nonsense the time of day.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:52 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]



I think the framing of this particular sentence is a bit loaded though. "Antagonize" implies that she initiated the trouble. I'm sure she sees it more as offering support to someone who is standing up to violent intimidation, and encouraging many others to also stand up, so that thugs can't intimidate a few people.


Oh, for sure. I probably could have picked a better word, but so it goes.

For what it's worth I believe that what she did was - though maybe a little headstrong given the circumstances - a good thing, and I'm glad she did it. I'd probably have worded it differently but that's me, and I wouldn't want to live in a world of just me.

It'd be far too sexy, for one thing.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:12 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


A we sink a little further into Anarcho-tyranny.

There's a term I hadn't heard before, and one which illustrates what has been missing from this whole long thread (which I am late to, as usual): any discussion of law enforcement's role in this situation. Molly Norris is going into hiding at the "insistence of... the FBI." Rather than, you know, protecting her and seeing to it that she can continue to practice free speech as a free citizen of a civilized country, thereby contributing to the greater safety and freedom of us all, they're telling her to ditch her identity, go hide somewhere and be very quiet from now till the end of her days.

What's that you say? They couldn't possibly devote the sort of resources necessary to keep her safe? Yet American security agencies have the resources to conduct illegal wiretaps on undisclosed numbers of Americans, examine the contents of everyone's shoes upon boarding a plane, and hassle foreign nationals at our airports and borders. How about if they took a hundred people off of Border Patrol or Drug War duty and reassigned them to Protecting Molly Norris Duty? Just to make a show of her, to send a message that we're not going to allow our citizens to be bullied into silence?

What's that? If they did it for her then they'd have to do it for everyone, and there certainly aren't enough resources for that? Well, but that brings us back to the point Molly made in her comic: if everyone did what she did, the problem would solve itself. The pool of targets would be too large to make a credible threat against, and the nutjobs would just have to deal with the fact that this is America, where people can write and draw whatever they damn well please.
posted by Marla Singer at 10:24 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Reading the rest of that page in the anarcho-tyranny link above, I'm seriously skeeved out by the racism and general horribleness of this Samuel T. Francis guy, but he did manage to be right about one thing: "[W]e refuse to control real criminals (that's the anarchy) so we control the innocent (that's the tyranny)."
posted by Marla Singer at 10:56 PM on September 16, 2010


Marla Singer wrote: What's that you say? They couldn't possibly devote the sort of resources necessary to keep her safe?

As the IRA said about Margaret Thatcher: they only have to be lucky once. She has to be lucky all the time. And have you considered what the costs of around-the-clock surveillance and protection involve? I'm guessing that it would require at least six full-time bodyguards, plus the costs of supervision and coordination. I think you'd run out of bodyguards before al-Awlaki ran out of targets. It's not like it's hard for him to suddenly announce that yet another person Really Deserves To Die.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:46 PM on September 16, 2010


As the IRA said about Margaret Thatcher: they only have to be lucky once. She has to be lucky all the time.

No guarantee of success doesn't excuse not making an effort.

And have you considered what the costs of around-the-clock surveillance and protection involve? I'm guessing that it would require at least six full-time bodyguards, plus the costs of supervision and coordination.

Just six? I was ready to commit a hundred in my post, all reassigned from the Border Patrol or Drug War. Six is a bargain. Sold!

I think you'd run out of bodyguards before al-Awlaki ran out of targets. It's not like it's hard for him to suddenly announce that yet another person Really Deserves To Die.

We have lots more people we could reassign. All those people supposedly fighting the War on Terror in places like Iraq and Afghanistan -- couldn't we spare a few of those? In fact, isn't that what a real War on Terror might look like? I don't see how soldiers blowing civilians to bits overseas makes me or anyone else any safer, but protecting citizens here at home who have actually been targeted by extremists would not only keep those individuals safe, it would counteract the "terror" aspect of terrorism. We are currently sending the message, "If you threaten our people, we will send them into hiding, effectively silencing them for you -- you're welcome!" when we could be sending the message, "Bring it on, we won't be silent and we'll protect our own."
posted by Marla Singer at 2:07 AM on September 17, 2010


> A we sink a little further into Anarcho-tyranny.

There's a term I hadn't heard before


Me neither, and it's a terrible one. It feeds into the popular misperceptions of anarchism (it's all about eliminating laws and letting criminals run wild!). Why not just call it tyranny?
posted by languagehat at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2010


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