Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

Posted: May 20, 2010 12:18 PM
Spurred by recent American media events, an enterprising Seattle artist suggested "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" in symbolic solidarity of the idea that no form of free speech or artistic expression, no matter how offensive, merits violent response. And so, today, Thursday May 20, is Draw Mohammed Day.

To a certain extent, it's an exercise in offensiveness merely for the sake of offending. And this is a legitimate critique of many things that we find offensive. As many poor-taste TV shows have discovered, it can be easy to offend a huge group of people. It's a testament to American (and generally Western) tolerance that this is largely unremarkable.

As Theo Van Gogh, Danish cartoonists and European free speech advocates have all found out, Mohammed and Islam are different. Terrorism apparently works when it comes to artistic expression. Violence and murder succeeded in preventing private media organizations from engaging in further projects of free expression.

Reason is hosting an Everybody Draw Mohammed contest, the results of which will be posted there today. Nick Gillespie has one of the most eloquent defenses of this controversial form of free speech I've yet read.

There comes a point in any society's existence where it must ultimately, to paraphrase Martin Luther (who himself was more than happy to see opponents put to death), dig in its heels and say here we stand, we will do no other. We don't need to be perfectly consistent philosophically or historically or theologically to assert what is special and unique not just about the United States, with its bizarre and wonderful articulation of the First Amendment, but the greater classical liberal project comprising not just the "West" (whatever that is) but human beings in whatever town, country, or planet they inhabit.

For further reading, check out Matt Welch and Mark Goldblatt, both at Reason. For dissent, check out Brendan O'Neill.

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