- The 'Draw Mohammed' organizers
My firm, considered, opinion is that outfits like Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not at all nice; that they do not respond well to gestures of goodwill; and that force will continue to be necessary to protect people who don't live up (or down) to their version of Islam.
I also think that war is not nice: but sometimes it's better than the alternative.
FaceBook, 'Draw Mohammed Day,' a Teddy Bear, and Getting a GripQuite a few Islamic countries seem to be having a hard time, making the transition from a pre-Abrahamic culture to the Information Age. Sudan and Saudi Arabia sometimes seem to be in a race to see which has the craziest Islamic government. (December 3, 2007, March 19, 2010, for starters)
That said, I'm (slightly) sympathetic with whatever Pakistani official decided to block FaceBook. I'm a practicing Catholic - and was not at all pleased when a college professor stuck a nail through a consecrated host, ripped a page out of the Quran, tossed the lot into a trash can and posted a photo of the result. It was a statement about the "self-satisfied ignorance" of people like me. Adding insult to injury, my tax dollars helped pay the salary of this fellow. (August 5, 2008)
I was - and am - angry about the situation.
I also recognize that the American notion of "freedom of expression" and equality protects that sort of sacrilege. I'd be a bit less displeased with the situation, if American 'equality' was a bit more evenly distributed - but that's another topic.
Pakistan and FaceBook: It Could have been WorsePakistan's action against FaceBook makes sense, in a way. My understanding is that at least some flavors of Islam believe that any visual depiction of The Prophet - or any living thing - is strictly forbidden. Given that assumption, I can see where they would want to ban FaceBook over 'Draw Mohammed Day.'
Under the circumstances, I think stopping short of a fatwa demanding the head of FaceBook executives and staffers shows commendable restraint.
But, understanding the motives behind this censorship doesn't mean that I entirely approve. I've lived much of my life in an American subculture where facts and ideas which do not support the dominant view are actively expunged from discussion. It's not good for people who don't conform to their leaders' opinions: and in the long run, I don't think it's good for the leaders. Yet another topic.
'Draw Mohammed Day' - This Does Not HelpWhatever the motives of the 'Draw Mohammed Day' organizers, I have more trouble sympathizing with their cause. It's hard to believe that many in the English-speaking world who have heard of Mohammed are unaware of the prohibitions against drawing a likeness of The Prophet.
I don't have a problem with visual depictions of living creatures - but I know that others do. I would no more invite people in a public setting to draw The Prophet, than I would to offer an orthodox Jew a ham sandwich, or insist that a strict vegetarian eat a porterhouse steak.
Not that those three examples are quite equivalent. The point is, I've lived among people who weren't exactly like me. It really isn't smart to intentionally insult and abuse another's beliefs or customs.
I understand that it may 'feel good' to fling insults at 'those people.' It may even earn you some status in your own little subculture.
But we live in a big world. I can understand Sudan's leaders having fits over a teddy bear, and a Saudi cleric who wants women to use one eye at a time. Understand, not condone.
That 'Draw Mohammed Day' has a Western feel to it - which makes the 'Draw Mohammed Day' organizers more culpable. They presumably either grew up in a culture that - in theory, at least - practiced tolerance: or learned about the concept in their studies. You'd think they'd know better.
- "Pakistan Arrests (Alleged) Times Square Bomber's Financial Backers - By Jove! I Think They've Got It!"
(May 15, 2010)
- "Saudi Arabia, Lawyers and Women: Edging Toward the 17th Century"
(February 20, 2010)
- "Saudi Women Protest Lingere Shops - It's Not What You Might Think"
(March 26, 2009)
- " 'Towelhead,' 'Retard,' and Talking Sense in a Global Society"
(February 24, 2009)
- " 'Self-Satisfied Ignorance?' Eucharist, Quran, and Atheist Book Trashed"
(August 5, 2008)
- " 'They're all Muslims' - This Does Not Help"
(December 29, 2007)
- "Special Consideration Doesn't Help"
(August 27, 2007)
- Another Islamic Voice in the Debate"
(July 16, 2007)
- "Pakistan shuts down Facebook over 'Draw Mohammed' Day"
CNN (May 18, 2010)
Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.