Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just to get the ball rolling...

As a first post, I thought I'd recycle some old opinions of mine. This is what I had to say on Facebook in response to criticism against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

People will always be offended by something; it is inevitable. Take the depiction of sexual activity (whether it's actual porn or just a sex scene in a movie) - here is something that will offend MANY people due primarily to their religious beliefs. Should we thus remove any depiction of, or even reference to, sexual activity from society just to appease these people's puritanical sensibilities? Is morality, or even just societal ethics, to be dictated by the most-offended person? So a Muslim might be (again, *might* be) offended by my depiction of Mohammed. I am offended (and I genuinely am) by the implication that as a result, I may not depict Mohammed. Why does their offense trump mine?

All this arguing is moot, however, since that is NOT the point of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. The point is not to say "hey everyone, let's take advantage of our right to free speech by deliberately insulting a certain faith". You want to read that again?? That is NOT the point. Everybody Draw Mohammed Day exists because certain extremists believe that they can threaten and coerce us into following their dogmatic view of the world. It exists as a means of saying "we are not scared of your threats, and will not let fear prevent our right to free speech". This all came about due to the controversy of South Park's episodes 200 and 201.

There is a large backstory to this controversy. Early in the show, in the episode Super Best Friends, Mohammed is part of a team of super heroes made up of the prophets from various major faiths (in which case, surely it would be offensive NOT to portray him?). Anyway, no one cared or thought South Park had done anything offensive (plus he had the power of fire.. bitchin). This was, however, before the Jyllands-Posten controversy which I freely and vehemently state was a deliberate and racist attempt to provoke the reaction it did, in order to create backlash against the Muslim community. The reaction, however, caused a swell of fear throughout the Western world and it became taboo to portray Mohammed (purely out of fear - effective terrorism much?). When South Park again tried to portray Mohammed in Cartoon Wars Part 1 and 2, they were censored by Comedy Central, despite the fact that the episodes were about standing up against fear and coercion while AT THE SAME TIME saying that we shouldn't offend people's sensibilities just because we can. This was a repeated but much more focused theme of episodes 200 and 201. In response to the implicit (but never explicit) depiction of Mohammed in 200, both the show's creators and Comedy Central received death threats (and there was recent speculation - not sure how accurate - that the Times Square bomb scare was targeting Comedy Central). As a result, even mentioning the name Mohammed was censored from 201 and Kyle's final speech (even though it didn't mention Mohammed once) was bleeped out. Due not to the "offense" of the Muslim community (were they offended?) but instead to the violent and extremist fundamentalists who believe that anyone who doesn't agree with them must die (that truly is the sensibility of Qutbist extremists).

To summarise: I will not refrain from acting simply out of the fear that it will offend someone. Invariably I will and it is counterproductive to both society and human experience to worry about doing so. That said, there is little justification in acting simply to be offensive - it serves only to harm and displays a worrying sadistic streak. Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, while it may offend some Muslims (though I think to claim they'll all be offended is a little maternalistic and patronising) is about standing up to those who threaten us with violence on account of dogmatic religious beliefs which we do not share. THAT is why I will be drawing Mohammed on May 20.

As it happened, I didn't draw Mohammed on May 20. I got utterly sick and tired of all the bickering and unpleasantness that it evoked that I sat it out. In fact, my post on Facebook, with words to that (but more profane) effect, was what made me think I should get a blog. You live and learn.

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