This is also in praise of cartoons about other religions! But a cartoon about Muhammad has been in the news recently:
- Pharyngula: This is getting ridiculous
- Butterflies and Wheels: More from the bully boyz
- BBC: Muhammad cartoon row leads to resignation
- NSS: Students defend freedom of expression at University College London
Here is the cartoon. (I’ll show it to emphasise how silly it is to try to censor something like this!) What is all the fuss about?
Some might think that the fuss is because it suggests that Muhammad drinks alcohol in a pub alongside Jesus. But no-one on the planet thinks that, nor will they after seeing the cartoon! It is obviously a piece of fiction. A more likely argument is that images of Muhammad are banned because they might encourage idolatry. If Muslims react like many Catholics do when they see the face of Mary in a slice of toast, perhaps they are right to be worried!
But that cartoon will not cause Muslims to resort to idolatry! Hardly any of them will ever see it, and it is hardly something for Muslims to swoon over. The real reason for making a fuss is probably to exert power over people they disagree with. And that is a very good reason not to be censored. If Islam were a club that people freely join and can freely leave, it would be OK for it to set rules about what its (voluntary) members can do. But the rest of us are not members, and Islam’s rules don’t apply to us. It is necessary for Muslims worldwide to realise this important point.
I’ll dismiss the argument that we need to avoid offending people. With so many people in the world, and global communications, we can’t expect to avoid offending people. If people don’t want to be offended, the onus is on them not to be offended. They are probably only being offended for one of two reasons: because they have been indoctrinated to be offended; or because they choose to be offended. Neither of those is a problem that the rest of us need to solve.
Cartoons are good for various reasons:
- They may give us a laugh!
- They may convey a message very easily.
- Ridicule can be very effective at undermining silly arguments, either directly in the cartoon, or by letting those trying to censor them make fools of themselves.
There are some other sources of cartoons below. But first, just in case it is necessary, (it shouldn’t be), I’ll point out the difference between criticising or ridiculing a religion and inciting hatred or violence towards the people who practice that religion:
I don’t actually consider terrorism to be the worst aspect of the extreme followers of Islam. The world’s worst-ever terrorist attack killed less that 0.1% of the US citizens who died in 2001, and so less that 0.01% of US citizens who have died this century. Those deaths are tragedies for those involved, but not an existential problem for the USA or the rest of us.
The following may be true, and shows that in principle Muslims themselves should seek solutions:
- Most of the people who suffer from Islam are Muslims.
- Most Muslims suffer from Islam. (Take into account women, and the effects of antipathy to science, etc).
- Most of the people killed by Muslims are Muslims.
- Most of the people who kill Muslims are Muslims.
The following cartoon illustrates more of a problem:
- Islamic humour and cartoons
- Jyllands-Posten’s Prophet Cartoons
- Cartoons from the Arab World
- Major Anti-Semitic Motifs in Arab Cartoons
Postscript at 2012-09-23
- Butterflies and wheels: Mockery of religion should be normalized