May 07, 2011

'Draw Muhammad Day' - why?

Friendly Atheist notes that May 20 is "Draw Muhammad Day."

I get the idea, in a sense, especially after the Danish cartoon brouhaha. But, in a sense, I question the rationale, too.

Basically, this is parallel to the confrontationalist vs. connectionalist debate within atheism. I support anybody's right to draw pictures of Muhammad ... including Muhammad having gay sex, sex with 72 virgin camels or whatever. I support your right to email them, post them on websites, or even mail them to Grand Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran.

But, why? Other than to prove a point about free speech in a way that's not necessary, why?

That's a point that, IMO, few commenters at Ed Brayton's Dispatches are even facing, let alone answering well.

Let me draw a parallel from my own life.

I have burned a flag before - one of the small gimme flags that are given to people lining the streets at Fourth of July parades. And, I later burned it - for the free speech thrill.

But, I did that on the balcony of my apartment.

Sure, I shot a photo, but I don't wave that in other people's faces all the time.

Back to this "day" and the issue of "cui bono,' or "who benefits."

To what benefit is this day?

Does it, in and of itself, actually bolster free speech that much? Probably not much more than Justice Holmes' famous dictum about yelling fire in a crowded theater. What would probably help more is writing the U.S. and UN embassies of relatively moderate Islamic-majority countries, encouraging them to be more supportive of free speech, countries such as, say Jordan or Turkey.

Does it benefit more liberal-minded Muslims? Of course not. Especially in countries of some openness in the Muslim world, by painting a picture of yet more Americans tarring all Muslims with the same brush, it backfires, and potentially hurts them. That said, the majority of Gnu ringleaders, or "cadre formers," if you're P.Z. Myers, prefer to lump the masses of believers of any religion with the most regressive elements within them.

Does it actually do anything vis-a-vis fundamentalist Muslim leaders? Of course not. It won't get them to suddenly "repent" of violence, narrow-mindedness, misogyny or other actual or alleged defects.

Does it benefit atheism or secular humanism in general? Absolutely not, and especially not in those countries I just mentioned.

Besides, if you really want to draw something, why not draw a Gnu Atheist?

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