Top Ten Other Gratuitously Offensive Draw-a-Cartoon Days

The juvenile “draw Muhammad” day has generally been avoided by professional editorial cartoonists. One Islamophobic theme apparent in the writing on it is that Muslims are peculiar in their thin-skinned responses to such assaults on their religious sensibilities and that members of other religions never riot or protest. This assertion is not only bigoted but it is silly. So here are some other needlessly offensive cartoon-drawing days that could be adopted by the jerks bothering Muslims today, just to show that they are jerks toward other communities as well. All these subjects have produced vigorous protests or rioting and violence among members of other religious traditions. Me, I think when you know people have died in violence over some piece of thoughtlessness, it is the height of irresponsibility to repeat it for no good reason.

10. Cartoons of Hindu goddesses or of Mother India, nude.

9. Cartoon of a Haredi Jewish woman locked up in an insane asylum by secular Jewish authorities in Israel.

8. Buddha with girls in bikini: In Sri Lanka this spring “Buddhist extremists attacked the offices of Sirasa Media, who in cooperation with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau was organizing the tour for Akon . . . an American pop singer of Senegalese extraction. The protesters were offended by Akon’s latest video “Sexy Chick,” which shows bikini-clad women dancing at a pool party, while in the background stands a statue of the Buddha.”

7. Cartoon showing a rape in a Sikh temple.

6. Cartoon showing Moses as gay lover.

5. Cartoon of Christians shooting down a Hindu pandit in India.

4. Cartoon of Irish Catholic neighborhoods festooned with banners showing a crown on a bible– celebrating the victory on 12 July 1690 of Protestant King William of Orange over his Catholic rival as king, James II, at the Battle of the Boyne near Belfast. It was such provocations by Protestants that kicked off decades of Troubles in Northern Ireland that left nearly 4000 dead and led to several major bombings of London.

3. Cartoon of witch casting a spell on an African soccer match.

2. Cartoon of Hindu Goddess Lakshmi eating a Burger King Texas Whopper. (Hint: Hindus hold cows sacred and forbid the consuming of beef.)

1. Cartoons showing people parking cars in Jerusalem on Saturday.

40 Responses

  1. How about a cartoon of Sara Palin getting a lobotomy? What the heck, forget the cartoon, how about giving Sara Palin a lobotomy? And electroshock therapy?

    • That’d be an amusing cartoon, since if she had a lobotomy, there wouldn’t be anything left.

      • And your comment has what, exactly, to do with this article???
        Ah,…nothing. Carry on.

  2. I’m writing a paper at the moment on the term ‘religious hatred’ and how it needs to be redifined in British legislation, so this is all excellent info. However, how does one argue greater sensitivity towards religious beliefs without imposing “draconian restrictions on free speech” (in the words of Peter Cumper, 2006)? I would be interested to hear your/others’ views on this.

  3. Nobody contests your right to call the participants in the today’s “draw Muhammad” contests juvenile. I have never seen an episode of South Park, but if it was juvenile of the writers to come up with the idea of representing Muhammad in a bear suit, was it prudent or cowardly for them to back down in the face of death threats from persons representing themselves as offended Muslims? A similar thing happened in Australia in 1997; there was a cancellation of an art show including a controversial piece of 1987 pop art in which a small statuette of Christ on the cross was photographed in a container of the artist’s urine. In this case, the show was canceled out of concern for the safety of Rembrant works being shown in another portion of the National Gallery of Victoria. Given that you don’t see drawings of Muhammad as a proper way to stand in opposition to this kind of sensorship, what would be the proper way to take a stand?

    • It is juvenile to try to get people’s goat for the sake of getting it. If you have a higher purpose in violating a taboo, fine, but then be sure it really is a higher ethical purpose and that the possible reaction (in some cases rioting and actual death of real living human beings) is worth it to you. And, I am suspicious of crossing the taboo of people who live far away and in a different culture or of crossing religious taboos in a secularized society. There are lots of cartoons that would cause riots in the US, but they would have to do with American nationalism or race, the hot button issues for us. You won’t see many artists going to VAF events on Memorial Day and dumping on dead vets in public, or you won’t see many unbruised ones.

      • I really enjoy your site Juan, its part of my daily reads.

        I disagree with you on this particular issue in that while offensive and childish, your comparison of offending veterans is considerably off the mark. There is a distinct difference between publishing cartoons offensive to muslims in a european or north american newspaper vs. appearing at a mosque or a muslim cultural event and displaying such images.

        much the same way countless people (artists not exlcuded) have made comments against veterans both living and dead and suffered little or no physical threats against their life, least of all suffer the fate of a theo van gough.

        while it is understandable that people of any religious sentiment may become enraged at insults to their faith, and we should always preach objective and respectful discourse, we must not forget that as ignorant as these cartoons are, the violent overtones of the offended are equally sickening.

        • My point is precisely that offending non-Muslim people often also results in riots, violence, even sometimes death. You are singling out Muslims, which is a form of prejudice. It is true that they get very upset about things that mystify Americans. But it is not true that Americans never riot over slights; we just care more about e.g. race than we do religion, in part because the first amendment means we can’t easily drag the government into religious disputes; we can drag the government into racial ones. The tenor of your comment is just wrong.

        • Didn’t Americans get offended and even sent death threats to Hugh Thompson for his role in saving the lives of innocent civilians from the My Lai massacre?

        • “I disagree with you on this particular issue in that while offensive and childish, your comparison of offending veterans is considerably off the mark. There is a distinct difference between publishing cartoons offensive to muslims in a european or north american newspaper vs. appearing at a mosque or a muslim cultural event and displaying such images. ”

          Well yes. There is a difference. The latter actually implies a little courage of conviction, whereas the first suggests that the childish provocateur is hiding among a majority community and relying on the safety of distance while ridiculing their targets. The people putting up these pictures are, generally, intent on caricaturing others for the entertainment and amusement of their own group. It’s meant to be demeaning, and it’s meant to inspire the same contempt in the people who view the pictures.

          For myself, as a practicing muslim, I consider most depictions of our prophet as being in poor taste. Not because it violates our faith, but because by now everyone can reasonably be expected to know what the reaction is going to be.

          As for the reaction it provokes, as foolish and disgusting as it may be it’s worth looking at the power dynamics and pre-existing relationships that shape that response. The United States (and indeed “the West” broadly) is at war with two muslim countries and regularly threatening war, and sometimes nuclear holocaust, on a third. Two of those countries (Afghanistan and Iran) were or are explicitly Islamic. The amount of anti-Islamic rhetoric, legislation and legal rulings coming out of West lends to impression that we are involved in a multi-front war against the religion. People outside of the effected community generally brush off or don’t even notice these, but we’re aware of them and they shape our responses.

          The response isn’t just about idiots drawing insulting pictures. It’s about a Anne Coulter saying that the U.S. should invade muslim countries and forcibly convert the inhabitants to Christianity. It’s about the banning of headscarves in schools and civil service jobs in France and parts of Germany. It’s about the Swiss banning minarets. It’s about war, and threats of war, being pushed on our co-religionists. It’s about the deportation, and arrest, of muslims with no official explanation from countries they’ve resided in peacefully for more than a decade. And yes, it’s also about our prophet being depicted in a bear suit or with a bomb in his hat.

          But it’s not a simple, one off insult and when people insist that it is it demeans our intelligence and further marginalises us.

        • thank you for the response Juan,

          my point is not that muslims are in any way special when it comes to this reaction, but it should preclude anyone from being critical of violent reactions to non-violent criticism,

          the example you provided was an unfair comparison. there have been no murders reported of journalists expressing strong views against veterans in the US.
          a more apt comparison would be that we saw no attempted murders of the ultra-radical Christians who attend US soldiers funerals with signs claiming they were killed because homosexuality is rampant in america. anger and possible assault yes, but murders or mass protests and firebombings of affiliated churches no.

          most would agree there is a long history of religious violence from a host of beliefs, does that mean on the whole that drawing cartoons and being the subject of violent threats is somehow warranted or acceptable because its so common to other faiths?

          as noted these cartoons are criticisms of the lowest form, crude and insulting, but are we to suggest the authors in some way had it coming akin to a gay iranian on the streets of theran that should hide his orientation, never challanging an oppresive status quo which uses violence to enforce archaic rules?

        • “But it is not true that Americans never riot over slights; we just care more about e.g. race than we do religion”

          You’re likening rioting over *oppression* to rioting over perceived blasphemy? That’s sick.

      • Thanks for the clarification. Am I correct in understanding that the taboo concerning images representing Muhammad is conceptually like the Judeo-Christian commandment forbidding gods other than the God of the Bible? Would Muslims be less offended by images representing Allah than by those representing Muhammad? Would an image mocking Allah/Yahweh/God be expected to be equally offensive or inoffensive to Muslims, Jews, and Christians?

        • Muslims dont draw Jesus, Moses or any other Prophets and are restricted from doing so as well. And drawing God is also out of the questions as Islam does not allow God to be compared to humans or be seen in any concrete form or other that can be grasped by mankind. So the old man with a big beard is not how Muslims see God.

  4. Doesn’t your exposition prove that ALL religions are absurdities, ridiculous collections of myths and fairy tales? I actually thought that Buddhists would have a sense of humor, but it appears that even some of them take offense.

    • On the contrary, what it proves is that people from all religious backgrounds take their beliefs seriously and that intentionally ridiculing them, or misrepresenting them, for no higher end than to cause controversy or show your disdain isn’t a particuliarly bright idea.

      People have been known to riot over sporting events, the outcomes of particularly charged trials and over seemingly minor incidents which the rioters interpret as having powerful symbolic meaning. Rioting is rarely, if ever, a rational act but that doesn’t mean that the soccer game, Rodney King or T.J. Hickey didn’t actually exist. Or that the underlying issues that the triggering event tapped into aren’t relevant and worth addressing.

  5. Interesting post and challenge and one that none of the idiots who are participating in this day will actually respond to, since they have no backbone but are just in it to go with the herd and live out their prejudiced fantasies.

    Btw, Juan, I was looking at the timeline on Wiki regarding the Jyllands Posten controversy and it seems that the people that were killed died in what can be considered warzones: Afghanistan and Nigeria. I think everyone knows about Afghanistan being a warzone but in Nigeria there has been a long running conflict between the Christians and Muslims, reignited in 2001 by a Muslim being elected which the Christians didnt like. I am not sure about the validity of the timeline on Wiki but it would seem to suggest that the countries where people actually died were warzones and not countries that arent warzones or have been embroiled in conflict.

    Finally, it is interesting to note that the editor that commissioned the cartoons for the Jyllands Posten newspaper, in the interest of fairness and freedom of speech said that he would print cartoons satirizing the Holocaust as collected by teh Iranian newspaper. Know what happened? He went on a forced vacation and the newspaper said that cartoons like that would never appear in the newspaper. Funny how that works huh. And to those saying that there is a difference between satirizing the Holocaust and drawing Muhammad, remember that everytime in history when Christians attacked Muslims, they started by defaming and painting Muhammad as a barbarian devil. We find this from the Crusades, to Srebrenica to the Iraq War. So Muslims do have a certain historical precedent to feel aggrieved when Christian countries, or “The West” starts to go down that same path again.

  6. As an atheist, I find the beliefs of all the major religions to be extremely offensive. I don’t see a single religion attempting to silence their own speech so as to not offend people like myself. If I curtail my own criticism of their beliefs, yet they don’t return the favor, isn’t that a double standard?

    Juan:”If you have a higher purpose in violating a taboo, fine”
    Many people are hypocrites for singling out Islam, and some will only violate these taboos in order to offend Muslims. Their ulterior motive is bigoted and xenophobic, but only because they don’t really care about issues of free speech. However, for the rest of us, isn’t the violation of an unnecessary taboo itself a useful purpose? Let’s not conflate those of us who have a principled opposition to religion with bickering religious partisans trying to take cheap shots against each other. That would be like conflating the anger of the tea-baggers with actual left-wing opposition to Obama.

    The only point I find myself in agreement with you on is that Muslims are not alone in being offended by the violation of religious taboos (remember “Piss Christ”?) not that anyone should refrain from violating them. Contrary to that, I would hope violating all religious taboos becomes more commonplace. All religions are irrational by definition. So why should atheists become slaves to irrationality just to accommodate absurd religious beliefs?

    If I draw a cartoon of a religious figure to make the point that “this is merely a cartoon, an expression of speech, my personal opinion that religion is pure mythology”, and a true-believer reacts violently; if you blame me you their actions, if you say I caused their actions, how is that not like blaming a woman for being raped because she dressed provocatively?

    Juan: “we just care more about e.g. race than we do religion”
    These are not interchangeable things. No one is born with a religion. It is always taught. A religion is an imposed and mutable system of beliefs. Criticizing a belief is not the same as criticizing a human being for being born a certain skin tone. I could easily be be offended by a racist cartoon, but not an anti-religious one.

    • I agree with Wingbat. The “Draw a Mohammad Day” seemed to be driven by Atheist/Secular orgs that are addressing religious silliness in general and don’t seem to be specifically anti-muslim, but anti religion in general. Humor and ridicule are good non-violent tools to counter religious extremism.

  7. David, its not about having a sense of humour. Muslims and Other religious communities are able to laugh at themselves. We are able to laugh at our cultures etc (go watch russel peters or listen to a muslim comedian…we have many).
    However, no sane human being becomes realllly happy when their core beliefs are being attacked.
    I have seen evolutionary biologists get really mad when something was said against darwin. So its not about religion being absurd. Its basic psychology. We as humans Don’t like it when someone else is Disrespectful towards our beliefs. Its a simple concept, I don’t know why these cartoon making “jerks” don’t get it.

    • Do you regard questioning the rationality of core beliefs the same as attacking them? In a 2008 book titled The Secular Conscience, Austin Dacey argues for the public discussion of all points of view on issues of conscience, religious and secular. Do you agree that the core beliefs of any religion or world view should be open to rational analysis? It certainly doesn’t appear that that is what the cartoons are about, but, even if it is, I suppose it can’t be the most effective way to go about it.

    • “I have seen evolutionary biologists get really mad when something was said against darwin”

      That is intellectually dishonest. Darwin lived 150 years ago and got many things wrong, and evolutionary biologists are well aware of it. Science is not like religion, they have nearly opposite standards — science *welcomes* falsification.

  8. Let us be clear. Gods (whether with a lower case or not, plural or not) are by definition, if they are worth their salt, un-offendable.
    It is those who make a living from interpreting the will of these gods who, fearing a lessening of their influence and power, claim their gods are offended.
    I do not find it credible that ordinary believers upon reading, or hearing of an offence, loose their heads and riot or kill. They are told to take offence, told to be angry, used and manipulated.
    Making fun of the gods does not further rationality and enlightenment .
    It is the people that who use gods, to use men, who should be made fun of.
    The people that live off the hopes and fears of men.

    • I suggest you actually look up the timeline. I think youll be surprised that the general view of those “riots” are not what actually happened.

  9. The point of the day isn’t actually to offend anyone, it’s to say that it’s unacceptable to censor things just because it offends Muslim extremists. When South Park got threats from Catholics, Comedy Central let it air. When it got threats from Scientologists, there was no censorship. But somehow if it offends *Muslims* we’re supposed to censor it.

    Muslims shouldn’t be treated as a special class with rights no one else gets. There’s no right to not be offended. If Muslim extremists think that through threats they will stop anyone from offending them, they are wrong, and if corporations think that people are too cowardly to stand up for free speech in the face of terrorism, they are wrong too.

    • Except that they chose a form of protest that they knew absolutely would, and not could, cause offence. Not just to threat tossing blow hards and religious zealots, but to a lot of people who after a decade are just well and truly sick of having to put up with people going out of their way to mock us and our beliefs.

      A second point, which ties in very closely to the first, is that the method chosen pretty much invited anyone to take part in, or to repeat, the experiment who has an axe to grind against Islam or muslims regardless of their opinions on censorship, religious freedom or just resenting being told they can’t do something. It doesn’t do all that much to invite intelligent discussions, it doesn’t make it obvious to outsiders that it’s an attack on problem behaviour as opposed to beliefs and it does provide an ideological smokescreen for people who just want to pitch abuse.

      I absolutely agree that Islam, like all institutions, should be open to discussion, criticism and (if someone really feels the need) mockery.

      There is however a fairly significant difference between taking the piss with Islam and or other religions. It’s not because we’re special and the true path to God or any such blatantly subjective twaddle.

      We’re an easy target, and we’re actively discriminated against in a way that Catholics, to use your example just aren’t. Context is everything.

  10. Whenever someone makes fun of something he or she knows is “sacred” to someone else (whether it’s religion or race or a sporting event), he or she is basically saying, “I don’t give a damn what you think.” Not the best way to get along in this world. It’s a matter of not putting yourself in another’s shoes and basically a violation of the Golden Rule. Fine, if you don’t care about peace and conflict resolution, but in a world such as ours can we really afford to aggravate each other in such crude and tasteless ways?

    Some people will excuse anything that is said or written as a right because of the principle of free speech. But any one person’s right to do whatever he or she wants ends at the point where he or she hurts another. People can be hurt just as much by words as they can by deeds; in fact, it’s often thoughtless (or hateful) words that cause the harmful acts we commit against each other. Why do we seem to overlook this basic fact in our dealings with one another?

    • Actually, no, your right to free speech does not end when you ‘hurt’ someone else. Not here in America anyway.

      Hurtful speech is often both the most useful and the most necessary kind.

  11. Is Hemant Mehta (link to friendlyatheist.com) a juvenile jerk? I think you have that backwards. As Mehta says, I’m also offended by anyone calling the courageous people who risk verbal threats and physical harm by drawing these mild images “jerks” and “bigots.”

    Grow up.

  12. I participated in the Draw Muhammad Day, and I think it served useful purposes. The obvious one, that of defying religious zealotry, but another was standing in solidarity with a secular student group here in Madison who saw their own drawing-based protests interfered with, and their academic freedom challenged, for daring to draw a series of chalk stick figures.

    Yes, it is childish. It’s a childish world we live in. Nevertheless, as Myers pointed out, it’s a humorous and non-violent protest of the very real threat of violent theocracy. As you point out, this isn’t limited to Islam; in my own life I’ve suffered far, far more at the hands of Evangelical Christians.

    I accept your challenge, Prof. Cole, and I’ll immediately put the same complete lack of care and talent I did challenging theocratic members of the Islamic into offending a wide variety of theocratic groups with bad stick figure drawings.

  13. juan, thank u for ur post.

    “draw muhammad day” is hardly about free speech. it’s not like people r not allowed to criticize islam or muslims. the media are replete with blatantly islamophobic rhetoric – the kind that would not be acceptable were we talking about any other religion, or ethnic group or culture. so it’s certainly not that we can’t criticize islam which is what counts as far as free speech.

    this insistence on ridiculing muhammad is more about spectacle and less about substance. it’s not to advance political debate or engage in dialogue, it’s to provoke. making fun of/denying the holocaust is also covered by free speech but u can go to jail for that in some european countries. making fun of 9/11 is also permissible under free speech, but what goal will that accomplish? u don’t wear a t shirt with a swastika to a bar mitzvah. it’s a matter of respect and commonsense, not free speech.

    in the present context of wars with and occupations of muslim countries, this is even more provocative. it’s not enough that muslims r being tortured in black jails or blown to bits by drones or incarcerated in guantanamo, no, they also have to grin and bear the denigration of something they hold sacred and dear. coz it’s free speech? that’s a joke no?

    what about debbie almontaser’s free speech? she was forced to resign for talking about a keffiyeh. what about norm finkelstein’s free speech? his academic career has been willfully destroyed for voicing his views on the middle east. what about ward churchill, a professor at the university of colorado, who was fired for writing an article on 9/11 and bringing up the genocide of native americans?

    the academic and political arenas are where free speech really matters. that’s where ideas, ideologies and policies r brought to life which make us who we r as a people. that’s where we should be fighting for free speech. this is just a distraction, a circus.

  14. It’s not just that drawing Muhammed is making fun of something sacred. As I understand it (someone correct me if I’m wrong), it’s more akin to desecration. Would those who are willling to, or did, draw a Muhammed cartoon be equally willing to desecrate a Communion wafer? If not, then why not?

    At least PZ Meyers is consistent; he holds no one’s beliefs sacred (see “crackergate” on his site), acts accordingly, and is willing to accept the consequences.

  15. The only good side to this is that maybe, eventually, people will learn:

    Like the US politicized fundies, a tiny minority of Moslems is stirring people up as a sort of proxy for the general third-world experience of disrespect and abuse by richer, mostly Northern and Western societies (I would argue, nowadays, really by corporate megaculture which will trade in that colonial and imperial legacy as it’s profitable). They don’t represent Islam, and they don’t represent the Third World, but just as the US and allies cast the communists as their designated representative and leader of the Third World to justify attacking Third World nations all over the world, they’ve designated Islamists to fill the same role, and they’re as willing as the Soviets and Chinese were to play along.

    There really aren’t universally accepted prohibitions in Islam against allowing outsiders to criticize the prophet Mohammed, first because Islam is decentralized and second because even the prohibitions against images involved other people and even animals and were to prevent excessive veneration, not criticism.

    And maybe we’ll revisit the original controversy about the Danish cartoons, and it will be better known that the paper that did it is famous for being pro-Nazi even before Hitler attacked Denmark, that it bans anything that criticizes Christianity, that the editor wanted a Crusade against the Arabs and Moslems, and that in the riots afterward, with the exception of one African country where the Christian president went back on his pledge not to seek power again and was probably the real cause of rioting, it was the rioters who were killed by their repressive regimes, not the rioting violent Moslems killing people over cartoons.

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