Draw Muhammad Day is a farce
While both sides are busy taking a side against each other, Draw Muhammad day becomes a nothing more than a farce
By Faraaz Rahman on Friday, May 21st, 2010 - 1,153 words.
I do not write well when I am forced to write, when I have to write. Correction, I find it extremely difficult to write when I am told I have to write. There is this side of me that reacts negatively when told to do something. For example, when I used to play for a cricket team, the part I hated the most was when my captain or other ‘seniors’ tried to advise me how to bowl. Call it ego, call it arrogance, call it whatever you want, but it totally de-motivates me. Even if the advise my captain gave me was the same thing I would have tried anyway, it still angers me. Not surprisingly, I was always bad at writing essays in school, never managed to get 80% in English essays much to the disappointment of my parents. Yet when I would write on my own, out of my own free will, about a cricket match I remembered, or my favourite cricketer or a piece on my favourite movie, it would if I may say so myself, be quite good. I remember my father asking me why I could not produce writing like that for school. My hapless response was that in school, they specified the topic of my essay, without my permission, hence more often than not, I was given a topic I had nothing to say about. So I forced myself to write those essays.
I write this today not out of some creative impulse. I write because I feel compelled to write this. So it is not going to be the greatest piece of writing. I will also be plagiarising from a previous article on a similar issue written by another writer.
The issue: Draw Muhammad Day 20th May.
Background: I do not watch a lot of TV shows. In fact, I have hardly watched any TV show in the last few years. My spare time is spent watching movies. I have watched close to 200 movies this year so far and that is an achievement I am extremely proud of. So when South Park decided to portray Prophet Muhammad a while back, I had no idea until my Gmail and Facebook inboxes were flooded with invitations and calls. I usually ignore such forwarded emails and invitations but the name Muhammad caught my attention. These invitations were off two kinds – 1) asking me to protest the portrayal of Muhammad on South Park 2) asking me to support the right of the South Park creators to portray Muhammad. I have absolutely no idea why I receive these calls from both the sides. Anyway, I quickly learnt what had happened. Much to my embarrassment as a Muslim, some Muslim group called Revolution Muslim had sent death threats to the creators of South Park and forced them to censor the cartoons.
I felt ashamed.
Fast forward a few weeks. Once again I started receiving Facebook invitations for Draw Muhammad Day and Boycott Draw Muhammad Day. Once again I had to do some research to find out what this new issue was about. It did not take me long to read this. The issue for me was over until I decided to actually view the Facebook page. For some reason I can no longer find that particular Facebook with over 140000 followers but it has now been replaced by various similar pages titled Draw Muhammad day.
As a lover of cinema, art, literature, music, I have always had issues with Muslim leaders, teachers, scholars telling me art is prohibited in Islam. I love my life because of art. If you want me to respect and love Muhammad, then you have to let me draw him, make films about him. That has been my prerogative. However, when I visited the Draw Muhammad page, I had every intention of ‘liking’ the Facebook page to show my support, but a quick look at the wall messages and photos told me that while the creators of the page and myself agree on the title, we have very different ideas and opinions. The page was filled with hateful and vitriolic comments. The photos uploaded ridiculed Muhammad and Muslims. That did not necessarily offend me but the reason I did not join the page because I disagreed with the intentions of that page. I want to draw Muhammad because I feel like it, if in the process people are offended, I cannot help it. But I will not draw Muhammad with the sole purpose of offending and ridiculing people.
Needless to say, many Muslims responded in exactly the way I had expected them to, illogically, irrationally, shamefully. If that wasn’t enough, Pakistan has managed to block Facebook and Youtube.
Once again I felt ashamed as a Muslim.
But then a thought occurred to me. I realized what a dear friend had once told me, “ It is easy to know what you stand against, quite another to know what you stand for.” Here was the greatest manifestation of that saying.
The creators of that Facebook page did not take a stand for art or freedom of expression, they took a stand against Muslims with there comments and photos. The Muslims protesting against the Facebook page so idiotically are not taking a stand for Muhammad. They are taking a stand against everyone they feel is against them.
Here I am going to plagiarise from an article written by a Pakistani American writer Ali Eteraz three years ago when Salman Rushdie was awarded the knighthood. I loved the article so much that I had saved it.
My response to my fellow Muslims who are protesting like madmen.
“So, once again, the response has to be direct and straight forward: no compromise on freedom of conscience; no compromise on freedom of expression; no compromise on freedom of speech. Forget if people’s religious sensibilities are hurt. They will have to get over it and live with it like all the rest of us whose sensibilities are assailed by burning tires, burning cars, strikes, and demagoguery.”
My response to the creators of that Facebook page and all those people who posted those hateful and vitriolic comments against Muslims.
“There is also no paucity of artists who don’t really toe the theological line. The Syrian poet Adonis. Those that want to learn more about the way how historically Muslim artists flaunted and challenged the theological imperative might do well to read Nobel Prize Winner Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. They might also read Children of the Alley by Nobel Prize Winner Naguib Mahfouz in which Allah is depicted as a grandfather and the devil is his son (which led the fundamentalists to stab Mahfouz in the face).”
I know what I stand for.
“I am free, my mind is free,
I am neither a sick person nor a physician
Neither a believer nor an infidel
Nor a mullah or syed
In the fourteen spheres I walk in freedom
I can be imprisoned nowhere. “
– Bulleh Shah (18th century poet from modern day Pakistan)
Faraaz Rahman used to be a dreamer. Now he is an accountant. In other news, he loves watching films, cricket and walking on the beach barefoot.
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