Unnecessarily Rude?

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.

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6 thoughts on “Unnecessarily Rude?”

  1. that was a heartfelt correspondence. My comment might be redundant, but here is what i think..

    While you certainly should instigate the wrath of non tolerant people by such provocative cartoons and let them know that you can say and do whatever you want provided you don’t harm them, i don’t think it is going to serve any purpose, besides whetting your appetite for free speech. If doing this wiped out all the fanatics, then it would have definitely made sense..

    Picture this. Will your mother (since you are an atheist :P) like it if an image of some Indian god is printed on a slipper, or if some one enters a Hindu temple with their footwear on? she probably won’t because it’s disrespectful in our culture. Picturing god does the same to Muslims because according to their religious beliefs, picturing god is like slandering him. freedom of speech comes with responsibilities. there is a thin line between tolerance and interference. Visualization allah is interfering in some one’s religion.

  2. If the response to someone drawing Mohammed was “I don’t like it”, that would’ve been an entirely acceptable position; it’s when “…and I’ll kill you” (unless it’s in Achmed’s voice; in that voice, it’s quite funny) is added at the end that people retaliate by saying something worse.

    I think the best summing up I’ve heard of why extremist religion is offensive is this: The problem is not that some religions require that you wear a certain hat, or that you grow your beard to a certain length, or that you bunch your hair in a certain way. The problem is when not doing these things isn’t just acting against your parents’ wishes but also against god, humanity and the universe. That is when people start going batshit crazy.

    Oh, and I googled ‘Lakshmi footwear’, just for fun. Turns out this is quite a popular name to give your footwear store!

  3. I am all for freedom of speech!!

    I am all against the death threats issued by certain sections!

    But the fact is that two wrongs dont make a right!! Freedom of speech doesnt give me the right to shout out in your ears!! I am not comparing the two situations here, just highlighting that one man’s freedom ends where the other person’s starts!!

    The simple fact is that this movement has done nothing to improve the image of Islam! All it has done is made a moot point and has deepened the sterotypes and biases in the minds of people!! Just a fleeting glance over some of the cartoons demonstrates that not only is Islam considered inferior religion but people havent been able to throw out of their psyche the stereotypical image of turbaned Muslim after the 9/11 misfortune.

    Freedom of speech is not a problem in US. We did not need this campaign to be told that. This campaign smacks of nothing more than a misplaced sense of vanity.

    But what this campaign does do is antagonise the many moderate Muslims who believe in freedom of speech but probably wont take very kindly to their Prophet being made fun of in the way he has been. To prove a point to a certain very minor section of fundamental Muslims, who have to go to the extremity of issuing death threats to get miniscule attention, we are ridiculing an entire religion. That is not only unnecessary but downright stupid.

  4. Two wrongs? Wrong#1: Issuing death threats, Check. What’s wrong#2?

    Nobody’s shouting in anybody’s ears, you see. I have a newspaper, and I’m making a political statement in the newspaper by printing a cartoon of mohammed. If you choose to buy my newspaper, and choose to go read the cartoon in the newspaper, I’m not shouting in your ear at all, am I?

    ‘This movement has done nothing to improve the image of Islam’? If by mocking people who take their religion way too seriously, like batcrap crazy seriously, I’m damaging your religion, I’d say your religion deserves the ridicule. On the other hand, sensible people who also get some satisfaction from following a muslim life should feel vindicated that the movement is singling out the idiots who are prepared to kill others because of something written in a book, fourteen centuries ago.

  5. I am happy at the political statement that you are trying to make. I support it. Not with the way that has been chosen to make the same. Thats the second wrong.

    The sensible Muslims would have appreciated and felt vindicated had the efforts been to rid their religion of some of the backwardness that have come to be associated with it. But here, the effort is not that. The effort here is simply to make a mockery of a certain fundamental of this particular religion which is to not idolate their messenger of God. That, an outsider to this religion, cannot brand outdated and then go about undoing publically.

    ” I have a newspaper, and I’m making a political statement in the newspaper by printing a cartoon of mohammed.”
    So you do the support the banning of certain sites by Pakistan, Bangladesh and others.

    These cartoons were posted on public forums like facebook. Whom are we fooling when we are saying that you have the right not to click on these links and thus not feel offended. This is like blaming the Muslims for getting offended. For me, this is akin to blaming the robbed for the robbery.

  6. I’ll start with the last part of your comment. I re-read what I wrote and that’s not what I meant. What I meant was this: you can tell me you don’t want to draw mohammed, and I’d agree; you can’t tell me I can’t draw mohammed. Now, if you tell me I can’t draw mohammed on the wall of your house, I’d agree again; you can’t tell me I can’t draw mohammed on my paper, when I’m trying to make some point. If you start threatening me with death for drawing mohammed on my paper, the only way I can protest is by enlisting a bunch of my friends to draw mohammed on their papers too, and hang posters from their walls, and so forth.

    Islam has plenty of idols. There are also lots of drawings of mohammed, found throughout history. This is an effort to tell people that we aren’t doing something nobody even dreamt of. And therefore maybe appeal to sensible muslims?

    I know you agree with the sentiment that there is a need to make a statement against fundamentalism. This is the only idea people have had of how to do that, physical violence not being an option.

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