Thursday, May 20, 2010

I didn't draw Mohammed today

I've got nothing against blasphemy -- in fact, I kind of love it.

I love "South Park," enjoyed "The Last Temptation of Christ" more as a novel than as a movie, think "Dogma" is overrated but enjoyable and, generally, like to see sacred cows nudged a little bit. I think it's wonderful, essential and necessary that we can do such poking in America -- and it pisses me off, frankly, when the "South Park" guys come under threat for depicting Mohammed. Or, looking abroad, when European cartoonists face violence, threats and censorship for doing the same.

Still, I didn't draw Mohammed today. And I won't be publishing any of the cartoons. At least, not for now.

Why? Simple. I have Muslim friends and acquaintances -- at least one of whom, I know, is very offended when Mohammed is drawn or otherwise depicted. Not to the point of threatening or undertaking violence, thank goodness, but still: It's an act that wounds her.

And that, I think, beyond strength in the face of censorship and threats, is part of "Draw Mohammed Day" is supposed to be about: Offense.

Some more hawkish and conservative types have pointed out -- rightly -- that Comedy Central, "South Park" and other American institutions have skewered Christianity for years without facing death threats. But I can't help but notice that many of the people who make that observation have also gotten the vapors -- or are closely allied with those who get the vapors -- about having their religious sensibilities trampled upon. And that many of those people are very, very gleeful about the chance to offend Muslims en masse today.

So yeah, there's a double standard. But I suspect the double standard goes both ways.

Me? I admittedly feel more comfortable blaspheming Christianity because, well, Christianity is mine to blaspheme: I grew up in it, was immersed in it and (yes) fell away from it. Even at a distance of nearly a decade, its rhythms and habits are still etched in my bones. And my own adventures in blasphemy were part of rebelling against a culture that had dominated my outlook and behavior.

But Mohammed was never my prophet. Between that and the fact of my friends' sensibilities, a day devoted to angering his followers seems ... rude. It seems too easy to me, even a little bullying, to blaspheme against somebody else's god.

And I'm weird: I've always felt my principles must be balanced and shaped by the impact that they have on real people. Right now, I don't think I have enough cause to hurt my friends.

Make no mistake: I still find the threats and censorship despicable. There may come a time when I feel that committing a little blasphemy against Islam's sacred cows is necessary. That day isn't today. I won't draw Mohammed.

2 comments:

Kelly said...

Joel,

Good thinking here in this post. It is the essence of what Christianity is supposed to be doing, sacrificial humility. I say "supposed" because we do not have a truly "Christian" outlook in our nation; what we have is Christianity being used as a tool for empire building, and wrongly so.

You do have the Christian ethic in your bones. Please don't think it is a cancer to be removed with poisonous chemicals. Stick to scotch, and next time I will be a little more understanding about how that liquid is important to you.

Da

emawkc said...

I agree that it's totally lame (to quote Eric Cartman) to try to offend just for the sake of being offensive.

I do find it curious that you're okay with offending your Christian friends, but not your Muslim ones. Doesn't sound very friendly of you.