Just a bit of a ramble from me. I think the best context to put this in is the 2005 cartoons controversy, where some cartoons were published in a magazine that depicted the prophet Muhammed, most memorably the one with a bomb in his turban (which actually wasn’t depicting Muhammed for all you trivia-lovers out there, it was just some Muslim and everyone got carried away with it), and subsequently embassies got attacked, people died and there was that infamous protest in London where some muslims carried signs saying ‘death to those who insult Islam’ and ‘UK you will pay’ (if that’s not inciting terrorism I don’t know what is – no arrests though as far as I know).
Let’s just recap at this point. Some people drew cartoons… and in response some muslims killed people.
Now there was also the thing more recently where Comedy Central decided to self-censor and depict Muhammed in a bear suit instead of as himself or something like that in an episode of South Park, but that was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back and seeing as I don’t watch South Park I wasn’t too bothered about that. I don’t blame them to be honest, they have a responsibility to their employees and I wouldn’t be prepared to put someone else’s life at risk of attack. It does seem a little bit hypocritical to attack pretty much every religion except Islam, but that’s something I can understand. The important this is that where South Park failed, the internet took over. You see muslim extremists can attack Danish embassies and Viacom’s studios, but how are they going to attack the internet? You may think that’s a stupid question, that of course they couldn’t attack the internet, but Pakistan actually tried! A judge ordered Facebook, YouTube, and about 500 other websites blocked in Pakistan, which is stupid for several reasons. It’s pretty simple to get around that kind of block but more than that, it put Everybody Draw Muhammed Day into the mainstream media where it can be noticed, instead of just on a few people’s YouTube channels and a Facebook group that people wouldn’t see, particularly if they don’t use Facebook or YouTube. Everywhere I’ve seen mainstream coverage, it’s been saying it was a ‘facebook competition’, which isn’t strictly true, but anything else wouldn’t fit into the media’s long-established narrative that Facebook=Evil.
If you take a look at that BBC story just above, there’s a strange comment which illustrates a weird contradiction in how I feel about this:
I feel that the court should not have blocked facebook and instead let Pakistani muslims use the website as a forum to protest what they felt was wrong and blasphemous. However, I do believe that Facebook should monitor content published on the website and control the formation of potentially volatile groups that could be offensive to certain religions. It is a commonly known fact that muslims feel strongly about pictorial depictions of prophet Mohammad and Allah (God) and, therefore, people should be respectful of that instead of trying to irk muslims and create controversies just to prove that ‘muslims’ in general are a fundamentalist and unreasonable people who do not believe in freedom of speech.
The last line tries to make out that muslims do believe in freedom of speech, and yet earlier in the comment they say that facebook should control the formation of potentially volatile groups. The thing about freedom of speech is that you can’t just allow what you personally agree with. Now I actually did take part, here’s my little crappy attempt:
Hopefully you can see it. Why did I do it? Because I support freedom of speech and I wanted to show that, and I also wanted to make clear that I don’t have to follow islamic rules about drawing the prophet, and that people making death threats isn’t going to scare the whole western world into compliance. I didn’t do it to be offensive, in fact as you can see the picture is deliberately not offensive, just a little picture of a guy with a beard. Ordinarily I wouldn’t go out of my way to draw Muhammed, but when people are making death threats because they’re used to having others follow their rules, and suddenly people decide they’re not going to do it anymore, then I think sometimes a demonstration is in order to stand up for freedom of speech and expression, even if other people find what you’re saying offensive. Noone has a right not to be offended.
I know what you’re thinking and I know, I am usually the last one to tar all muslims with the same brush. That’s not what I’m doing here. If you’re a ‘moderate muslim’, someone who doesn’t threaten violence at the drop of a hat, then this is not against you. I’ll even apologise for any offence I’ve caused. I mean people like British Muslims for Secular Democracy, who late last year held a protest holding signs saying things like “Debate those who insult Islam”. The people I don’t mind offending are the ones who want to shut down debate, the ones who threaten violence to get their way (a form of terrorism in itself), the hypersensitive ones who’ll get offended at the drawing of a cartoon. They can go screw themselves, freedom of speech is here to stay, to help protect the rights of everyone.
Now there was an element of this event that I didn’t like. Thunderf00t used completely militant language as if he were fighting a war, talking about waking sleeping giants:
Others used their pictures to be really offensive, showing Muhammed being screwed up the arse for example. I really don’t think there was any need for that. The point was to show Islam as an intolerant religion, many of whose members will get offended at next-to-nothing. If you showed pictures of Jesus getting shagged (or getting sucked off for that matter), Christians would get offended too, so you’ve proved nothing. Other comments bordered on racism, which I really didn’t like. But of course I’m no better than the people trying to censor debate if I try to stop people doing something that I personally found distasteful. So what did I do about it? I left comments on a few pictures saying what they were doing was unnecessary. I made this blogpost explaining why. I used my words to try and persuade. I used my own freedom of speech. That’s how civilised people solve their disputes. No petrol bombs, no death threats. When we have freedom of speech, there’s no need for that kind of primitive behaviour.