Friday, April 30, 2010

Chalkin' it up to Free Speech: AAF stands with Trey Parker and Matt Stone

"Life is a 4-letter word"
-Lenny Bruce

The worst possible thing that can happen on a college campus happened today: some people were offended. As students receiving our liberal education we've been inculcated with the sure knowledge that these are the heart of all the great evils in a society: racism, sexism, patriarchal oppression, xenophobia, and probably cancer somehow. We have drawn stick figures upon the land, and with those stick figures is the word "Muhammad." We can only wait in counted breaths to find out how society will respond to our crimes against humanity. If only there were such a thing as a "crime against inanity", we might not be so troubled.

The consequences are pretty harrowing. Behold:

Kidding aside, AAF has wrestled with its collective conscience. It has weighed the dangers, it has been assaulted by the wielders of white guilt, and in the end it has decided that standing up against the enemies of freedom is worth the discomfort of a few who are innocent and our friends. Silencing anyone, including Matt Stone and Trey Parker, via threats and aggression is intolerable; and it will never stop until all of us agree that no one's sacred cow unwrites basic human rights. You can cater to the whims of fundamentalists, or you can cater to fundamental rights, but you can't do both. And Muslim Student Association of U of I, you do cater to the fundamentalists in at least one respect. You talk all day long about peaceful means, condemn threats, fostering discussion, and mutual respect, but at the end of the day your position will still be "those extremists are evil and insane, now do everything they asked because they're totally right about the issue." They aren't right. No one has the special luxury in our society of not being offended. When that principle is threatened, all people of conscience, no matter their religion or politics, must oppose it in whatever ways are available. That's why we risk so much that is precious to us to do what we did. The prospect of your friendship is precious to us. I hope some day you can join us, AAF, and the entire community of religious groups who know that we can coexist only as peers for whom the same rules, not special rules, apply.

I want to thank everyone who helped out. The response was really inspiring- we almost had too many people. I'm very proud of you, to be among you, and to be your president.


PS - Check out our Flickr photostream here for some more images of our handiwork. Here are a couple from that set.


Dan Regan said...

I enjoyed last night tremendously, but I posted about some comments that were made that I disagree with.

Free speech is, in my opinion, the most basic need in a secular, free society. Anything we can do to fight for it we absolutely should.

Here's my post about last night:

Edward Clint said...

thanks for coming out Dan, glad you had fun.

Anonymous said...

As I saw the stick figure drawings across the Quad I came to the realization that most of the students on this campus probably didn't know what they were for. In fact one passerby I overheard stated, "Who is this guy Muhammad -his friends must really like him."
Regardless, I think your message for defending free speech is an important one.

However, I'm not sure what you meant by," but at the end of the day your position will still be "those extremists are evil and insane, now do everything they asked because they're totally right about the issue."

I didn't hear if the MSA ever gave a response to the drawings. How do you know is they believe that we should be honoring the commands of extremists?

AAF said...

I assume that was based on an email they sent us before we did the event. Read their email, and our response, here:

Anonymous said...

There's different ways to express free speech, other than targeting a specific religion. I'm just an ordinary student who doesn't believe that this was in line with anything - I was under the impression that your organization and this event was to promote "free speech." By attacking a specific religion and deliberately disrespecting it, I don't see how that promotes free speech. It just promotes hatred and more division. If your organization believes that religion promotes hatred and/or division, then these actions did not do anything different than what your organization is supposedly critical of. This action is not only unnecessary and based off pure ignorance and arrogance, but it is hypocritical and self-defeating.

Edward Clint said...

If drawing a stick figure amounts to "promoting hate and division" then I plead guilty and wait for a time when drawing a stick guy is not an unbearable outrage.

NoYourGod said...

This was a free speech act, not a "hatred and ... division" act. Some times you have to make a point directly at the people who need to see it.

In this situation, it happened to be an Islamic organization that proclaimed "you must not say that or you may/will die." It is logical that the students promote free speech by countering against the repressive organization involved. It would have made absolutely no sense had the students drawn Muhammad after a communist organization demanded that pictures of Karl Marx not be shown, but that was not the case here.

Reportedly some students did make some anti-muslim statements while the stick-men were being drawn. To that I say "Welcome to free speech" (and based on what I have read about some of those comments, "stupidity", which is also protected by free speech). In addition, the implications that the specific Islamic organization is not taken seriously (follow the links in the AAF comment) is a moot point. Radicals have killed people because their narrow view prohibits images of Muhammad. Meanwhile, many other Muslims allow images. From a free speech viewpoint, this had to be taken seriously. And it was taken seriously.

Ryan Egesdahl said...

It's so interesting how religious people get to define what "attacking a specific religion" is, even if it's the persons who specifically support or worship within the religion who engage in foolishness. But if those same people attack others, they are expressing their free speech, even though their attacks are specifically religious.

Please, Anonymous #2, whoever you are, stop defending others' sacred cows. Telling other people they can't make fun of you because of your special religious status is antithetical to free speech. Let them defend themselves and take your concern trolling elsewhere.

Ken said...

Coercing Muslims to create depictions of Muhammad against their beliefs would be hateful and disrespectful.

Coercing non-Muslims to abide by Muslim beliefs is also hateful and shows a disrespect for non-Muslims.

Dan Regan said...

I agree completely with NoYourGod, all anti-Muslim statements that were said were fair game. Personally I disagree with some of the comments that were made, but I vehemently support the setiment: "Welcome to free speech".

This was a really big deal, guys. I'm so excited to have been a part of it!

Anonymous said...

This is an ignorant act. Yes, obviously just drawing a stick figure does not promote hate or division, but drawing a stick figure and then using the name of a prophet of a religion, does promote hate. Let's say I was to come out and draw swastikas all over the quad and just claim it was just 6 lines drawn together and how can 6 lines that are drawn promote any sort of hate? It is not the six lines or the stick figure, but what you are attempting to represent or the message you are sending that is simply ignorant of other's beliefs and simply promotes and encourages more hate to occur. Ed, you claim that it is simply promoting free speech, but that's not true. There are a million other ways to promote free speech, but this takes care of two things at once for you, free speech AND your expression of disrespect for Islam. You could have easily gone about this many different ways without involving a religious group. Ed, you rip on the Muslim Students Association at UIUC, but I don't remember them ever drawing things on the Quad when there are beliefs of yours that they disagree with. Do they go around writing "There is a God, Don't believe Atheists."? No, they don't. They work with different interfaith groups to promote discussion, and have been an important mainstay in the UIUC community. Ed, maybe you need to take a step back and stop simply promoting your agenda at the expense of others, but rather attend some of these different interfaith events to get an idea of the work that different Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups at UIUC are doing together. You may all think I am Muslim, and just think that this is just some Muslim kid going off, but you couldn't be more wrong. Having said that, I have had the opportunity to work with different Muslims, Jewish, and Christian people, and I admire them for their morality and adherence to a way of life. Maybe you all need to realize what those religions are about before you express your hate and disrespect.

Victoria said...

While I am glad to see an in-your-face approach from my fellow non-believers, this still does not lessen the abiding shame to UIUC as a whole for firing the Daily Illini's editor-in-chief for publishing the Kurt Westergaard Mohammed cartoon. As an alum, that was a profoundly disturbing moment for freedom of press on campus and showed that the illiberal, politically correct establishment will even suppress news items of world-wide import if it transgresses their arbitrary boundaries of 'offence'.

Victoria said...

@Anonymous @ 1 May 2010, 13:36

"rather attend some of these different interfaith events to get an idea of the work that different Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups at UIUC are doing together."

Your small-minded take on religion is duly noted. Limiting one's concept of religion to the main three Abrahamic faiths is classic, myopic political correctness. If you were not so blinkered by Abrahamic supremacism, you would have the sense to throw in Buddhism or Wicca, so as to at least feign the appearance of genuine pluralism.

"promoting your agenda at the expense of others"

Isn't that the nature of holding any ideology that extends beyond ourselves? Pretty much every civil rights movement would technically meet the same opprobrium.

Besides the "expense" in this case is the personal, normative reaction of 'offence'. Funnily enough religious apologists like you never let me ban the Torah or Qur'an because it offends me as a lesbian or agnostic. Why is that?

Edward Clint said...

Actually Victoria I am glad for anon's bravely anonymous message here. I've found that many people don't believe me that such nonsensical criticism has been levied. It gives me much needed evidence for those who have never encountered faux liberal outrage in the 'wild'.

Your comments are well made though. I think at least an Op-Ed is in order.

Anonymous said...

Proud to be an alumnus

Thanks for the efforts guys

Zico H. said...

Like Richard Dawkins says, you simply cannot question or comment on religion simply because it's religion. Why should religion enjoy such an elite status? I stand by Parker and Stone.

Public Defender said...

"Reportedly some students did make some anti-muslim statements while the stick-men were being drawn. To that I say "Welcome to free speech" (and based on what I have read about some of those comments, "stupidity", which is also protected by free speech)."

It seems this is more about attention grabbing than making a point about free speech. It's cheap and easy to target this particular community on this issue, because you know in advance that this won't really be a big deal - (it's not as if 2005 was the first time someone depicted Muhammad, you know). And if some Muslims make a ruckus about it, it's still a tiny minority in the whole community.

You really want to test if free speech is alive and well? Go chalk up the whole campus with signs glorifying Timothy McVeigh.

It may be a horrible thing to say, but you have the right to say it. That will tell you if free speech is alive and well in CU. Posting stick figures in a city where few care about them won't. You need to actually say something that likely a majority of the city will find offensive.

Anonymous said...

Brave anonymous here Ed..

Question for you and some others on this discussion board: If I was to go around all over quad or all over the campus and write messages such as "Atheism is not real", "Gays go to hell", or to be more similar to what was done in this case, draw a stick figure that said "Hitler" on top, or said "Islamic terrorist" on top of it, then there should be nobody complaining right? Because it's free speech right? I am targeting certain groups of people, but it's not hate or discrimination, just free speech right? Why can't I say the N word without anybody getting mad...I mean it's just free speech right? Yes, I could argue that it is free speech and I can do whatever I want, BUT my point is that there are different ways to show free speech other than trying to spark a reaction from a religious or social group. You chose to do so by showing utter disrespect and ignorance of what Muslim people believe or care about. You were NOT trying to promote free speech with this act. Your intention was clearly to incite a reaction from religious groups all over campus, and in particular, Muslims. Really, what does that accomplish? Are you trying to get a point across that Muslim people are apparently against free speech and thus must be Un-American...are you waiting for somebody to do something stupid in reaction so you can say oh see i told you look how irrational or stupid those Muslim people are? You claim that I am being ignorant by ignoring other faiths, but trust me, I don't. I understand that there are other faiths and I appreciate the fact that we can all believe in what we want and live peacefully. It is rather you being ignorant for assuming that all Muslim people are the ones that are issuing violent threats to people that are making these drawings. This is not was simply an extremist organization. Why attack a campus organization because of what they did? Trying to see if somebody from that group does something stupid so you can group all Muslim people at UIUC together too? That's what it seems like you're doing, but this is far from just a promotion of free speech.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech is a privilege that not many across the world share. So to abuse this privilege by saying and doing things to deliberately hurt and offend people is a disgrace. Violence can never ever be justified and the terrorism must never be allowed to win. However, these drawings are aimed at hurting Muslims around campus and cause great offense to people that condemn violence and hatred. These offensive, childish and cruel acts (under the veil of freedom of speech) will only divide communities that have always lived peacefully and happily together here around UIUC. You are speaking out for cartoon makers who have caused offense, by drawing pictures that you know will cause even more offense! Gotta love that freedom of speech!

Anonymous said...

As a Muslim, I am disgusted and ashamed that terrorists say they are killing innocents in the name of my religion. Any decent Muslim would not kill or threaten to kill.
The comments of some, saying that you "had fun" being a part of this graffiti and deliberate attempt to hurt your fellow students around campus are shameful.
The act itself is bad enough, and then to justify this offense as the "fun" of freedom of speech is despicable.

Edward Clint said...

I won't clarify our aims again.. as we've done so many times before now and you either are not sufficiently literate or honest to respond to those.

So instead let me say, welcome to America. I'm glad you are so offended. The only way anyone can be sure that they live in a free society is when they commonly experience people using their freedom badly. By being offended you are learning what it means to be in such a society.. that there are offensive (to you) things being said and done all the time.

The same is true for the rest of us, we just grew up and got over it a long time ago. I hope you can join us some day.

Monica said...

So brave for you to post your free speech anonymously, anonymous -- unlike those in this group who have put their names to their words.

You have a difficult time understand why people might want to draw Mohammed besides a deliberate desire to be offensive. Allow me to assist. Here is why people all over the country are now drawing Mohammed:

If you find a stick drawing offensive to your beliefs (or someone else's, but I'm guessing your own), that is sign enough of how badly you are in need of a reality check.

Now, I'm sure we all expect you to return to your scheduled programming of mindless ramblings: "But Ayaan Hirsi Ali is misguided, she doesn't speak the truth about Islam, etc. etc."

Anonymous said...

So instead let me say, welcome to America.

Boy - the biases within this statement alone are mind boggling, given that most members of the MSA are as American as you are.

Welcome to humanity, friend.

Edward Clint said...

That was rhetorical not literal. Here,

Anonymous said...

Yet Another Anonymous here.

- Those on the pro-stick-figure side should recognize that they are hurting people who didn't hurt them and were entirely private with their religious beliefs. I don't think it's useful to offend people just for the sake of offending people.

- However, everyone should realize that that offense was not the intent of the stick figures; it is collateral damage. The point of such actions is to support those whose free speech was physically threatened, and to challenge those who would physically threaten free speech. Defending free speech is extremely important to all of us.

- To the Muslim Student Association: I am worried that you appear to condemn those who draw stick figures of the prophet about much as you condemn those who threaten violence. From the MSA letter: "I stand directly against the bigotry and intolerance that is purported by people of both religious and secular humanist backgrounds.". The two are not equal. Even if it's rude to cause offense, threatening violence or enacting violence are on a whole other level. You issued a letter for the purpose of condemning the stick figures. Where was the outrage against threats of violence? Where was the support of free speech? (Disclaimer: I'm not really familiar with the MSA, so you may well stand up for free speech in ways I don't know of.)

- To whoever said "welcome to America. I'm glad you are so offended.": I think that comment implies that the other person is not American, which is quite rude and can be seen as xenophobic, even though I realize that was probably not the intent.

Monica said...

Many Americans, whether naturalized or citizens by birth, don't really understand the constitution or the basic freedoms it was designed to protect. I don't care as much about what citizenships people hold as what ideas they hold in their heads. I don't know Edward Clint, but my guess is that the phrase "Welcome to America" could be applied pretty equally to many people, regardless of religion or lack thereof, or country of origin. I don't see that statement as directed at those without American citizenship, but I don't speak for Edward, either.

Personally, I consider those without American citizenship, either inside or outside of this country, who understand and desire the protection and enjoyment of those freedoms, to be more American, in the best sense, than those who technically hold American citizenship who have long since forgotten -- or never understood in the first place -- what true freedom, as enshrined in the Constitution, actually is.

Brian Kendig said...

Drawing stick figures of Mohammed is not similar to drawing swastikas. It's more similar to drawing Stars of David in 1930s Germany.

The swastika is a symbol that's been used to bring suffering and death to an entire ethnic group. Drawings of Mohammed do not bring suffering and death to Muslims. The Jews do not believe they are commanded to kill people who draw swastikas.

The idea that some Muslims say "you dare not depict our religious leader, or else we will kill you" is a terribly, despicably wrong idea, and must be corrected wherever it shows up. No group has the right to threaten bodily harm to other people for doing harmless things that happen to annoy that group.

Edward Clint said...

For the sarcasm impaired, sometimes a person says "welcome to earth" they don't actually believe the person they are addressing is from another planet. This is the sense in which I made the 'welcome to America' remark.

And this by the way, is a big part of the problem. Walk on eggshells. Don't use literary devices, irony, sarcasm, or subtlety. It might be taken wrong by the delicate, humorless ears of the PC police. You're not interested in equality or mutual understanding. You're interested in abusing any possible perceived or imagined insult to further your political position, honesty be damned.

sandy said...

Love this site. I'm an alum, old enough to be grandparent to the likes of some of you. So good to know that my generation hasn't succeeded in turning all otherwise intelligent, good people into PC nincompoops (folks from the dark side weren't bright enough even to educate into PC-ness, although some of them are obviously very clever.)

Anonymous said...

Brian, as you mentioned, it is some Muslims that feel that way. Let's clarify that word some into 0.01% or maybe even less of the Muslim population that feels that way. Let me tell you something, if I went around drawing swastikas, there would be a much greater number than 0.01% of not just a religious group, but probably the entire population that would want to physically harm me. Is that a good thing? No it's not. But that's the way it is. So to participate in something that is disrespectful to billions of people to get back at that 0.01% of Muslims is just idiotic and doesn't really accomplish anything at all. Yes, there is a freedom of speech and I stand by it 100%. Ed, would you be upset if I went around using the N word? It's not PC, but hell, it's freedom of speech correct? Yes, it is my right to say whatever I want, but the fact that those words stand for something and are blatantly disrespecting others that did NOTHING to you is ignorant and immature.

Ed, it seems like somebody has made some disparaging comments to you at some point in your life, so you feel the need to do that to others as a false sense of revenge that is clearly misdirected. What are you trying to prove, that other people are vulnerable just as you are? Just because you have apparently gotten over it (even though it's obvious you haven't at all), doesn't mean you need to drag others into your mess of a life. That's right stop paying for therapy I got you taken care of and I'll be here all frikin day!

Rachel Storm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

This is great!

Next time, let's all write one of the following:

"The holocaust wasn't real!"

"I hate negroes!"

"All Mexicans are lazy and smell like beans!"

After all, it's our duty to say anything and everything. You know, to save free speech and all.

We definitely shouldn't try to engage in rational arguments or anything. Let's just insult people until they agree with us.

Jim said...

Let me just add one more quick thing. We all have the right to free speech (or at least should - maybe some people reading this don't), but that doesn't mean we should just go around insulting people for the hell of it. What exactly did these chalk drawings accomplish?

I am well within my legal rights to walk around shouting the word 'nigger' at the top of my lungs, but I don't. Why? Because I'm not an asshole.

Brian Kendig said...

These chalk drawings demonstrate that threats and intimidation will not win anyone over to one's cause.

Nicole said...

Anonymous, you are missing the point of the exercise. it's not just about free speech, it's more specifically about criticism of religion. it's about fighting back against people who think that religious beliefs are above scrutiny. drawing a stick figure and labeling it muhammed says "we think it is silly to be offended by this, and we have a right to say it." the point isn't to outright offend 1 billion muslims around the world, but if that's what happens, maybe they should reevaluate their beliefs. they didn't use a swastika because it wouldn't be relevant: first of all nazism is a political party, and second they haven't been threatening people with death for depicting hitler as a bear. this freedom of speech/criticism of beliefs thing goes both ways too: perhaps you think i am foolish to not believe in god, those atheists are stupid. you could go around telling people that you disagree with my belief system and you think it's dumb, and you would have every right to do that. and members of a secular organization such as AAF also have every right to draw benign stick figures and label them 'muhammed' regardless of whether it offends people. this isn't about pissing people off just for the fun of it, it's making a statement: religious beliefs are not above criticism.

Bob said...

The comparison to all sorts of examples of hate speech is significantly wrong on two levels:

1) Nobody is routinely threatening violence upon people for using the 'n' word or denying the holocaust. This event was not targeted at the students on campus but at the bullies threatening Trey, Matt, Kurt, Ayaan, etc.

2) Stick figures are not inherently offensive. They don't represent American slavery and the oppression of African Americans, they don't represent, condone or deny the existence of genocide. They don't perpetuate a negative stereotype. They don't promote hate. The worst they could be said to do is remind Muslims that non-Muslims don't follow their laws.

Monica said...


The point is not to deliberately offend the religious. The point is that Muslims have made, and carried out, death threats when Mohammed is drawn, so what is to be done about it?

Christians, Jews, and atheists are not carrying out death threats when someone draws Jesus or the flying spaghetti monster. Buddhists are not carrying out death threats to those who draw Buddha. etc.

The point of this drawing campaign is to spread the risk around so that there are far too many targets for oversensitive Muslims to possibly attack. The purpose of the "draw Mohammed" campaign is not to offend, but to guarantee the right to free speech. An ancillary goal is to point out the ironies of a religion that claims to be peaceful yet slits the throats of those who draw likenesses of Mohammed.

If we do not defend free speech, it *will* be lost. Hoping that this problem will go away simply by ignoring and catering to religious fanatics is not going to work. Moreover, it's insulting to believe that Muslims are incapable of civilized behavior that we have to protect them their own emotions by not drawing cartoons.

As intolerant as many Christian fundamentalists are, none of them are carrying out death threats over the portrayal of Jesus in drawings, sculpture, etc. No one was murdered when Monthy Python's "Life of Brian" came out. If they were doing this, a "draw Jesus" campaign would definitely be in order.

Jim said...

@Bob: Nothing is 'inherently' anything. Swastikas aren't inherently offensive. Burning crosses aren't inherently offensive. It is their associations that are offensive, just like any depiction of Mohammad is offensive to Muslims.

@Monica: 'Muslims' have not been slitting throats around the world. Muslims are not some homogenous block of people. To characterize 'them' as such is idiocy. This is the same sort of logic that the religious minded use when they say that atheists and agnostics are all evil because some non-believer did something bad.

To say that the religion as a whole is not about peace is to misunerstand (grossly, I might add) the nature of belief systems in general. Islam is not inherently peaceful or violent or anything else. Like all belief systems (religious or otherwise), the actions that flow from Islam are dependent upon the interpretations of adherents, and these interpretations vary widely across sub-groups.

Just like you can't condemn science as horrific because of Spencer's 'survival of the fittest' doctrine, the Nazi experiments, eugenics, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, and the like, you can't dismiss religion as inherently violent or anything else.

The truth value of religion is an entirely different matter. There is no empirical support of any kind for the existence of any god or gods, so I reject the existence of any such figure; however, the absurdity of belief does not imply violence on the part of adherents.

Jim said...

Bob: "Nobody is routinely threatening violence upon people for using the 'n' word or denying the holocaust. This event was not targeted at the students on campus but at the bullies threatening Trey, Matt, Kurt, Ayaan, etc."

Walk down the streets of any major city and shout the 'n word' (hooray for irony!) over and over again. You'll likely find yourself in a difficult position fairly quickly.

But wait! I haven't heard of anyone being attacked for the use of this particular word. Well, that's because we, for the most part, respect the fact that African Americans are rightly offended by its use, so we don't use it. We should show a similar respect for Muslims.

Does that justify the minority of Muslims who would resort to violence for these chalk drawings? Nope, but to gratuitously insult all Muslims because of the actions of a few is a dick move.

Jim said...

@Ed: "That was rhetorical not literal. Here,"

You thrive on being a prick, don't you?

Before you start insulting others, maybe you should learn how to use semi-colons and pronouns?

Monica said...

Jim, now you're just ignoring facts, or are at the very least, ignorant of them. 20 or so people were killed in riots over the last Mohammed cartoon episodes a couple of years ago. So it's entirely reasonable to believe that these death threats are real and will be acted upon.

A considerably larger number of Muslim adherents are willing to perpetrate violence in comparison to other religious groups. Christianity, too, used to be more violent but has since come out of the Dark Ages. Some Christians are still violent: the killing of abortion doctors is one example. But we can all agree that it's unheard of for Christians to slit throats, as a Muslim slit the throat of Theo Van Gogh, for drawing Jesus or saying something critical of Jesus. If that sort of practice was common, we'd have a big problem on our hands.

I'm not implying that 100% of Muslims are violent. Certainly, teh vast majority are not. What I am saying is that there is a significant minority that take religious commands in the Qu'ran seriously, in ways that Christians no longer take similar commands in the Bible seriously (i.e. to slay the nonbelievers, etc.), and that that significant minority presents a threat.

If you read the article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, that I linked above, I think she makes that point rather clearly and concisely, so I encourage you to read it.

I have experienced that practice of "commanding right and forbidding wrong" by a Muslim coworker of mine in the past. It took the form of admonishing me on my dress, etc., which she apparently thought was inappopriate.

Such comments are certainly innocent enough, and though I found them annoying, I just ignored them. The problem is when the practice of "commanding right and forbidding wrong" crosses the line between verbal admonishment and physical injury/murder.

I'm not going to spend time trying to convince anyone that recent historical events actually matter. I think that should be self-evident.

Monica said...

Chances are if you were to randomly shout racial slurs in the street, you would probably get beat up. You wouldn't get murdered. You'd be much more likely to get hurt if you directed those racial slurs at one person in particular. Otherwise, if you randomly walked the streets shotuing racial slurs, most people would probably just consider you insane and you would get picked up by the police.

Drawing Mohammed and publishing it is akin to, if not a much milder form of offense, putting a statue of Jesus in a vat of urine and putting it on display in a museum.
In the west, classical liberals don't condemn artists for criticizing Christianity -- and they shouldn't. However, double standards should not apply here.

Jim said...


Two things:

1) Tell your co-worker to shut the hell up, but don't generalize from her to all Muslims.

2) If you want to compare death tolls by religion, I think you'll find many more killings over the past few years committed by Christians and Jews. Now, we can't attribute these killings to Christianity or Judaism, but, rather, to the control of devastating technologies that allow for the killing of extremely large numbers of people.

Jim said...

Monica: "Drawing Mohammed and publishing it is akin to, if not a much milder form of offense, putting a statue of Jesus in a vat of urine and putting it on display in a museum."

Here's the key phrase: is akin to, if not a milder form of offense.

I would add, 'to Monica.' You do not understand the level of offense because you do not seem to understand the symbolic significance of images of Muhammad to Muslims. You may (and I would agree here) that Muslims should not be offended, but you don't get to decide how offended other people are. The offense is there regardless of whether or not you believe it to be rational. There is no objective standard out there of what is offensive and what is not.

Again, that doesn't mean that killing anyone for any sort of picture is ok, but deliberately and gratuitously offending a horde of people who have done nothing to you is a huge, huge, huge dick move.

Monica said...

"you don't get to decide how offended other people are"

Of course not. They are free to be as offended as they like, just not to kill people over it.

The question is whether Muslims deserve special protection from being offended that we do not grant to aherents of other religious faiths. I think that is what you are suggesting, and I disagree.

There's no right to be protected from drawings of Mohammed, movies criticizing your religion, women in miniskirts, etc. Freedom of expression is the last leg of a civilized society.

Let's get real. Those of us who are atheists are offending the religious at every moment of our lives, merely by existing.

Jim said...

Monica: "The question is whether Muslims deserve special protection from being offended that we do not grant to aherents of other religious faiths. I think that is what you are suggesting, and I disagree."

Absolutely incorrect. I don't think we should attack an entire group for the actions of a few. or example, if a Mexican breaks into my home, I don't get mad at Mexicans. I get mad at the bastard that broke into my house.

Some groups - and these groups do not have to be religious groups, they are typically disadvantaged groups that we do not understand - get painted with very broad brush strokes. Instead of being seen as diverse groups, anyone who believes in Islam becomes seen as a large unit, so when people respond to the actions of an individual or small group, the entire group becomes an 'appropriate' target for attack.

It's exactly the same thing that is happening in Arizona. Anyone who is brown skinned becomes an anonymous 'them' who is responsible for any number of social ills. This group needs to be controlled because of the 'threat' that they pose to our society, freedom, economy, whatever.

If I murder someone, it's not because I'm a white male. White men won't all of a sudden become a public menace, but if a Mexican immigrant commits a murder, then all Mexicans need to be subject to extra scrutiny.

What we're dealing with here is a large, diverse group of people - Muslims - that is being lumped together and attacked as a singular entity. That is what I have a problem with.

'Muslims' do not receive special treatment any more than immigrants are receiving special treatment when we don't lump them together into one big, scary group that needs to be fought.

Jim said...

Monica: "There's no right to be protected from drawings of Mohammed, movies criticizing your religion, women in miniskirts, etc. Freedom of expression is the last leg of a civilized society."

Also, I didn't say that Muslims have a right to be 'protected' from chalk drawings. I said the people who made the drawings are assholes. There's a big difference.

Monica said...

Ah, but drawings aren't an "attack."
We're not "attacking" Muslims by making drawings any more than Monty Python "attacked" Christians by making Life of Brian, any more than I'm "attacking" Muslims by wearing tight jeans. Expressing an opinion or a controversial point of view, creating a clever piece of satire, or even deliberately offending someone, is not the same as "attacking" someone.

The fact of the matter is that there is currently a big disconnect between Islam and western ideals of freedom which needs to be contended with. I don't fear an honor killing for having revealed to my fundamentalist Christian family that I am an atheist. Unfortunately, many formerly Muslim women do live with that fear in the west, and have to go into hiding for several years to avoid their male relatives. This isn't merely about a few religious fanatics murdering some irreverent cartoon makers. These nuts don't even respect the lives of their own family members.

Of course, my family is offended by my lack of religious beliefs, but over the past 400 years, Christians have learned to handle their offense in civilized ways. They no longer police their community and family members using the literal dictates of the Bible as their guide. There is a significant minority of Muslims that need to learn to do the same: more openly interpret the Qu'ran. (Most have already done so.)

Jim, one thing that troubles me is that you're now trying to paint crimes that are ideological and religious in nature as acts of violence that are not related in any way, shape or form, to Islam. It would be like depicting the abortion doctor killings as a random act of violence, divorced from any sort of Christian religious context, despite the fact that the abortion doctor killers are quite open about their motivations.

It's true that those particular killer Christians don't represent all Christians. But we cannot ignore that the doctor killers are meting out "justice" based on their religious moral code and a strict adherence to Scripture. Also, and this is *key*, the extent to which the Christian doctor killers are sympathized with in the Christian community, rather than condemned and shunned, and conversely -- the doctor victims blamed as "getting what they deserve" -- may be indicative of a dangerous trend in the Christian community that we would be foolish to ignore, or to pass off as merely isolated crimes that have no broader ideological and religious context.

You're also conflating ethnicity or national origin, both factors which a person has no choice over, with religion. That's just silly. I don't fear all Mexicans because some crimes are committed by Mexicans. I *would* fear Mexicans more if they started committing crimes in the name of some broader ideological cause around which people were rallying, such as Mexican nationalism.

The men who killed Theo Van Gogh and attempted to kill Kurt Westergaard are not people who just happened to be Muslim, with the crime divorced from any broader ideological or religious context. These guys are completely open about their religious motivations.

Of course, you know that -- or you wouldn't be calling for people to self-censor their drawings of a religious figure based on an ignorant, irrational, centuries-old taboo.

Monica said...

And since you're seeing fit to boss others around as to what they should and should not do (don't generalize, don't draw cartoons, don't do this, do that), here is something *you* should do. Watch this video.

Jim said...

Monica: "Jim, one thing that troubles me is that you're now trying to paint crimes that are ideological and religious in nature as acts of violence that are not related in any way, shape or form, to Islam. "

I have done no such thing. In fact, in an earlier post I linked the actions of fundamentalists to their particular version of Islam. Their extremist interpretation of this religion leads to both violence and support of violence. I am arguing that we shouldn't take the actions of some and say it is representative of the group, which is exactly what you do when you intentionally offend all Muslims. You put on display the same ignorance you claim to fight.

"And since you're seeing fit to boss others around as to what they should and should not do (don't generalize, don't draw cartoons, don't do this, do that), here is something *you* should do. Watch this video."

I am profoundly sorry that I asked you not to make wild generalizations based on your experiences with your coworker.

I don't tell people what they should and shouldn't do. I will say, though, that the chalk drawers are assholes, and they are.

"You're also conflating ethnicity or national origin, both factors which a person has no choice over, with religion."

What I am talking about is the fact that groups of people - religious or otherwise - that we are unfamiliar with or have a low opinions of get lumped together into one group, and that membership in that group becomes our explanation for the actions of members of that group.

It's like if you (not you in particular, the universal 'you') get cut off in traffic by someone of your own ethnic/racial group in traffic, you may think to yourself, "That guy is a prick." But if it's a brown skinned foreigner, you may say, "Fucking foreigners can't drive."

Bob said...

Just as you said, "It is their associations that are offensive." A stick figure is not associated with oppression of or violence toward Muslims. Sure if the drawings had Muhammad in compromising positions it would have an offensive message, but that's not what this is.

If all uses of racial slurs are going to get you beat up, Kanye must get his ass kicked all the time. But he doesn't because the way he uses the 'n' word is not associated with hatred. In the same way, nothing about stick figures is associated with hatred.

In the same way I respect the offensive nature of racial slurs, I didn't use one on any of the drawings to describe Muhammad. I didn't even criticize his recorded actions, which I think is fair game, but clearly more offensive.

Jim said...

I'm in the middle of the video right now, and, while I love Bill Maher and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is clearly a courageous woman, there are major problems. The first is the title: 'the truth about Islam.' There is no universal 'truth' about Muslim anymore than there is some truth about any other block of over a billion people.

The second is the same sort of overgeneralization that you make. I have met quite a few Muslim women who are outspoken, confident, etc. Should I say, then, that all Muslim women are outspokent, confident, etc? Nope.

The major world religions (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, probably Confucianism but I'm not sure) all subordinate women. So has science, although this sentiment has largely - far from totally however - been driven out of science.

If that is the case, then the writings in the Quran cannot be said to be the cause of Ayaan's poor treatment. Instead, it is the selective interpretation and application of these writings by adherents. It is those specific people or groups that must be fought, not all Muslims.

Jim said...

@Bob: There is no one objective standard of offense out there. To a Muslim, a picture of M is horribly offensive. You do not understand the offense, but that does not mean it is not there.

You have every right to say or draw whatever you want, but that doesn't make intentionally insulting Muslims any less of a dick move.

Also, Kanye doesn't get his ass kicked because the connotations of the so-called 'n word' are completely different when spoken by an African American.

Monica said...

Hi Jim,

You keep conveniently ignoring facts, so this will be my last post. I don't make a habit of arguing with people who ignore reality.

I don't make "wild generalizations" about Muslims based on my coworker. I make rational ones. If I were to encounter another Muslim who chided a woman on her dress or behavior by saying "Women must be careful, very careful!" or, "Oh, her pants are too tight, too tight!" it would not be a wild generalization to assume that her opinions are guided by the dictates of the Qu'ran. It would be a perfectly logical one. When Muslims males kill their female relatives, I don't feign ignorance of context and assume that this was a random act of violence. I make a rational and logical conclusion, which is that it is a high likelihood that it was an honor killing.

I am not lumping Muslims together, yet you keep insisting that I am doing so. YOU are making a generalization about ME -- the very thing you are prohibiting me to do. What I am saying is that when these attacks and threats are explicitly religious in nature -- let's get real, the perpetrators have no qualms about making that clear -- we need to evaluate how widespread the acceptance of those ideas are in the Muslim community, just as we need to evaluate trends in the Christian community as to whether they are isolated incidents or part of a broader trend that needs to be addressed.

Here is the problem. In general, the Muslim community is not as outspoken as it should be about condemning these threats. These are REAL threats that bear no resemblance to how civilized people should be acting. Because the threats are real, because they have forced people to go into hiding or spend millions on personal security, they are having a chilling effect. They are causing companies to silence employees and authors (Comedy Central is not an isolated incident), and this is unprecedented in recent history and should be nonexistent in a free society.

These acts and threats do not need understanding or acceptance of the motivations of the perpetrators. They need to be condemned, period. Without any of the sickeningly anti-humanistic look-to-the-victim double standard blame mentality that now permeates the west, and your comments.

Jim, I do think you are going to be disappointed to find, if the silencing of free speech with regard to criticism of Islam is successful, and I hope it is not, that the offense that religious people feel is a moving target. Certainly you are aware that women in Islamic countries have been killed for far less that wearing a miniskirt in the street, merely for causing offense. And really, since we are supposed to respect others' religious sensibilities, where does it end?

If we cave today to not drawing Mohammed, we will be caving to far worse things in the coming years and decades.

Bravo to AAF for their bravery in standing up to this thuggery and intimidation.

Jim said...

Monica: "You keep conveniently ignoring facts, so this will be my last post. I don't make a habit of arguing with people who ignore reality."

Yes. Anyone who interprets events differently from you must be out of touch with 'reality' and ignorant of the 'facts.'

Jason said...

Hey Jim,

I just wanted to thank you for the time you've taken to engage in this dialogue. I have voiced many of the same points that you have, but stopped fighting out of a feeling of fatigue and futility. Whenever I had the urge to respond I thought, "What's the point?"

But after reading your responses it made me feel good to see that there were others out there who "get it," and I thought, "That's the point."

If you're in Champaign I'd love to buy you a beer sometime. Otherwise, I hope we get to cross paths at some point.


Jason C. Romero
Former VP, AAF

Mat Rayman said...

Jason, as the current VP of AAF, I would respectfully ask that you refrain from using "Former AAF VP" in your signature. It seems like posturing in an attempt to create some sort of schismatic narrative. You had very little to do with the group this year, so don't act so self-important.

Mat Rayman
Vice President, AAF

Bob said...

@Jim, you're relativist view here does not have to be extrapolated far to show how absurd it is. Do you suggest we can't objectively call the Westboro Baptist Church more offensive than Teletubbies?

The ability for a third party to understand the offensiveness could be a powerful test here, and the stick figures fail that test. As I have said below there is no connection between the stick figures and any suffering or oppression of Muslims.

Bob said...

@Mat, don't be ridiculous. Jason was the VP of AAF. He was a very active member of the group for a long time. I am sure he is proud of %90 of the group's activities since it was founded. It's like asking Jimmy Carter not to call himself former President because he disagrees with US policy in Israel.

He had a legitimate difference of opinion with you, me, Franklin, Ed, etc. on this activity. If we can't move past it, that's pretty petty.

@Jason, I hope that even with IAAH on campus next year, that you find time to contribute to AAF as you have done so far. Although I disagree with you on this event, I think you have been a productive voice. I know that if I were still on campus next year, I'd be thrilled to work together with you on the large common ground we share.

Bob said...

@ Everyone
I feel shame for screwing up my you're/your in my previous post. Please don't hold this against me to call me ignorant or privileged.

If you need cheering up (old school internets style) just click my name anywhere in this blog.

Anonymous said...

There is no question about free speech here...its about insulting a religion and the approach you guys took offends a religion, not the right to free speech.

Anonymous said...

Depicting pictures of the Prophet is prohibited in the religion of Islam. Muslims all over the world fight for their right to free speech too, but there is a line between what is moral and what is immoral. I suggest everyone in this secular group to go out and gain some knowledge first. Then, after you gain a proper understanding, I suggest using that knowledge in a proper manner. I agree with the comment above that free speech is not at issue here...the issue here is the freedom of religion without criticism. So Trey and Matt and your group, I suggest you stop being ignorant too and think before you offend.

Rachel Storm said...

@ Bob: Nothing like the Hamster Dance to put a little skip in my atheist step.

Thank you for your comment about Jason's using "former AAF VP." It gave me some sad laughter last night to watch him try to repost the same comment nearly 6 times and have it be consistently deleted by the same group that is claiming their right to free speech.

I'm thankful, too, for your interest in continuing conversation between AAF and IAAH and recognizing while that we won't always agree, we'll always be able to learn something from one another--as well as from the folks outside of our organizations willing to continue the conversation.

Glock21 said...

"the issue here is the freedom of religion without criticism."

hahaha... oh wait, you were serious?

Okay. Just to clarify: we have freedom of religion. None of us are free from criticism. Welcome to liberty.

:)->-< <- Muhammad

Edward Clint said...

Sir, while I may not agree with your punctuation, I will defend to the death your right to punctuate.

Anonymous said...

How odd it is that free speech, a wonderful human right that Islam encourages, is being used to openly offend and discriminate against peoples' religious convictions when it is suppose to protect the views of a minority as well as keep an eye on the government that civilizes a community. What is so contradicting in this case is that a senseless group of offensive, yet "free" thinkers are practicing the opposite of what they preach, which is supposed to be an "anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-patriarchal, and anti-xenophobic" ideology. Rather than use your silly little stick figures to insight a reaction out of those you are trying to offend, get your heads of of your asses and do something about the injustices you seem to contemplate all day long rather than "solve" them by drawing on cement with children toys. Next time you want to prove a point, instead of being lazy and making your target of opposition prove it for you (a quite juvenile and novice trick may I add), come up with something intelligent, intellectual, and justified by the facts - ACTUALLY demonstrate that you UNDERSTAND the situation you are trying to criticize. Until then, take your pathetic Google blogs and delete them, because you're making yourselves look as insignificant as you are in reality. Aesthetics may seem shallow, but in this case, they would have really legitimized you're overdone, over-talked about, uneducated and thus invalid opinion on "extremism". Some razzle dazzle would have at least taken a way from your thoughtless ideas. Respect goes hand in hand with tolerance of The Other you think you're protecting, and until you learn some, S H U T U P.

Nicole said...

your post is incredibly self-righteous and spirals toward incoherence near the end. religious beliefs are not above criticism. get over it.

Ashley said...

How is drawing a picture of a Prophet with chalk with the intention on offending people criticism? Nice try though, Nicole.

Anonymous said...

We don't really choose what is offensive. Depictions of Muhammed through history have not been offensive, this seems to be a newish trend. And a dangerous one too.

This is not about offending, it's about speaking freely about difficult topics such as intimidation and violence.

Anyone noticed that all the stick figures smile? I think that's a positive image.

Noone wants to offend, but the most offended person can completely control what we all do if we decide to live by the doctrine to never offend.

Next time I hold up a painting of a stick figure without a name attached to it, that will be offensive, because someone will decide that I meant some prophet. Then all lines will be offensive. Then just mentioning that stick figures were drawn in the past will be offensive and so forth.

The catholic church was offended that Giordano Bruno held non-catholic views and expressed them. Are we to stand by those who are offended and create reprimands or are we to stand by those who speak even if we don't understand or perhaps disagree?

I think you guys do the right thing and I hope you will all be safe.

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Anonymous said...

Theres a huge difference between free speech and hate... This was targeting a group on purpose trying to cause a response. If you know something will offend someone, why go to that length?

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