Thursday, April 29, 2010

Found this comment from hyperion3 on a Washington Post story about "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" coming up May 20. Now, I don't normally comment on religion because it's silly and useless, but I thought this particular post insightful enough to share with the two or three trolls who ever check to see if I've updated my page.

Again - not me, somebody else, in response to this story:

A lot of the comments against "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" seem to place drawing Mohammed in the same category as desecrating the Qur’an, burning a flag, or using a racial epithet. But there's a real problem with this analogy. In these examples, the action is intrinsically offensive because it clearly and unambiguously express hatred and contempt for a particular group based solely on their religion, nationality, or race. These may all be forms of constitutionally protected speech in the United States, but most people agree that they have no place in "polite society."

In contrast, making a drawing of Mohammed amounts to little more than violating a religious taboo. The prohibition against depicting Mohammed stems from concerns that images, statues, or other works of art may lead to idolatry and corruption of the faith. Indeed, there are some schools of thought that conclude any representational art should be prohibited under Islamic law. Looked at this way, the prohibition seems akin to other well-known religious taboos such as dietary restrictions (halal, kosher, etc.) or rules relating to marriage, divorce, and sexual activity.

Personally, I feel it's extremely inappropriate for believers of any religion to claim offense when non-believers decline to follow taboos and dogma that are based exclusively on religious teaching. Expecting non-Muslims to refrain from depicting Mohammed is a bit like expecting non-Jews to refrain from eating bacon or non-Catholics to refrain from using condoms. This standard is particularly disturbing when it's applied to artists who are actively engaged in questioning and challenging the proper role of religion in public discourse.

What it boils down to (in my opinion) is that it's reasonable for Muslims to criticize specific drawings of Mohammed that are clearly hateful, mean-spirited, or incendiary. It's not reasonable to demand that all people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, adhere to a specific tenet of the Muslim faith. And even in the case of clearly offensive drawings the *only* acceptable responses are public criticism, boycotts, and other legal tactics.

For these reasons I think "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" serves a very important purpose. Rather than being an in-your-face response to the "South Park" controversy that's intended to insult Muslims, it actually reinforces the idea that no religion should be allowed to impose its doctrines on those outside the faith, either by threats or by claiming "offense."