I posted links in support of, and part of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. A friend of mine, let’s call him Vattam (which in Tam is ‘zero’ (well, ‘circle’, actually, but zero’s better for the purposes of this post)), doesn’t agree that this is acceptable protest. He says he’d rather not offend people. Here’s the relevant (tidied up) to and fro:
Vattam: I don’t agree with Draw Mohammed Day. I don’t see the point. Freedom of expression is fine, but I don’t think we should do it with the intention of offending someone. I feel it was a cheap shot.
Me: This was an effort in protest against some wackaloon somewhere getting all paranoid and making death-threats against people. If you start making death threats against me, I’m afraid the gloves are off, and I shall make as much fun of you as I deem fit.
Vattam: I agree that death threats should not be made. But this may offend those Muslims who are for free speech but against drawing Mohammed. Why should we do it when we sure as hell know that they don’t like it? We are not here to shove our ideas and opinions down their throats.
Me: Those people aren’t really for free speech, then, are they? If your religion tells you to not draw Mohammed, and you choose to follow that, you have every right to do so. Your religion cannot, however, tell me not to draw Mohammed. You cannot start threatening me for not following the rules of your religion. Your religion may tell you to not eat pork, and you may choose not to. Nobody is going to force-feed you pork. But if you start demanding that everybody stop eating pork, you’re just being weird; if you start threatening anybody who eats pork with death, you’re asking for every bit of mockery you’re going to get.
Vattam: My point is this: if they had issued an open threat saying they would kill anyone who draws Mohammed before South Park did it, then I would’ve been all for Draw Mohammed day. But it was South Park who did it first.
Me: They have issued threats before this particular instance. In fact, this business of radical Islamists feeling they’ve been wronged, threatening people with murder and actually committing murder has been going on for so long now, that there is nobody who can ‘do it first’. You’ll remember what happened to Salman Rushdie, or to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or to Theo van Gogh, or to Taslima Nasreen (the latter, shamefully, in this country). The point is that they’re looking for a fight, looking to actively take offence, and they will take offence, no matter what you do. South Park makes fun of all sorts of people and religions; nobody else seems to take the jokes as anything other than jokes. Tom Cruise doesn’t go around crying bloody murder on Parker and Stone.
Vattam: I don’t quite agree with nobody else taking exception with these artists. Hindus, for example cried foul when ‘Love Guru’ was released, the Sikh establishment had a problem with ‘Singh is Kingg’, the Rajputs had a problem with ‘Jodha Akbar’. This isn’t something only the radical wing of Islam does.
Me: All the examples you cite are true. They said the movies were offensive to them, wrote to the filmmakers, carried out protests, and sometimes even threatened to get the movies banned; they got what they wanted because the filmmakers thought better than to lose the business from these groups. While this is no doubt reprehensible as a violation of free speech, none of these groups threatened the filmmakers with death. That radical Islamists call for murder at the drop of a hat or at the stroke of a crayon is the entirety of the complaint against them, and the reason this effort to call their bluff has been undertaken.
Vattam: I still think that might alienate sensible people who could otherwise have been convinced to stand against the violence in the name of Islam. I have friends who are Muslim. I don’t want to end up alienating them for something they have nothing to do with. I would rather say that the position that radical Islam is taking is bad in a more polite way.
Me: As far as I’m concerned, anybody worth befriending wouldn’t care if you said it politely, impolitely, rudely, harshly, with a stutter, from the side of your mouth, whatever. If we’re all agreed that threatening to kill people is despicable, I think you should say that it is, and say it in the most hard-hitting way possible. And anybody worth the effort would smirk at your rhetoric, discard said rhetoric, and take the underlying argument for what it is.
We stopped arguing after the last exchange. PZ Myers has a nice post about the whole issue as well.