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Pakistan: The Draw Mohammed Day Controversy

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Facebook Page

On April 25 a Seattle Cartoonist Molly Norris came on a radio show to announce that she was organizing a cartoon drawing event called Muhammad day in response to Comedy Central’s decision to censor an episode of South Park which had depictions of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH].

In the interview she said:

“as a cartoonist, I just felt so much passion about what had happened.. it’s a cartoonist’s job to be non-PC.”

This resulted in Jon Wellington creating a Facebook fan page on this issue labeling it as “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day”, he introduces the group as:

As a snarky response to Muslim bloggers who “warned” Comedy Central about an episode of South Park showing the Prophet Mohammed wearing a bear suit, one Seattle cartoonist, who calls laughter her form of “prayer,” is asking artists all over the world to create depictions of Mohammed on May 20, then submit the images to a Facebook page she set up. Speaking on a Seattle radio show on Friday, cartoonist Molly Norris said she announced her idea as a way of countering the fear exhibited by Comedy Central in censoring episode 201 of South Park.

The Pakistani blogosphere is in an uproar over the issue, Aamir Attaa at ProPakistani says:

Despite thousands of complaints, Facebook administration is not banning the page; unlike they usually do even for very minor violation of Facebook Terms of Services. This page is clearly violating the terms, by spreading hatred and disrespecting Muslims and their values.

Sana Saleem at Dawn blog writes:

Laughably, the campaign website also claims that the point is not to promote certain “personal/political/religious” messages, but to show the world that “we’re not afraid to depict Muhammad.” But, the question remains, who is the target audience for such a campaign? And what is the purpose of a mass campaign that has the potential to target and offend people of a certain religion?

….. Let’s act rationally once and for all, and help change the trend of the freedom-of-speech excuse being used to justify discriminatory campaigns.

Mani Pro at MANI's Fragasss reacts to say:

The Facebook fan page has been created to hurt our hearts, our souls, our emaan, our love for the prophet (SAW), the prophet for which his real followers faced all the pain in the world. Now when it's up to us, what pain are we willing to suffer?

Expressing her frustration Sahar Rabbani responds at Chowrangi:

They prove by their actions that they are the extremists, not we, and still they call us extremists and terrorists. It seems as if our whole life revolves around Facebook, we’re just so used to all this derogatory stuff that no one really bothers, we’re a dead nation who doesn’t take any action on such events which is really depressing. What we should do is to deactivate our Facebook accounts.

My response to the Molly Norris's interview at Teeth Maestro's blog was to question her hypocrisy on where she chooses to draw the line of Freedom of Expression when questioned about drawing on the holocaust:

Its interesting if you hear her Interview, when asked if she would make fun of the Holocaust – she responds “No, there is nothing funny about it” what a hypocritical statement exposing her idiotic position on Freedom of Expression:

This has generally lead to an uproar across the Facebook with many opposing groups cropping up against this initiative, but the most interesting and the neutral way of opposing this event was presented by some peaceful Muslims to launch a group called Honour The Prophet Muhammad Campaign, which is explained in this YouTube video:

Rabab Khan at Cacoethes Scribendi suggest restraint in going all out condemning the issue:

While I do agree with condemning Draw Muhammad Day, reporting it and insisting Facebook remove it, I also believe that we should look within for the inspiration required to battle such attacks. When we abuse, slander and increase the hatred, we are not helping the cause. We are only adding insult to the injury.

The uproar continued but in all the pressure Molly Norris may have withdrawn from her earlier position to regret to have gone to the show in the first place:

I regret going on a local radio show on April 25th; my ego took me there, it was a mistake. I meant for this to remain a fictional CARTOON, an artistic IDEA, never to catch fire as an actual ‘event’

Facebook or the group URL might be banned in Pakistan

With all the hue and cry about the event it seems that Ministry of Information and Technology in Pakistan may have instructed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block the Facebook or the Facebook page according to the sources close to Aamir Attaa of ProPakistani:

A reliable source, who is in direct contact with Secretary MoIT, told ProPakistani that ministry has issued the directive to PTA to ban said blasphemous content in the country. Ministry of Information Technology directs PTA for banning any URL or whole of website in case of any inappropriate content available on it. It is yet to be ascertained if the whole Facebook will be banned or just a single URL will be filtered. In both the situations, step is inline with thousands of Facebook users and according to their urge of boycotting Facebook on May 20th.

While Imran Jafri at Mabo0t comments on the pending Facebook ban:

It is not yet clear If the directive was issued to ban the entire Facebook or the Facebook fan page in question. We will of course update this post as more details become available to us.

As of filing of this report neither the facebook fan page nor the main domain was blocked in Pakistan.

  • jane doe

    “Its interesting if you hear her Interview, when asked if she would make fun of the Holocaust – she responds “No, there is nothing funny about it” what a hypocritical statement exposing her idiotic position on Freedom of Expression”

    Molly also said she would not make fun of genocide against Muslims or Pakistanis. Why did you leave that out :.)
    She has the right to draw what she wants to… and not to draw what she doesn’t want to. I would draw a cartoon on the Buddha but not one making fun of the Gujarat massacres of Muslims. Does this bother you Muslims too? ;.)

    • John Doe

      No, but it wud annoy the buddhists….. and that is what we are fighting for, RESPECT…. Something that u ppl forgot the meaning of.

      How wud u like it, if i started drawing grotesque pics of u or perhaps a loved one of urz? like a Parent? or a child? and pasted it all over the internet?

      • John Doe

        Nobody has the right of saying anything that hurts someone! its our belief and we stand by it and that makes us better people.

        • jm

          huh? Can’t say anything that might “hurt” someone? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.

          And I hope that didn’t “hurt” you…!

          • faheem

            Its not the matter of “Cant say anything” U must admit the truth that when u do the act which is not liked by an individual, a group of people or a nation u must not do that because its an ethical, moral and social responsibility of the individual living in society of human beings not in JUNGLE to care of the other human being. One must respect the others religion and rights. While under the cover of freedom of expression one can not do whatever he/she likes to do. If so there will be no law/ rule it will be a JUNGLE. ‘if I ask that some one abuse u or draw the picture of ure loved ones (son, parents, wife/husband etc) would u really allowed him to do so??? But literally speaking u dont even have the family values. So this can only be understandable by the person who have some religious values, social values and family values.

            Its simple We Muslims Love Our beloved prophet Mohammed (PBUH) so wont let anyone to draw…………

            May God give u the sense of true human values….

    • http://teeth.com.pk/blog Teeth Maestro

      Jane Doe – the issue is NOT Molly Norris, she may have come forth with a funny idea, but I believe Jon Wellington and his supporting partners made it a bigger issue. It interesting, when talking about religious sensitivities she chose to understand and appreciate the sentiments of the Jewish lobby, its no fun poking at the Holocaust but the cartoon issue is without doubt a very sensitive issue for some of the Muslims.

      It is their belief never to picturise in any form the image of Prophet Muhammed [PBUH] so when someone even jokes lighlty, even in ignorance, its considered a rude joke.

      My concern is she choose to cross the sentimental boundaries of Muslims under the garb of Freedom of Expression, yet when she talked about the Holocaust she said NO, its not funny. if there is Freedom of Expression then make it across the board, then I can give her license that her notion of Free Speech is the perfect unbiased example.

      As regards to genocide against Muslims or Pakistanis, well its already underway courtesy of the American War of Terror… if she wanted to she would have there is no denying that – and will I object, I might

    • Zia

      So,

      i agree with you. But you people and your media both have double standards. I am not against Draw Mohammad. Go ahead and do it. But i aslo want to draw Holocaust and you know what! your dammned facebook block that page within 10 mins. That amazing though, more than 40000 thousand ppl requested to remove the page but facebook respect those stupid 4000 fools. You people are the one who are putting us on our limits.

  • http://www.mollynorris.com/ Molly

    http://www.mynorthwest.com/category/local_news_articles/20100518/%27Everbody-Draw-Mohammed%27-cartoonist:-I%27m-against-my-own-concept-becoming-a-reality/

    What a nightmare. I never meant for this to happen! My cartoon was only about Comedy Central and RevolutionMuslim.com.

    Here’s a deal: I will draw a holocaust cartoon as soon as Muslims come out in droves to protest Revolution Muslim’s threat to Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park — okay?

    May this phenomenon be used as a force for positive understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims — and may every kind of God protect us.

    Molly Norris

  • sabir

    hmm being an Muslim at first, I hereby protest on my end. Anyhow it just show the frustration of Non-Muslim Media against purest religion ‘ISLAM’. No religion permits any how making fun of other’s spiritual leaders.
    We cant do much about that without official/govermental platform but at the same time it proves their maniac.

    • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

      If that’s true, then how come South Park “successfully” portrays Jesus in many episodes, without much complaint? The US is a majority Christian country, yet most people really don’t care.

      • http://lastoadri.com/blog Eman AbdElRahman

        But apparently many Muslims feel offended – so why try to change their reaction to be like others who don’t feel outraged if their religious figures are mocked?..

        • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

          I’m not saying we should change them; I was just rebutting Sabir’s false statement.

      • Khurram

        Assalam-u-Alaikum (Salom = peace),

        Respected Jillian,
        I dont think being true Christians, people in USA must spare the persons who does the filthy act of mocking Prophet Jesus (Blessings of ALLAH be upon Him). We people are nothing but “bullshit” if we take our deeds where as we are mocking the Men on Earth who were the Blessed. Can any one of us cure any one by just touching? None in this whole universe. Where as Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessing of ALLAH be upon Them) have done this… Can any one make a dead alive by just saying..” Stand up with the order and permission of ALLAH ALMIGHTY…” no one in this whole universe can do this but Prophet Jesus (PBUH) has done this. then how we think ourselves better then Them and look down upon them as to make mockery of them… is there any one to reply this???

        I hope you will try to find the answer.
        Regards,

      • ALi DINO

        c Jillian, as far as portraits of jesus are concerned, muslims havn’t drew it. Jesus, too, are considered to be believed as the prophet of Allah in our religion Islam. We are not allowed to sketch even Jesus’ portraits but this is done by you people yourselves!!! Finally, whatever the thing is,, our religion’s dignity has been attacked!!!

  • Usman

    Lahore High Court in Pakistan has ordered Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block Entire facebook website till 31st of May.

  • alain

    Muslim, Christian, Jew… For me this is all the same bullshit!

  • dot KOM

    John Doe, cent percent agreed with you,

    Jane Doe, its not about hurting muslims, i know many of my friends who are hindu/christians (and a few communists), who protested it (remember the case of denmark’s attempt publishing it?)

    secondly…why muslims? why not making fun of some mahatama gandhi’s pics? buddha? christ? or somebody/anybody else?…believe me, we…the muslims will unite against such foolish attempts as well because its not about being muslims only…its about being human…that we all are at first

    i hope nobody is hurt, we muslims respect all religions whether its christianity/hinduism or jews

    peace

  • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

    I don’t think Facebook should ban this page, or any other. Just because you hate it doesn’t make it hate speech; in my view, unless someone is being directly threatened, I support the freedom to draw whatever one wishes. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.

    • http://www.teeth.com.pk/blog/ Teeth Maestro

      Jillian pop quiz – would you be disrespectful knowing that your comments will be disrespectful when you come face to face with me. Normal human courtesy says that you will carefully word you response, but if the argument goes strong then yes you would be forthright – my concern is why are we more lenient in sharing our views online as compared to being courteous in person –

      We need to respect each others boundaries, I do respect the fact that anyone can draw anything – its their right but when its deliberately used to tease, drive home a point it takes a life of its own. things have gone bad – Facebook.com is now entirely blocked ;)

      • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

        Absolutely not; I personally would not draw the cartoons nor share the more offensive ones. But to me, that’s not the point of this “campaign,” at least originally (I wrote a post about how it’s been manipulated on my own blog). In 2006, when the Danish cartoon event happened, the violent reaction in a number of countries was disproportionate to the event. Those Muslims who responded with violence and rioting could have chosen a different path, but instead, they escalated the event. Thus, I am no longer surprised when Westerners act the way they do, no matter how repulsive I find their drawings and actions as well.

  • Eremipagamo Amabebe

    Honestly, I blame Comedy Central for backing down. It’s the job of satire to offend and South Park does it well… Over the years, they have drawn protest from lots of other groups, including Christians, for a whole host of things from racism to their depiction of Jesus (see the wiki article on “South Park controversies” — it’s about a mile long). Why is CC more afraid of offending Muslims than Catholics, Mormons, or Scientologists?

    That said, I do think the facebook page is in bad taste, maybe even bordering on hate speech. From my point of view, the issue centers around intent. One expects shows like South Park to offend, and assumes that this offensiveness is intended as satire and therefore protected as Free Speech. With a facebook page the intention is less clear, and I don’t think there’s a very good argument for satire. It’s certainly a tricky grey area, perhaps something like drawing a swastika, which can fall under freedom of speech or get you arrested, depending on the context. I don’t think many of us would be bothered by seeing a swastika in a satirical cartoon, but most of us would be uneasy if a whole bunch of people joined a facebook group to draw swastikas.

    In any case, that’s my two cents. Great post Teeth Maestro ;)

    • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

      Great point, Eremi. When I left my original comment, I had not seen the Facebook group. Molly Norris’s original poster was, in my own opinion, an appropriate reaction. She chose whimsy and humor, not hate speech and violence, to react to what she saw (and I agree) was a poor decision on the part of Comedy Central (keep in mind, their cartoon didn’t particularly intend to defile the Prophet either; he was portrayed as a teddy bear). The Facebook group is indeed repulsive.

  • Pingback: Global Voices in English » Facebook Is Blocked in Pakistan As It Indulges In A Controversial Campaign

  • http://www.solanasaurus.com/ Solana Larsen

    Your post makes no direct reference to the Danish Mohammed cartoons, but I am sure we all have them in mind. And I think we all still remember what an unbelievably explosive series of events that turned out to be – and continues to be – given that someone even recently attempted to murder a Danish cartoonist in his home. I think Sana is right that it’s all about context when it comes to what is right and wrong, but when irrational forces are at play, and people are still upset about the original Danish cartoon incident, I might not fault Comedy Central for taking the decision that they did. Probably their main concern is not offending Muslims in general – but rather folks who hack websites, spark violent protests, attempt boycotts, and threaten cartoonists. I agree that people should be able to draw whatever they want, but also that there’s no need to provoke and stoke the fire – especially when this whole issue is already marred by hate speech and xenophobia on both sides.

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