Reflections on Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

It’s Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, and as the festivities continue, predictably there are lots of well-meaning people saying that we should all put our pens and pencils down and not offend all those awfully nice Muslim folks.

An article at Huffington Post suggests that Muslims are being singled out, and that black religious extremists would never be ridiculed. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the Black Panthers parodied in numerous movies. Maybe Everybody Draw Mohammed Day makes peaceful Muslims angry, but we wouldn’t have the day if it wasn’t for the non-peaceful Muslims, so maybe it would be more productive to focus anger on the cause of the issue, rather than the reaction to it.

It may superficially seem like a good idea to refrain from drawing pictures of Mohammed in order to avoid offending all the nice Muslims out there. However, it’s equally sensible to refrain from depicting sex, in order to avoid offending all the nice Christians out there. We should definitely stop mocking the Pope’s mis-steps over sexual abuse by priests, to avoid offending the nice Catholics. It makes just as much sense to avoid any nudity, in order to avoid offending all the nice Mormons out there. Let’s not forget the atheists either–let’s avoid drawing crosses or Jesus fish, let alone wearing them. We’ll need to get rid of beef and depictions of beef dishes, in case we offend all the nice Hindus, and get rid of images of pigs which nice Muslims also find offensive enough to complain about. Public displays of affection are offensive to people in many countries, so we’d best put an end to wedding photographs of the bride and groom kissing, we wouldn’t want to offend anyone…

Getting the picture? As soon as you start self-censoring because of the passive-aggressive demands of someone who is offended by mere images, there’s no end to it. The right answer, and the only answer which preserves essential freedom of speech, is to tell people that if they find the sight of something offensive, they are welcome to stop looking at it.

This isn’t a rule that only applies when I’m offending other people. I’ve received well-meaning e-mail encouraging me to whine at Discovery Channel to cancel Sarah Palin’s TV show, or to complain to advertisers and ask them to stop supporting Glenn Beck. I find both Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin offensive and insulting, but since I don’t have to watch either of them, I’ve learned to get over it. I’m not being “punished” by the continued existence of Fox News, and you’re not being “punished” if I draw a crude picture of Mohammed.

Now, if you want to argue that I shouldn’t deliberately post pictures of Mohammed on Muslim discussion forums, or print out posters and stick them on the wall of the nearest Mosque, well that is a more reasonable request. But total self-censorship to avoid the possibility of offending others? Not workable. Too many people get offended by too many things. In fact, if you can go an entire day without being offended by something, I think there may be something wrong with you.

If you don’t want to see a picture of Mohammed, don’t click the appropriate web links. If you think you might be offended by South Park, don’t watch it. If you think everyone should wear magic temple underwear at all times, don’t go to the local swimming pool. And since I don’t want to watch Sarah Palin shooting wolves from a helicopter, I’ll skip her show. OK?