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May 20, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

If you haven't heard by now, today is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, an event inspired by the recent death threats against "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Basically the idea is that if enough people display images of Mohammed, it becomes impossible to make it a social taboo backed by violence as Muslim activists have been trying to do. And if pictures of Mohammed are everywhere, there's no longer so much payoff in intimidating a single blogger or cartoonist.

Now I'm not particularly in favor of all the Mohammed caricatures being posted for similar reasons as S. Weasel's - mostly because I'm not into gratuitously insulting people's religious beliefs. But this is about a larger cultural principle - whether we allow actual free speech. Or just pretend free speech that's really subject to the veto of violence and intimidation. And whether Islam is to be a privileged religion over all others.

So here with Ace's approval is a drawing of Mohammed taken from Zombie's Mohammed Image Archive:


It's an illustration showing Mohammed preaching his final sermon on Mount Ararat near Mecca and was painted by Muslim scholar al-Biruni in 1489. But you say how could this be? Isn't there an Islamic prohibition against any depiction of Mohammed?

Well it turns out that the tradition of not picturing Mohammed is a relatively recent one - one that really only appeared in the 1600's. So for almost a thousand years after Mohammed's death, it was acceptable and even common in some Muslim regions to draw him in full form. During the Caliphate period there were even coins minted with his face on them. Even the burqa which has become a symbol of traditional Islam didn't appear until after Mohammed died and was until recently confined mostly to women in the harems of the aristocracy.

A lot of behavior that radical Islamists insist on today in western countries are actually traditions that got added to Islam long after it was founded. So to make a stretched analogy - it's as if the Amish somehow got control of Christianity and decided that the fashions and practices of the 1700's define how a true Christian must act today. And threaten to kill you if you dare disagree.

Update: Here's a site with pictures of the graduating classes of Cairo University in Egypt. Note that the head-covering-only hijab is far more common in the 2004 picture than it is in the 1959 picture. If it's such a long-standing Muslim tradition, why was it less common 50 years ago? And here's Mark Steyn's take on the pictures.

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posted by Maetenloch at 07:25 PM

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