The idea for “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” came from U.S. cartoonist Molly Norris of Seattle, Washington as a reaction to Internet death threats that had been made against cartoonists Trey Parker and Matt Stone for depicting Muhammad in an episode of South Park.
Their inspiration, in turn, came from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that published in September 2005, those now famous cartoons of Mohammed. My own opinion on free-speech vs Islam goes back to 1989 when Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued the fatwā against Salman Rushdie for his book “The Satanic Verses“. At that time I realized that radical Islam was fundamentally different from any religion I was personally familiar with. My only point of reference for something like this was history lessons about the Inquisition or the dangers faced by Enlightenment philosophers.
Since then, we have seen fatwās issued against a number of politicians and writers.One of the most well known of these was Theo van Gogh who was murdered in 2004 following his film “Submission” which criticized the treatment of women in Islam.
The following list was acquired from various places around the web.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali was the co-writer of “Submission” (also know for the books “Infidel” and “Nomad”) and has been an outspoken advocate against Islamic oppression has required bodyguards since she was named in a note stuck to van Gogh’s body.
- In 2010, an Australian imam named Feiz Muhammad issued a fatwa calling for the beheading of Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who made anti-Islam statements relating to Muslim immigration.
- Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard drew a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb in his turban; several attempts on his life have been made, and he lives under constant police protection.
- A radical Muslim group warned Matt Stone (l.) and Trey Parker, the creators of ‘South Park,’ that they could face violent retribution for depicting the prophet Mohammed in a bear suit during a 2006 episode.
- Raheel Raza, a Muslim human rights activist who has advocated for gender equality, especially for Muslim women, became the first woman to lead mixed-gender Muslim prayers in Canada, in 2005, and said: “I already have a fatwa against me”
- Fundamentalists in Bangladesh proclaimed a fatwa against Taslima Nasreen in 1993, against a series of newspaper columns in which she was critical of the treatment of women under Islam. There were calls for her death, and her passport was confiscated. Within the legal system, she felt that she might have faced a jail term of up to two years, where she was likely to be murdered. She managed to escape the country via Calcutta, was granted asylum in Sweden, and then lived in Paris, and finally came to India. Even in India, she had to flee the city of Calcutta and move to Delhi under Indian government’s strict orders following riots in Calcutta.
These are only a few of the most well known. Many Islamic countries have severe penalties from imprisonment to flogging or death for blasphemy, apostasy, or otherwise disobeying the authorities’ concept if Islam. The cases of well known journalists or artists make the international news, but I feel quite comfortable in believing that many more just disappear into the æther without a whisper.
Maybe I just feel comfortable and safe in my little corner of the Western, non-Islamic world. Maybe I really don’t want to return to the dark ages that accompany theocracy. I doubt very much I would have the courage to speak out if I lived in an Islamic country. I would like to express my admiration and support for those whose lives are endangered by theocrats.
It’s May 20th. Draw Mohammed.