Why I Will Draw Mohammed
Yes, Mohammed is my real last name – I’m not trying to make a joke. I was born and raised a Muslim. My parents were immigrants from Chad, and they worked hard to provide me with a safe and comfortable childhood in L.A. I love and respect my fellow Muslims, but on Everybody Draw Mohammed Day (May 20th), I will be drawing Mohammed. And if I had to explain my core motivation, it’s this: I love puppies. Puppies are adorable. I love TV shows about puppies, I love TV commercials that feature puppies, and I’m not capable of walking by a pet store without stopping in to see the puppies.
Loving puppies = drawing Mohammed. A stretch, you say? Well, maybe…and maybe not.
In Tayside, a district of Scotland that encompasses Perth and Dundee, the local police force embarked upon a new public relations program a few years ago, aimed primarily at children. An adorable German Shepherd puppy named "Rebel” became the official mascot of the district police. Rebel would travel with his handler to local schools, to help educate kids about issues like safety, crime prevention, and animal welfare. Rebel even kept his own online "blog,” which became so popular, it received over 20,000 hits in one day (in Tayside, that’s not bad).
In 2007, the BBC reported that over half of all phone calls made to 999 (Scotland’s version of 911) were non-emergency in nature, so Scotland launched a new non-emergency police phone number, to cut down on unnecessary 999 calls, relieving the overburdened system and, potentially, saving lives.
Naturally, in Tayside, the police believed that Rebel the pup would be the best messenger to tell people, especially children (who are the most likely to inadvertently misuse 999), about the new number. Advertisements were printed up showing the adorable pooch sitting in a police officer’s hat, and word about the new non-emergency phone number began making the rounds.
And then Muslims started protesting.
You see, to some Muslims, dogs are considered ritually unclean. It’s believed that angels won’t enter a house if there’s a dog inside. And to Sunni Muslims, black dogs (like Rebel) are absolutely evil.
Now, the UK is one of the most dog-friendly places on earth. The relationship between Brits and their dogs is legendary. But a small, vocal group of Muslim immigrants in Tayside (including a local Muslim politician) forced the Tayside police to withdraw the Rebel ad campaign and issue a public apology.
Amazingly, the Tayside police department rolled over faster than a puppy doing tricks. Not once did any official say, "wait a minute – we’ve been a dog-centered people since our ancestors first settled this island. If you don’t like the advertisements, don’t look at them.”
Nope. No arguments. Just quick capitulation. And that’s because all of Europe has been capitulating to the "sensitivities” of its Muslim minority for decades. Almost every European nation has laws that make insulting Muslims a criminal offense punishable by a fine or jail time. In England alone, some schools have stopped teaching the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslim students. In West Midlands, government employees were ordered to remove any posters, calendars, or figurines with pigs on them – even a tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet was banned (pigs, like dogs, are considered "unclean” by Muslims). In Derby, the restoration of a 170-year-old statue of a boar was scrapped after complaints from local Muslims. In Leicester, police forcibly removed a collection of porcelain pigs from a woman’s private home, because Muslims in the neighborhood had complained that they could see them through her window. British banks have banned the time-honored "piggy bank” symbol from all advertisements. And just last month the British Department of Health decided that Muslim doctors and nurses are allowed to opt out of strict dress codes introduced to prevent the spread of deadly hospital superbugs.
In the UK, each capitulation has been followed by another demand for yet another capitulation. By giving in to Muslim "sensitivity” demands, even at the expense of their own ancient culture, the Brits (and the other European nations) have only encouraged more demands.
At fault here is not Islamic extremism per se. It’s human nature. It is a basic element of our species to take when we see the opportunity to take, to demand more if we think we can get more. As children, we learn to test our parents and relatives. "Who lets me have the most cake? Daddy or mommy? Grandma or grandpa? Who will give in if I ask for one more piece?”
That’s why all good parents know the value of saying "no.”
The 20th Century began with Christians having tremendous influence over almost all aspects of life in the U.S. Christian groups managed to get alcohol banned in 1920. Christian organizations controlled what type of content could be in movies, in bookstores, and on the stage. By the end of the century, Christians had lost most of that power, but they had gained something far more valuable – the understanding that their devoutness isn’t threatened by co-existing with the less devout, or the completely non-devout. That’s why TV shows like "South Park” and "Family Guy” can make ruthless fun of everything Christian without risking anything worse than a few angry emails.
Muslims who feel like they’re being "discriminated” against by the campaign to draw Mohammed are wrong. They’re merely being held to the same standards as all other religious groups in America.
Which brings me back to Rebel the police dog. If we, the people of the United States, begin to go down the same road that Europe took, banning, or self-censoring, one thing after another after another in the name of protecting Muslim sensitivities, we will end up with the same outcome – piggy banks, Winnie the Pooh, and adorable police puppies will be declared verboten. Yes, I know what many of my Muslims readers are saying: "Offensive depictions of Mohammed are extreme examples of cultural disrespect. Just because we’re against them, doesn’t mean we would ever be against piggy banks or police puppies.”
And I truly believe that the Muslims who feel this way are sincere. But human nature dictates that they’re wrong. And the example of Europe proves that they’re wrong. If we give in on this one thing – the right to draw Mohammed – we will be asked to give in again, and again, and again. Until, like the police in Tayside, we’ll eventually stop putting up a fight.