Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Invites Artists to Defend Their Freedom of Speech
As you may have heard, Comedy Central recently censored an episode of “South Park“ after the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone — who have long called themselves “equal opportunity offenders” — were threatened with death by Muslim extremists who were offended by the show’s parody of the prophet Mohammed (along with leaders of other religious faiths), and by the mere fact that they tried to depict Mohammed visually, which is considered taboo by some Muslims.
Comics, of course, has its own history of inflaming the Muslim world; who can forget the infamous Danish cartoons of Mohammed published in the “Jyllands-Posten,” which set off a firestorm that lead to riots, death threats, and a paralyzing international fear of drawing Mohammed. Ironic, since the cartoons were originally inspired by the concerns of journalist and editor Flemming Rose that the threat of violence was infringing on the free speech of artists to address Islam and Mohammed as they would any other religious figure or faith. As he said at the time, “the modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule.”
Some institutions have responded with fear, censorship, and cowardice, as when the Yale University Press removed all images of Mohammed — and the Mohammed cartoons themselves — from a book about the Mohammed cartoon controversy against the wishes of the author. So what’s an artist who cares about free speech to do? Draw Mohammed.Inspired by a cartoon by Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris (above) — who was inspired by Parker and Stone — May 20th has now been designed “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” There is power in numbers, and if you’re an artist, creator, cartoonist, or basically anyone who would like to exercise your right to free speech in a way that it is actively threatened, that would be the day to do it. Norris has since withdrawn from the event for the same reason that it’s so important: because artists have been intimidated out of their right to express themselves by the fear of violence. Others, including Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan have since taken up the cause, and if you’re an artist, cartoonist, or creator who plans to participate, drop us a line and let us know — we’ll be adding our own terribly drawn rendition of the prophet here on ComicsAlliance when the day rolls around and we’d love it if you joined us.