May 20th, 2010
10:44 AM ET

My Take: Everyone chalk Mohammed?

Secular students chalked smiling stick figures on campuses labeling them 'Mohammed;' Muslim students reacted by adding boxing gloves and re-labeling the drawings 'Muhammad Ali.'

Editor’s note: Greg Epstein, an ordained Humanist rabbi, serves as the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe” and chairs the national advisory board of the Secular Student Alliance.

By Greg Epstein, Special to CNN

If I told you groups of atheist and Muslim students around the country have been breaking out boxing gloves, and the outlines of bodies have been marked in chalk on the ground, you’d worry, right? And you should, though fortunately it doesn’t mean anyone has been physically hurt yet.

Rather, it means the latest in a series of controversies over drawing the Prophet Mohammed has arrived: “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” scheduled for Thursday, May 20, has gained tens of thousands of online followers, riling fears and anger on many campuses.

iReport: Why I choose to draw Muhammad

This spring’s 200th episode of the always irreverent “South Park” included the Prophet Mohammed disguised in a bear mascot suit. A fringe website called Revolutionmuslim.com issued a warning against the “South Park” creators.

But the forces behind that site consist of just two “extremist buffoons,” according to Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com.  Read Iftikhar's commentary here 

Still, Comedy Central network pulled the episode after it first aired. And the network censored Part II of the episode, with audio bleeps and image blocks. In response, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris penned a satirical cartoon calling for a national day of drawing the prophet. And groups of secular and atheist students, among others, are mobilizing to follow her lead en masse. Except Norris long since disavowed her cartoon, apologizing publicly and profusely for the misbegotten day it seems to have produced. Got all that?

Facebookers respond to 'Draw Mohammed Day'

The "South Park" episodes, of course, should have been left alone. The show makes fun of everyone, often brilliantly. There’s no reason for Islam to get off easier. Comedy Central seriously erred, kowtowing to extremists or to the small minority of American Muslims who oppose freedom of expression.

But two wrongs don’t make a right. Several campus groups of nonreligious students affiliated with the national Secular Student Alliance, of which I am a big supporter, have started a campaign to chalk smiling stick figures on their campus quads, labeling the figures “Mohammed.”

Muslim students’ reaction? Add boxing gloves and re-label the drawings “Muhammad Ali." As an atheist (or better yet, call me a Humanist: one who emphasizes doing good without God) who longs for fellow Humanists to gain respectability in this religious nation, I begrudgingly admit the Muslims’ approach in this incident is superior in humor and civility.

Pakistan blocks access to YouTube, Facebook

This is not to say the secular students are bigots seeking to cause offense, as some have suggested. In fact they see themselves as standing up for free speech and free intellectual inquiry. They hope increasing the number of potential targets will make extremists think twice before attacking. And they earnestly believe no person should be so revered that they can not be drawn or spoken - that such reverence is simply a bad idea.

Proudly, they note that like the creators of "South Park," they are “equal opportunity critics” who would be just as harsh with bad ideas put forth by any other religion. They’ve written to their Muslim Students Association colleagues saying just that. In short they’re good, smart people, trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately, they’re failing; maybe dangerously.

There is a difference between making fun of religious or other ideas on a TV show that you can turn off, and doing it out in a public square where those likely to take offense simply can’t avoid it. These chalk drawings are not a seminar on free speech; they are the atheist equivalent of the campus sidewalk preachers who used to irk me back in college. This is not even "Piss Christ," Andres Serrano's controversial 1987 photograph of a crucifix in urine. It is more like filling Dixie cups with yellow water and mini crucifixes and putting them on the ground all over town. Could you do it legally? Of course. Should you?

In Muslim culture, there is a longstanding tradition that to put something on the ground, where people step on it, is “the ultimate diss," indicating “I hate you, you disgust me,” as I was told by Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America

To this add the fact that after 9/11 hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims and “those perceived to be Muslim” increased 1,700 percent in the United States, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. Large numbers of innocent Muslims in the U.S. have been harmed or intimidated simply because they share a religious tradition with extremists. Can we reasonably suggest they not be reminded of this upon seeing their prophet, the most revered and admired person in their cultural tradition, underfoot?

Our country’s top military leaders are struggling to win the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide. And many of the 1.57 billion Muslims are watching CNN and many other American networks to see what we think of them. If we think they are going to perceive this as a thoughtful exercise in critical thinking, we are in serious denial. To paraphrase one student I heard from, we should fight to the death for our right to chalk these images. But we should also have the dignity and respect not to do so.

Of course, Muslim extremists have again and again in recent memory committed atrocities that the angriest, most aggressive atheist I know could scarcely dream up on LSD. And it is moderate Muslims’ responsibility to speak out against these acts. And they are. My friend Eboo Patel is a Muslim who has built a movement training thousands of young Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Humanist, Buddhist and Hindu leaders in pluralism as an alternative religious extremism. What Eboo and other Muslims are saying when they criticize the chalking campaign is, ‘please find a less hurtful way to protect free speech; you’re within your rights to do it this way, but we can’t help but see it as, at best, unfriendly in the extreme.’ Check out the resources his organization has created for those looking for Muslim-atheist/Humanist partnerships rather than cartoonish conflict.

And partnerships are, more than ever, a real possibility. Patel and Mattson, along with Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington and a leading authority on contemporary Islam, all responded enthusiastically to my suggestion that we organize a meeting between Muslim and secularist leaders and students. Ahmed’s comment summarized their sentiment: “I’d much rather know a person who says there is no God, but is dedicated to being a good person [than a person who gives lip-service to God but behaves unethically.]”

As a Humanist, I hope I do not exist solely to advance the Humanist cause. I want to advance the human cause. In this case, the way to do it is to keep the chalk on the blackboard, where perhaps one day soon Humanist and Muslim college students will use it together in inner-city elementary schools, teaching understanding and cooperation between members of different religious and moral traditions.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Greg Epstein.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (462 Responses)
  1. mike

    Nobody can draw the likeness of Mohammod because nobody knows what he looks like. Besides, Muslims do actually draw people and animals with their photography. Photography literally translatted means to draw or write light. All the people who claim to draw Mohammod did not. We simply don't know what he looked like.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
    • irritated

      thats the whole point. no one know what he looks like (same with jesus) so drawing him is offensive. u don't have to understand it, just respect it.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  2. bah-kahhh

    this is the real muhammed-

    ^^ ^^

    ...and yes. he looks like a koala bear.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  3. micrbu

    There is a solution for our problem with Islam and it is called a mushroom cloud!!!!

    May 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • Read

      And you Sir are Taliban on this side of the ocean.... Just like them, you want to promote violence. Congratulations on graduating in ignorance...

      May 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  4. Bryan

    Can't avoid it? Is it really so hard for someone to look away in this day and age?

    May 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Austin

    if all muslims had the decency to respond with the kind of humor you get with 'ali' we'd probably have two towers in new york.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • bebe34

      Americans barely have respect for their parents to have respect for someone else’s faith or religion. And why don’t you ask your pathetic president about the twin towers.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Read

      Muslims did respond to 9 11 as the worst act done by bunch of Bas@#$. We do not consider them muslims. Islam does not allow murder. and yes 9 11 was murder.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  6. knobe

    Coooool , some guy responded with his brain instead of a firebomb !
    The M Ali with gloves is a sign of significant progress for someone .

    We can only hope he becomes a dominant force in the community .

    { I am a Buddhist who has seen all kinds , flattering and not , images of Buddha
    AND I firebomb No One }

    May 20, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • Read

      Even when trying to be positive you end up negative. Tsk Tsk Tsk. you are no different then Taliban...

      May 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  7. andy

    Tell that to the Westboro Baptist Church, will ya?

    May 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  8. micrbu

    @Ferguson: So just 5 out of a billion you say? HMMMM wrong try 75million militant muslims!!! You know the ones that want to behead YOU just because you are an infidel!

    May 20, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  9. Scott

    Free speech is free speech. Saying 'beliefs must be respected' is restricting free speech. If you disagree, then it is my 'belief' that everything you say is offensive, so by your own argument you must shut up. 🙂

    I'd add that all theists must be equally outspoken when something (like their religion's teaching) violates what we know about reality. When all Christians vilify anyone who tries to promote Creationism or Intelligent Design in a science class, when Muslims side with the FFRF on a church-state separation issue, then this madness will stop.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  10. Cascadoux

    It leaves a cotton-like feeling in the mouth, it just does not feel right. I must ask Muslims all over the world to become equally reviled and up in arms when the sacred symbols of another's faith, are destroyed, attacked, or desecrated. For example when the ancient Buddhist temples and images were destroyed in Afghanistan, and when Muslims kill other Muslims because they are from a different sect. We just have to stop this madness!

    May 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Implying Implications

      >sacred symbols of another's faith

      There's your problem right there.

      sacred = it's only sacred because they say it is. The pennies on my desk are not sacred, but i can make them sacred to me if i wanted to.
      symbol = not the real thing, just a symbol
      faith = not real in the first place

      May 20, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • Muhammad Likes Goats

      Bottom line: If a person wants me dead because I do not believe what he believes, the only rational course of action is to kill him first. Any cleric who teaches it is okay to kill someone who is not a "believer" is just plain evil and should be targeted for preemptive assassination.

      Greed and religious dogma are the two most destructive forces in human history. Get rid of both and maybe humanity will survive.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Joe

      "We just have to stop this madness!"

      The madness will stop when we as a species stop believing in magical bogeymen in the sky. Until then, the hate and violence indocrinated into the peoples of the world who hold millenia old beliefe systems will continue unabated.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • JD

      Cascadoux – that cottony feeling in your mouth is fear. You are afraid because people with dangerous and violent ideas are threatening your security and way of life. This will end once the secular world stands up to the violent threats of bigots. The war of ideas is a war worth fighting.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • bg

      Respect = not messing with the pile of pennies on your desk, even though I think it's weird for you to make them sacred.

      Just because you can define the word 'sacred' doesn't mean the object isn't significant to another individual. Most people here aren't saying that everyone should hold religious things sacred just because one person does (which is what you're implying); they're saying that it's common decency to respect that person and his ideas (even if they're weird or irrational).

      When an individual threatens death or violence if you don't respect his sacred things, that's a different problem. And that's the core of the issue here. Not whether you are obligated to think someone else's sacred thing is really sacred.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  11. keith

    Free speech is free speech – if muslims are so thin-skinned that they are offended and willing to kill for a cartoon depiction of their "prophet" then they deserve absolutely no rights what so ever. Political correctness damages free speech and the right that all should have to express themselves freely without violence. I am tired of muslim thugs threatening others who have differing opinions and, if muslims wish to live in peace with the rest of the world, they should understand that thinking people need to speak freely and not be constrained by a backward group of thugs whose actions are governed by the words of a 6th century person who would be arrested today as a common criminal.
    By accepting restraints placed on the free world by muslim thugs, the problems that we see today with an inability of many muslims to live in peace with others will simply be magnified. Turning the other cheek is a quaint Christian phrase, but you only do that if you are not willing to stand up for your principles and values. I know the muslim world, and I know the Western world, and without doubt I unequivocally state that the principals and morals of the West (although flawed – we are human) are so far superior to those of the muslim world that I see no reason to even debate the issue.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Kit

      Keith, very well said. If anyone wants to truly understand the Muslim mind (not even of the radicals but of the general population) all one has to do is go back to the news reports following 9/11. My how quickly we forget all those Muslims dancing in the streets burning American flags chanting death to America. And THESE are the people we are so careful not to offend?

      May 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  12. James Croft

    I'm a graduate student at Harvard with John Figdor, and a vice-chair of the Harvard Humanist Graduate Community. I take a different position to Figdor's, one more aligned with Epstein's. This position is summed up, for me, in the following quote from the article: "we should fight to the death for our right to chalk these images. But we should also have the dignity and respect not to do so."

    Refraining from drawing Muhammad does not mean staying silent or not criticising the dehumanizing aspects of Islam as practiced by some. Rather, it means finding more effective ways of engaging in such criticism, so that we might achieve our Humanist aims more quickly and with less acrimony.

    We need to take the long view, and ensure that our principles are reflected in our own actions. Doing something that others consider deeply offensive and demeaning even if we entirely reject the basis of their offense, while there are other ways to achieve the same ends, is not compatible with my Humanist ideals.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
    • Jonathan Figdor

      Very thoughtful response, James. I think I agree with most of what you say, especially about there being better ways for Humanists and the non-religious to make the same point (for example, collaborating on a letter writing campaign, or having a student forum to discuss the incident, etc.).
      But I still disagree when you say we shouldn't draw Mohammad. If everything is open to free inquiry, an essential Humanist principle, then so too must the image of the prophet Mohammad. James, some Christians, Muslims, Jews, find our very Humanist beliefs to be offensive. Indeed, the history of nontheism is filled with atheists and Humanists who were persecuted and vilified for their "outrageous" beliefs. I fear if we exclusively (and the key word is "exclusively") pursue the path of politeness, we will find it difficult to engage in serious dialogue with many religious people. I would prefer to let competing ideas about freedom of speech float in the censorship-free marketplace of ideas where people can decide for themselves which is more persuasive.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Joe

      James I have to say that I enjoyed that response. In a world where people learn by example, where being the 'better person' actually causes change in those that seem to be in the moral wrong, your conclusion would be perfect; however, I do not personally believe that simply putting up our collective chins and thinking good thoughts will fix these problems. Do stick figures fix our problems? No, probably not. I commend those involved for at least taking some sort of action, even if this time it was slightly off the mark.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  13. Erin Michaud

    Have you actually read the Bible? Intolerance and disrespect for other belief systems are part and parcel of Christianity AND Islam. It's right there in all the holy books.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  14. JD

    Here is my personal contribution to free speech.

    /|\ <== Muhammad
    / \

    I am a Humanist. As such, I am a practical person and seek to make effective change to make this world a better place. This does not mean that I think we should worry about hurting other peoples feelings about their particular irrational dogma. A person is welcome to believe whatever they want, but it is not in the best interest of this country and this world to stay quite and on this issue. Free speech must be protected (perhaps by sacrificing politeness).

    May 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • Thinking Person

      Just Kidding! I was talking About Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer ever!!!

      May 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  15. John

    On the one hand, respect in religious matters is important. On the other hand, if one is not a member of a religion, then members of religions should be careful not to imprint their values and mandates on folks outside of their religion. It is a fine line. Respect is a 2-way street.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  16. Matt Page-Lieberman

    I'm friends with Greg too.
    I have Muslim friends, and I wouldn't do anything to insult them.
    However, I believe that the fact that there are many of us who are afraid of physical violence against us for drawing a picture means that we should draw Mohammed.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  17. Dan

    My only comment on this issue is that I like how the people added the boxing gloves and renamed the drawings. It was a harmless way to solving the problem. As for extremists threatening the two creators of South Park, that is just stupid.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Implying Implications

      Well that's what they grow up to be. Even at this age, they already feel the need to go and change something that shouldn't be offensive in the first place. Starts with drawing boxing gloves, older they'll probably use real boxing gloves and attack physically, and when they're adults, go right back into threatening and being an extremist.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Jonathan Figdor

      @Implying Implications:
      I don't think you can reasonably say that the MSA students, which ought to be commended for its very creative and peaceful counter-protest (drawing the boxing gloves and re-labeling), are going to grow up into fundamentalists. There are lots of tolerant and peaceful Muslims out there, like Reza Aslan. And I know lots more at Harvard Divinity.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Implying Implications

      >implying changing irrelevant drawings won't escalate

      May 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
  18. James

    There is zero reason for any religion to be free from criticism. NONE. They are all based on faith, not evidence. As such, people who adhere to facts and evidence SHOULD NOT BE and ARE NOT bound by any religious rules. Period. Not being able to criticize religion is giving them a free pass to go unquestioned and prevent others from thinking outside the box and potentially learning to think based upon reason instead of faith.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • Rachell

      Yeah you can criticize, but just how is drawing a stick figure a criticism of ANYTHING? It's just a naked act of disrespect towards Muslims because I guess they are fun to hate.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • Athenasius

      Everyone has faith. Have you actually seen what you believe in? Science takes things on faith all of the time. You have believed what you have been told by tv shows, textbooks, or news articles. Have you done the experiments yourself? Have you seen the bits and pieces that make up matter, touched them? You exercise faith in your eyesight when you sit in a chair and you exercise faith in someone else when you accept a scientific principal that you have heard. Fact is only fact on a personal level, outside of that is trust, or faith in someone or something else. Some put this trust in the religion of science, or of man, others look outside of man to something greater than themselves.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • Scott

      Right On!!!

      May 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Sakara

      James, completely agree.
      Rachel– When one person draws mohammed they become a target and their life is threatened. Sometimes they die. This is a clever way of showing our support for the ideal they were brave enough to present without having to fear for our lives. These chalk drawings are anonymous and numerous enough that the 'artists' need not live the rest of their lives in fear. Enough people standing up to the bully is the only way to make him back down. Even if he does have a bomb.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Another human..

      Science is based on fact not faith, otherwise it is a theory.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • FatSean

      Nice try, but that old dog won't hunt.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  19. Sef Caan

    Before you lazily start throwing terms such as 'freedom of speech' about, I suggest that you grasp the notion of respect.

    The Quran orders people to respect others' religions and gods; so it is only fitting that the thinking be mutual for those who follow the Islamic faith.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • Jonathan Figdor

      Sef, I don't take orders from ancient books. I think for myself.

      And I caution you against saying we ought to restrict our free speech because some may be religiously offended by reminding you that in our nation's tawdry past, many Christian slave owners in the south would have been religiously offended at the idea that black people are fundamentally equal to whites. Religion has the power to do a lot of good in the world, but when it goes about setting up idols that cannot be criticized, it is dangerous.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • Sasha

      "Could you do it legally? Of course. Should you?"
      Yes, we should. It is very important to EXERCISE our rights, to make sure they still exist. In this environment, where cartoonists are being killed or asked to censor themselves by higher ups, I am not sure anyone.

      The notions of respect is VERY IMPORTANT. They must respect SECULARISTS. As non-Muslims, we have every right to draw Mohammad. We have been very tolerant of the Qu-ran, which calls us losers and doomed, and baselessly threatens to torture us in hellfire for all eternity. If they want us to censor our drawings for respect, they must censor the Qu-ran for respect. Fair is fair.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • Kerry Ferguson

      To resort to analogy (sorry)... an important point people advocating drawing Mohammad are missing is this – There are about a billion Muslims in the world who are insulted by depictions of Mohammad (especially by non-Muslims), while there are about five who want to kill people for doing it.

      Making a non-religious analogy... there are many more than a billion people who would be insulted by someone cursing at their parents or family and many more than five who would probably kill you for it (a young man was killed in my hometown of Detroit two days ago just because someone didn’t like the way he looked at him). To protest based on freedom of speech, should you curse at as many people's families as possible, just to prove you can?

      Drawing these pictures does nothing positive for anyone, inflames the few who would react violently, and intentionally insults a billion people just because you don't agree with their religious belief. (btw... I am not Muslim)

      May 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • andy

      Yeah- too bad they don't practice what they preach. It's all good if its in their book- now they just need to live by it.

      How many terrorists scream Alla Ackbar after blowing someone up? How is that respect from their book?

      May 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • joe

      It should be known that the Koran teaches you can only respect Jews and Muslims if they accept the Koran as the truth and pay the alms levy. There's nothing peaceful about Islam.

      As an atheist myself, I say draw as many Mohammeds as possible. He was a sick, twisted, child rapist warlord with a god complex. And the koran teaches its followers to kill me... so F having respect for that evil book.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • Chris

      @ Sef Caan....If the Quron or Koran (I could not care less), instructs its follwers to respect other people's religion... then you guys are doing a HORRIBLE job. Perhaps you should pass that memo around to your tolerant, forgiving, women's rights defending, peaceful, non-violent, ummmm, "brothers." Oh wait, there aren't any. My bad. Maybe your should just get someone who knows how to read to tell you what the Koran ACTUALLY says. When waiting for the part about tolerance and respect of other religions... don't hold your breath.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • bluenote

      @ Sef Caan: Unfortunately, the few crazies have done a LOT of damage to the billion who believe in Islam. But the general feeling, I think, is one that Muslims feel superior to all other religions, and that all other religions must respect their beliefs. Sadly, I am neither religious, nor willing to respect other peoples' beliefs, simply because they say I must. I DO respect peoples' right to believe in whatever God they choose to- UNTIL that belief becomes an infringement on my personal freedom, and that seems to be what is happening worldwide with Islam, now. To assume that there are only five people in the world who would kill over these issues is just proof that someone is not paying attention. Religion in ANY form can be very dangerous, is ALWAYS divisive, and seems to me, at least, to have become rather dated. Oh well, to each their own, as long as it doesn't affect MY life. See ya.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • Nice

      You claim Quran says you have to respect other religions and gods. But it is not the case in most islamic countries(Take Saudi Arabia or Pakistan for example). In Pakistan minorities have been reduced from 15% to 1% and they are still killing, enacting blashpemy laws to persecute minorities. In Saudi arabia u cant even build a temple or church. In Muslim countries , a Muslim cannot convert to another faith without being murdered. So much for ur religion peace tolerance & respect for others beliefs. And u hypocrites have issues when others want to draw cartoons.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • M

      It's all well and good to talk about mutual respect and tolerance, but only when both sides are committed to it. How many churches are there in Saudi Arabia? When was the last time a seminary was opened in Turkey?

      More importantly, who decides what is disrespectful? Muslims say you should respect Mohommed so don't draw any pictures of him because the Koran forbids it. Well, Christians say you should respect Jesus and not deny the reality of his Passion. Does that mean Christians get to burn copies of the Koran because it's disrespectful to Jesus?

      Preventing people from drawing pictures of Mohommed on the ground of religious sensitivity is, to put it bluntly, forcing non-believers to abandon their belief system and adopt Islam with respect to the treatment of Mohommed - something many Muslims have been comfortable with historically, but something Europeans haven't suscribed to since Charles Martel.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • M

      It's all well and good to talk about mutual respect and tolerance, but only when both sides are committed to it. How many churches are there in Saudi Arabia? When was the last time a seminary was opened in Turkey?

      More importantly, who decides what is disrespectful? Muslims say you should respect Mohommed so don't draw any pictures of him because the Koran forbids it. Well, Christians say you should respect Jesus and not deny the reality of his Passion. Does that mean Christians get to burn copies of the Koran because it's disrespectful to Jesus and denies the reality of his Passion?

      Preventing people from drawing pictures of Mohommed on the ground of religious sensitivity is, to put it bluntly, forcing non-believers to abandon their belief system and adopt Islam with respect to the treatment of Mohommed - something many Muslims have been comfortable with historically, but something Europeans haven't suscribed to since Charles Martel.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Scott

      The Bible or the Koran are just books written by people long dead. They have value but they are in no way the beginning and the end of debate. Nor do they contain more wisdom that other books. Nor are they the total word of God. I have read both and find them very moving and interesting, but on the whole many other books are just as moving and interesting. if you wish to follow a book to form your life then that is fine, but do not labor under the illusion that your book should be venerated by anyone else.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • Seth Caan

      Greg, I see you have a keen interest in understanding human nature. In reading Islam's primary text, you will gain an insight into the true Islam.

      Islam is a religion which promotes peace; the word Islam is derived from the Hebrew word Shalom and Arabic Word Salaam, meaning 'Peace'.

      Unfortunately it is humans who are far from perfect, whether they be Muslim or Atheist. And it is ALL humans that tarnish the peace in Islam.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • Yale4Life


      "Sef, I don't take orders from ancient books. I think for myself. "

      "I am a student of Greg Epstein's at Harvard and a new graduate from Harvard Divinity School with an MDiv in Humanism."


      Maybe you can enlighten Sef Caan with how you are so discerning! All quotes and references in MLA style please.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Tom


      If Muslims are sooo respectful of other religions and people – why are they blowing everyone – including their fellow muslims up every chance they get. My religion and beliefs say worship who or what you want, if I don't agree – too bad, live and let live – It appears that muslims just want to "Kill the Infidels". Maybe in the interest of brotherly love and respect for your fellow man – Muslims should start policing themselves and root out these radical idiots internally. Until I see Muslims making a strong stand against these activities – I will believe that in some way, those actions are supported by all. And I will not respect any religion that condones violence. And I will also believe that a relion that condones violence has no right to complain about cartoon drawings!!

      May 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • Pedro Navaja

      Respect? why don't you start by telling all the muslims that they need to respect people that do not think like them, in this case if muslims believe that drawing muhamad is incorrect, non-muslim people do not think the same way and feel free to draw whomever they want and muslims need to shut up and respect that.
      I think having the poor woman drees like they make them dress is unfair! and inhumane. do they care about what I think?
      just because I don't like how they make woman dress should I feel ofended averytime I see one of them in the streets?? you answer to that!!!

      May 20, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
    • Sakara

      Sef– Actually, a more accurate (Arabic) translation of Islam is "submit". The peace comes through submission to god. Not the kind of peace most of us free spirits long for, and not the intent of the creators when they lifted the root from the Hebrew "salam".

      May 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • leslie

      Respect is not demanded, is earned. Work on being a better person and respect will come. And if it doesn;t then it is the disrespectful person problem, not yours.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • Scott

      You talk about a mutual respect. However the Koran has been re-written and modernized to hate all Christians and Jews, which is handed out all over the Middle East to brainwash people. Pretty disturbing.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • Mohammed blows jesus

      It says in the Quran to kills the non-believers. Where is the respect that you speak of?

      May 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • Benjamin

      If the Quran speaks about tolerance of other religions, then why do they espouse "Killing the infidel" and all the other anti-Semitic or christian concepts?

      May 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • kanon

      As evident by many comments above, bigotry and ignorance is still alive and well, against everyone, everywhere. It's very sad.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Truth

      The quran also says preaches that islam is not just a religion but should also be the main political party. They also preach murder and war against anything that stands in the way of islam.....or did you get the edited quran they hand out to poor people?

      May 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Jim Steichen

      Historical Illuminated manuscripts exist that prove the Muslims themselves
      once drew depictions of Mohammet. This notion that everyone should respect each other's religion is noble, but totally unrealistic. When Muslims riot to protest depictions of Mohammet in Danish newspapers, who benefited?
      If there were to be a daily comic strip depicting the trials and tribulations of Mohammet in dealing with his foolish followers, how long would Muslims riot? I submit that respect is earned, but insisting on following Muslim customs, such as wearing veils or Burkas in Western countries, yet NOT allowing westerners to follow the customs of their countries in Muslim-dominated countries, such as NOT wearing veils or Burkas is plain flat-out Hypocrisy, and deserves no respect, but complete ridicule. You cannot have your cake and eat it too!

      May 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
    • justnotright

      I as a muslim condone these cowardly acts.We has a religion don't accept this for any of the prophets sent by God.And this so called rabbi that allowed this to take place did so to intentially insult the Muslim population since he already knew that in our culture when you draw something on the ground and someoine steps on it ,it is then very offending.He is trying to stand up for freedom of speech but he's only playing with fire.If this were done with his own picture and we all stepped on it im pretty sure he won't be thrilled at all.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  20. Jonathan Figdor

    Hello, I am a student of Greg Epstein's at Harvard and a new graduate from Harvard Divinity School with an MDiv in Humanism.

    I want to commend Greg for his honest opinion here, but take up a few points of discussion. First, it is unclear to me just why drawing the alleged prophet Mohammad is an offensive act. I was unaware that all religious groups had decided that they could nominate a central religious figure who could be free from criticism, or even depiction. While I understand that Muslims are offended, their justifications of why such drawings are offensive make no sense to me. Secondly, I want to emphasize that this is very much about protection of free speech. When Greg says, "These chalk drawings are not a seminar on free speech; they are the atheist equivalent of the campus sidewalk preachers who used to irk me back in college," I wonder if he really wants to suggest that peaceful and friendly drawings of Mohammad are really the equivalent of a red-faced sidewalk preacher from Epstein's youth. While Epstein is right that there are better ways of confronting censorship (I would have loved to see atheists and Muslims writing letters to Viacom in protest), he is wrong to call this behaviour wrong.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Sef Caan

      As educated as one may be in Human Values and Concerns, it is the principle of respect which Humanity has began to lack. Respect is taught, not through Further Education, but from our loving parents when we are young.

      If one has the understanding of Respect, there would be no need to question the reaction of Muslims here.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Teeph

      Maybe this is a bit of backstory that you picked up as a student of Mr. Epstein's, but I'm not seeing the reference to a "red faced" sidewalk preacher in the text of the post. If it isn't information you've been privy to in the past, it's a curious addition. Especially in the context of the "peaceful and friendly" drawings of Mohammad.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • cmkaufman

      It doesn't have to be clear to you.
      The point is that it is childish to knowingly offend someone, and dangerous to think it will not have consequences.
      Women have to bite their tongues all the time in order to avoid the consequences of free speech.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • Bill

      >>it is unclear to me just why drawing the alleged prophet Mohammad is an offensive act.

      You are a frighteningly self-centered person.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • David

      Justification from an individual is not necessary, only the knowledge that the act you commit will in fact be offensive.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Read

      Islam is about praying to one God. Before Islam people used to worship Idols that they created of pious people who passed away long time ago. Their argument was that we use these idols as a resource to pray to God. In Islam,, this practice is marked as Shirk or equating some one or something with God. What happens is, it starts off as a picture, then the later generations turn it into an idol and start worshipping it, thus the religion derails from the original message.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Patrick Tamim

      As a Moslim myself I do find it offensive... just as offensive if someone were drawing picutres of Buddah, or Jesus on a sidewalk just for the sake of making a joke. Why people don't understand the reasons Muslims get upset at such actions is due to ignorance of our culture and religious beliefs. You don't see Moslems satiring Jesus as we believe this is just a disrespectful. Now that someone is trying to make a day out of "drawing Mohammed" just jabbing Muslims in the ribs... and you wonder why we get upset.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • Your Wrong

      Every culture is different, and just because you dont understand the reason why its offensive, does not make it not offensive to people of that culture or religious background. No ones free speech is at risk, you can go in the street and call Mohammad names, draw pictures of him, and do whatever you want, and no one will arrest you. But if you intentionally display the same behaviour in front of a Muslim KNOWING its offensive to him, by all means, he has the right to kick your ass in, and I hope he does. Im not a muslim, but if you or anyone else intentionally disrespected me, I would give you a beating you will not soon forget. These acts are not being done in good faith, this is an act of deliberate disrespect. Come to my town and try this SHi*T and see what happens.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Wendy

      Why is he a rabbi if he doesnt believe in god? You cant have it both ways.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Bill

      This is worst instance of cowardice "humanist" writing i have ever heard. I am glad you call your self a humanist because you do not have the courage to be an Atheist.

      To say that humanists would some how share some "Gene Roddenberry" style existence in the future with religious authority figures is naive at best. Moral and ethical culture may have been the root of religion, but it has now left the building. Conversion, Intolerance, and Death to non believers will always be, regardless of moral or ethical living.

      Religion of all types is a disease. A byproduct of the human mind coping with the unknown, and a social mechanism to prevent total self centered anarchy where the moral authority is not present to protect a civic state and keep the peace.

      What that means is, in the mud huts and tents in the Middle East and wood shacks in dark ages Europe, there was little authority to stop someone from killing his neighbor, taking his wife and livestock. Now,... would you still do it if it meant eternal anguish in hell?

      it's so sad how we still call it religion and not mythology.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • Joe

      "and you wonder why we get upset."

      We don't wonder why you get upset. We wonder why you would behead a journalist, or strap a bomb to yourself, or burn an embassy, or fly a plane into a builing because you are upset.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • Scott

      If a god can get upset by the drawing of a cartoon then that is a pretty pathetic god. Human beings waste so much time and effort to defend that which needs no defending. Who would waste their life worshiping a god that needs to be defended or served by a man??????? Men need to be defended since they are mortal, they can't do for themselves so they hire servants. GOD NEEDS NO HELP.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • Brian

      It is childish to knowingly offend someone for the sole sake of offending them, but thats not the case with some of the people here. Burning American flags offends me, and the act is meant to be offensive, and yet people still have the right to do so. A right I agree with. So why is Islam special? Why it is the exception? It is their belief that the image of Mohammed is sacred and should not be shown and i respect that. However, i dont feel that all people everywhere should do the same. Thats up to them. A religion shouldn't impose their beliefs on others, especially through fear. These drawings are meant to be a rebellion against those who wish to impose their beliefs on us.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Melissa

      It doesn't matter if you understand why they think it's offensive. You KNOW that they think it's offensive. Therefore, it's a jerk thing to do it on purpose. Yes, you have the right to do it. But just because you CAN do something doesn't mean it's not rude, or mean, or that it is I good idea to do it.

      And if it's your goal to try to point out to Muslims the "fallacy" of their thinking, to try to change their minds about how they want to revere their connection to what they relate to as Divine...well, that's just overstepping yourself.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
    • Brian

      As much as they might feel "offended" from this "disrespect", one can only reallly say is, get over it. If you can't used to having your religion mocked, then get out of the discussion. The wonders of freedom of speech is that everything can be and should be mocked at some point, nothing is sacred in that discusion and nothing should ever considered sacred in that view.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • NK

      I consider myself a humanist, practicalist, and centrist. One has to wonder if there will ever be a truly "global moderate" mindset that will be able to keep the world's problems at bay – or in the best case scenario, solve them.

      I can dream, right?

      May 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • Seraphim0

      Patrick: No one would be up in arms if you drew the Buddha or Jesus on a sidewalk. It is the extreme reaction that people do not understand. Christianity (catholicism in particular) is very large on symbolism and representation of jesus, the cross, and the saints. Buddhism has statues of Buddha (who was not a God, nor worshipped as one). Pictures do not harm these religions on face value. With Islam it is tantamount to blasphemy. This is where the misunderstanding comes in. In addition, since they are drawing on the sidewalk where the image would be stepped on- that is seen as offensive. And, I agree with that. It's like drawing a picture of Jesus in a public urinal. While the intentions of the students were noble, they went about it the wrong way.

      This is a give and take. Non-muslims need to respect Islam as a religion and not view it only as evidenced by its extremists (any religious fanatic can give a religion a bad name- look at Fred Phelps); and muslims need to respect the fact that western civilization is much more free to express itself, and rightfully so.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • JimmyNelson

      The way I see it is, the muslims knew and know we have free speech and if they dont like it then they have an oppressive country to go back to... In America we have the right to do these things, so get over it.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
    • TRex

      @Jonathan Figdor
      I don't think we need to understand why Muslims believe that Mohammed cannot be drawn, just as we don't need to understand how Jesus got born of a virgin mother or how Ganesh came to have an elephant head. The issue here is different. There are certain things about all religion and mythology that do not make sense. They may make to some, not to others. If it doesn't make sense to you however, your freedom of speech still should not be equated with a freedom to offend and even more so, a deliberate (and mocking) attempt at it. I am not saying that the response it generates from Muslims (death threats etc.) is correct, in fact I believe it is stupid. However, before that can even happen – why should we offend sensibilities of people, simply because we don't believe in them? If we here in America believe in one ideology – freedom to inquiry – we should also accept that it is just that – one ideology. Others are not required to believe in it. There is nothing "fundamentally" wrong or right about one ideology or the other. They are just options people choose follow, mostly because they got born into it. Why offend them based on the accident of their birth or choice? Just because we are not offended by jokes on Jesus because we are "Oh so open" that does not mean others are. Let's leave them undisturbed. Let's leave some space for peace.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • Goose66

      Who, exactly, ordains a "humanist chaplain," i.e. a professor of Atheism. That's a bit oxymornonic, IMO. If someone professes to believe there is no higher power, then from what power does that person seek approval through ordindation? It's OK if you want to be an atheist, but must you try to make a joke out of the religious hierarchy of those who don't believe as you do?

      May 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • adimit

      let me remind you of atheists that carried out human atrocities: Joseph Stalin, KGB, Mao, Pol Pot. the list goes on and on. Its a huge list considering that atheists are a minority in this world. Those atheists didn't like free speech either. Stop blaming religion as the root of all evil. Evil uses any ideology to propogate itself.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • 100 Grand

      religions have the worst fan clubs....where do I begin. If Muslims are so serious and forceful about keeping any human being from doing something they choose to, minus physical harm or breaking protective laws, then that is wrong. Any person who is Christian, should not even be able to criticize others for doing this, because you cannot judge if you do not like warm warm warm weather ;). It is absurd to think anybody can threaten another person for choosing to draw a stick figure on the sidewalk, which by the way, the boxing glove idea was hilarious. I wonder if Muslims got mad that McLovin almost changed his name to Muhammed.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • mike

      Yeah you seem to combining logic and religion which doesn't work out. I'm not saying they can't work together side beside, but logic didn't create religion and vice versa. The intertwine and interweave themselves into our daily lives, but they are not seamlessly combined. That being said you don' t justify religious beliefs using logic, and it's not too hard to respect someone's beliefs. People want to do this as a sign to extremists that "we are not afraid," but it's the wrong way to go about it. We should make it clear we won't depict Muhammad because we respect the Muslim faith; not because we are afraid of extremist reaction. They have absolutely no influence or power in this world, all they can do is hurt a very small amount of people, and we need to show them that.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • dj

      I understand that the Muslims don't draw Mohammed because it draws attention to the person rather than the message. It tries to separate God from man.. admirable and wise since man invariably falls short. The strict censorship is, i think, perhaps a form of humility from Mohammed to prevent him from being elevated and used for ignoble purposes.

      The people that are trying to wave a red flag at Muslims may chafe at this censorship, but if my understanding is correct they should respect Mohammed's wish. In the West freedom of expression is taken for granted, but it is easy to exercise it lazily and without understanding.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • Jack R

      As childish as it is, I believe that presenting these drawings, in whatever manner, is a part of free speech. No one has the right, or priviledge of telling others how to think. If our muslims friends are offended, perhaps they have chosen the wrong country to live in. Perhaps, they would be more comfortable back in their own country. Whichever they choose, we have and will maintain the right to express ourselves as we wish.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • MrX

      Before any Muslim wastes their time over a stick figured picture, why don’t you do something worthwhile and globally condemn and fight extreme Islam. If you rather waste your time on a stick figure over someone who uses the name of your religion to strap a bomb on handicapped child, only shows me that you are caveman equivalent at best with your ability to think.

      When that artist made a picture of someone taking a leak on Christ, it was shameful, but I would never condemn his right to do it, because his drawing doesn’t impeded me from praying or believing. To say it would have done so, it would be just a justification on my part.

      Now, if someone would have made a sign that said kill a Muslim, then I would be right behind you Mr. Muslim to protect your right. Then again, I’m sure you wouldn’t be behind me when protests in London, Paris, New York, and many other cities show signs with “Kill the infidels” and make “Europe an Islam State.”

      The hypocrisy takes away any desire by me and many to even blink in your favor over such minute item.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • justnotright

      Well if the muslims came after this guy and try to harm him in any way,there's no one to blame but himsekf.Its happened before and this guy is just asking for it in the name of freedom.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Seraphim0

      Jimmy- are you saying that altruism only came from religion? Hate to break it to you, but that is not true. IHuman beings are tribal by nature, for the tribe to survive, it must be cohesive. Are you saying that tenderness that animals show their offspring is because they have religion? take a look at some books on societal evolution, or tribal evolution for that matter.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • FatSean

      I agree with you and I also wonder why Greg keeps saying atheist/secularist. There were many Christians taking part as well. "Humanist Rabbi" indeed.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • Kerry Ferguson

      Hey… the point missed here is that there are about a billion Muslims in the world who are insulted by depictions of Mohammad (especially by non-Muslims), while there are about five who want to kill people for doing it. You don’t deal with the five people by insulting the billion.

      Making a non-religious analogy... there are billions people who would be insulted by someone cursing at their family and many more than five who would kill you for it. Should you curse at as many people's families as possible, just to prove you can and to “challenge” the ones who would become violent?

      Most of the people here attacking religion seem to hold some cartoon caricature version of religion. Straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks don’t advance the discussion.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jon

      Are the muslims really mad that Mohammad looks like a stick figure? I would be mad if my prophet looked like a stick figure.

      Muslims, here is my problem: you don't know what Mohammad looks like, so how do you know it when you see a picture of a purported "Mohammad." The stick figures certainly don't look like Mohammad looked. Really. Your just getting upset, because, face it, muslims just like to get upset.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Eric

      It's not a false idol until someone believes it is a physical manifestation of their god. Those that would kill over an image are truly the ones worshiping it.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • Jessica

      Jonathan Figdor – CONGRATULATIONS! You've succeeded in pointing out just how ignorant and hyporcitical you are. Why exactly did you study Humanism, when at the core of who you are – all you care about is what you think is right? By that standard, you are standing rank and file with all those "other religions". Is it simply enough for you to say "i dont understand" without making any effort to ACTUALLY understand? No, intentional ignorance is never a good alibi. Furthermore, I completely agree that you were within your free speech right to do this, just like the sidewalk preachers your teacher mentioned – I went to a collage that had one as well, though, he wasnt "red-faced" as you claim, he was quiet, he stood there with tall big signs that spoke of hate and disgust for gay people, usually, while his little daughter, maybe 5 years old, would hand out pamphlets. Thats pretty much the equivalent to what you are doing – annoying, potentially offensive to many, but well within your rights. However, it does not make you smart, right, or even on point.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Scott

      It is clear to most that the Muslim faith is a religion of hate. they hate every thing about the way western society lives. they gain power with fear and keeping their populations uneducated. They have been at war with the western cultures for quite some time and we are afraid to except the fact that if we want our children to live in a free world we will have to eventually start fighting back.
      They claim to be a religion of peace but they commit terrorist acts against innocents, appose free speech and women rights. They even ban music under there laws.
      If we allow them to limit of freedom of speech in the USA and the rest of the world we are surrendering to these extremists.
      I will leave you with this. It time to realize that what we need is no longer just a war on terror but a war against Muslims in general. If that is the way they want to fight what choice do we have – unless in 20 years time you want to make your wife ware a burka and give up all of the pleasures western society provides to us.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • paul

      " if you intentionally display the same behaviour in front of a Muslim KNOWING its offensive to him, by all means, he has the right to kick your ass in"

      No. He does not. He can write mean things about me, and whatever he may think I hold sacred, on the ground in chalk, he can say how unhappy he is, and what a bad person I am. He can respond to my speech with his own speech. But there is nothing I can say that justifies an act of violence. People who don't comprehend that don't belong in civilized company. The drawing of chalk figures is offensive and in bad taste, but it is speech, and as wrong as it may be, violence in response would be substantially worse.

      The muslim students who are adding boxing gloves and turning it into Muhammed Ali have exactly, incredibly, the right response. They are responding with speech, not violence, and they are turning offense into humor, and a celebration of a great muslim-american at the same time. Ok, the humor is weak, but they are deflecting an attack in a wonderful way. Their deflection takes minimal effort, does not escalate the conflict, and turns negativity into a positive message. If this were the universal response, there would be no reason for the initial conflict. But I am betting that somewhere, someone will get beaten or killed as a byproduct of draw muhammed day, which is why I support the offensive and tasteless act.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • Ian

      I can only wonder why people are choosing to celebrate free speech by offending an entire religion. The characterization of the prophet is known to be considered forbidden, its in the interest of preserving the beliefs not the image. However why is it we have chosen Islam to make this humanist point. We could have vary easily chosen to draw swaztika's, claiming freedom of speech, or maybe that we simply meant the purists meaning as a hindu symbol. Of course, why would that anger followers or judaism? But No, we are a christian nation if you ask anyone between the coasts, so why not exercise free speech by offending christians? Then we can claim we are really serving freedom of speech and experssion. Perhaps drawing gay couples, or abortion doctors. Clearly, the message here has lost its path in attempting to serve a valuable pillar in American beliefs.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
    • MrX

      @Kerry – If you were right with your mat,h give or take few millions, no Muslim countries would be harboring extreme Muslims that commit crimes like killing and torture. The fact that they are not involved as much to eliminate these “extremist” show some level of acceptance of their ideology.

      No society is perfect, we as Americans know that when we look at our own country. The difference in my opinion is how civilizations, societies, countries, ethnic groups, or whatever shows progress by at least trying to end crime, regardless if the fall short on their attempts.

      In other words, I’ll take a man that tries and fails over one that just sits there and watches.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
    • Dave

      Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. To what do I owe the extreme pleasure of this surprising visit? I drew my stick figure facing the sidewalk...

      May 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
    • dhhl

      "First, it is unclear to me just why drawing the alleged prophet Mohammad is an offensive act."

      This statement, given in the form of justification, is so staggeringly narrow-minded and self-centered I hardly know where to begin. What on earth makes you think that *your* comprehension is necessary before you allow other people to put into practice beliefs that in no way hinder your own? Why does this somehow make it "right" for you to go out and deliberately cause offense, just because you don't see the point of something?

      As an atheist myself, I'm dumbfounded and disgusted that you would attempt to justify something so boorish and childish under the noble guise of some kind of enlightenment/stand for free speech. Is this some kind of "extremist" atheism, where you make it a point to go around disrespecting other people's beliefs if they don't coincide with yours? I guess it's true, there will always be bad apples in every bunch.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Maya

      @ Joe ,
      "We don't wonder why you get upset. We wonder why you would behead a journalist, or strap a bomb to yourself, or burn an embassy, or fly a plane into a builing because you are upset."

      The reason why this happens is because of the violence that the US (and allies) are causing in the middle east. The crimes that are being committed. The war on Iraq, The illegal occupation in Palestine, The apartheid wall in palestine. I mean the truth is the Arabs are being oppressed. When an Israeli only gets six months community service for beating a palestinian child to death with the butt of a gun. When you enclose thousands in an apartheid wall and restrict them from their basic needs. The war on Lebanon, The Gaza war, Iraq. etc. So many innocent arabs are dying. People are bombed even in UN schools and UN ambulances. Killing that many innocent people results in desperate people who have lost everything and having nothing left to loose. People that become blinded by emotions and angry. I am not justifying what terrorists do, what they do is disgusting, But Violence is a cycle. And no child is born a terrorist. And you could be brainwashed and support all these crimes that the US and Israel are committing. But if you read the opinions of the most important intellects, and the opinions of human right organizations you will see the truth. Noam Chomsky, Finkelstein. In fact the British academics are boycotting Israel. Academics are the most educated people in the society. Learn from them. Please open up your eyes. Seek the truth as a human being and not as a brainwashed. Put yourself in the shoes of the child that is born in Gaza. At least youtube it, see what is going on there. Violence is a cycle.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
    • jerry

      Islam is a 12th Century concept in a 21th century world. Drawings of Mohamed are all over the place in art gallieries and hve been around for centuries. The concept of not drawing Mohamed is something pushed by nut jobs. Everyone should draw pictures all over the place and make it so common that it is no longer and issue. The one as Mohamed as a dog is a god idea. Maybe a pig or a monkey would be more fitting since he was a pediphile and advocated killing people who did not follow his teachings. Religion of peace? Muslims have proven time and again that is not true.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
    • Jack

      Its makes me feel sad that people want to hurt the sentiments of a majority of muslims just because they are angry with a few. I dont think free speech justifies this. This is disrespect not free speech. Its a very sad day for America.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
    • Eric

      I too believe he is wrong to call this behavior wrong but he is just exercising his right to say so just as everyone else is exercising their right to draw the prophet. Now making threats - that's a gray area. Breaking laws however is crossing the line.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • Karim Azeb

      "While I understand that Muslims are offended, their justifications of why such drawings are offensive make no sense to me."
      Jonathon, Clearly you're Harvard education has failed to assist you with your ability to read. The reason why depictions of Prophet Muhammad are so offensive to Muslims is because it is strictly FORBIDDEN in Islam. Muslims arent even allowed to draw favorable pictures of Muhammad. Muslims also aren't allowed to depict Allah himself, jesus, moses, Abraham or any other prophet of Allah's. So the fact is, there is no greater justification to be offended than that in which is strictly forbidden in ones Holy Book. I assume you are an atheist from your peace so I try and refrain myself for insulting you for assuming we should all think like you. But if you are a religious person, then it is probably a greater tragedy that you do not understand why it is so offending to muslims.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • jimmyyy

      @ Seraphim0 – See my reply elsewhere below.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • asliceofpi

      Kelly: "Hey… the point missed here is that there are about a billion Muslims in the world who are insulted by depictions of Mohammad (especially by non-Muslims), while there are about five who want to kill people for doing it. You don’t deal with the five people by insulting the billion."

      So why aren't we hearing 4,999,995 voices drowning out the 5? The point is, several Muslims were allowed to threaten death against two men for making fun of a principle that is ridiculous in the eyes of most of Western culture, and they succeeded in having the content removed because of it. Where is the large outcry from the Muslim community saying that the threat of death was ridiculous and extreme? Drowned out because of a ridiculous principle about portraying a prophet that lived 1300 years ago.

      Technically, you can't take the Lord's name in vain in Christianity. You can't say or even completely spell the word YHWH in Judaism. Yet somehow both of those religions are fine with people WHO AREN'T A PART OF THAT RELIGION doing as they please in a nation that promises free speech. America is a nation without a controlling religion for very, very good reasons. And as such, all religions are up for grabs when it comes to making a joke.

      I think this is a perfectly appropriate response to a death threat that ultimately came about over a drawing of a bear suit. You want to disrespect an entire nation? Then your nation gets disrespect in return. It's a peaceful demonstration against an absurd incident, and I am completely for it.

      Oh, speaking of, I should probably add in my own personal depiction of Mohammed:


      May 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
    • Paul Powell

      Figdor, Don't forget that they drew him ON THE GROUND. If they had done their research, they would know that this is at the very least a social faux pas, if not extremely disrespectful.

      May 20, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • sait

      We, Muslims are not only against drawing Muhammed, but also against drawings of Jesus, Mary,Moses, Aaron, Lut, Abraham and many more. Those are messengers of god. They were at the level of perfection. We do not have an actual photo of any of these human beings. Some carvings on the rocks in holy land doesnt make a clear justification to draw them or make statues of them. I dont think Jesus looked that bad in real life than those drawings of him in Churches. It wouldnt be a shame for me to imagine and give a look to a such a perfect human being.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:29 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.