University of Wisconsin–Madison

Why I drew pictures of Mohammed.

A) It is my stance that the principle that one should stand in solidarity with people being threatened trumps the principle that one should not offend people.

B) I stand for freedom of speech. I want to demonstrate that I should be allowed legally to express ideas without government preventing me — as is my First Amendment right.

C) I want to express the idea that threatening people with violence is unacceptable in a liberal democratic society.

D) Memes that impede human flourishing should be criticized.

MSA and other organizations walk a fine line. They want to condemn violent acts carried out in the name of Islam but do not want people criticizing their faith or insulting their sensibilities. However, their behavior demonstrates that they think that the latter two outweigh the former and I find this morally repugnant.

So many writers on this subject conflate desires for government change and desires for zeitgeist change. I want both! I want to legally be able to express ideas but I also want to stand in solidarity, condemn threats and criticize ideas that stand in the way of human well-being. Those three have nothing to do with government. Obviously offensive ideas should not be approved of by our society at large but from this it does not follow that they should be censored by the government.

Of course sacred cows should not be slain for the sake of slaying them. However, as I stated before, “The principle that one should stand in solidarity with people being threatened trumps the principle that one should not offend people.”

Now I must deal with the platitude that we are racists or bigots.


Criticizing Islam is not racism. Islam is a set of ideas, not a semi-geographically isolated population with certain correlated clusters of alleles. Criticizing Islam would be criticizing a set of ideas — criticizing a set of ideas by definition cannot be racism. No matter how censorious the criticisms of Islam become, they can never be racism.

I think a justifiable conception of racism is, “Racism is the unethical behavior of, all things being equal, not treating individuals as individuals but as the vessels of perceived average traits of an ethnic population they belong to.” Note the difference between treating someone as the perceived traits of a group they cannot control being a part of and treating someone based on the perceived traits of a group they can control being a part of.

Islam’s tenets should be rationally criticized both internally and externally. Criticism and self-criticism are indicators of both a healthy person and community.


Should one be tolerant of all groups? What about the group of people that abjures all moral responsibility? I disagree with some tenets of Islam. So why shouldn’t I criticize it? If I disagreed with Anarcho-Syndicalism, I would criticize it publicly and loudly. If I feel the same about Islam, why not do the same? Repeat this five times, “Islam is a set of ideas.” Here I helped you. Just read it.

Islam is a set of ideas.

Islam is a set of ideas.

Islam is a set of ideas.

Islam is a set of ideas.

Islam is a set of ideas.

3 thoughts on “Why I drew pictures of Mohammed.”

  1. Sam,

    As I understand it, the original conception of this protest was to make a point of solidarity with the South Park writers and to "uphold the value of free speech". While I *completely* disagree with the idea that this was the most effective/positive/productive way to do so, I feel like the rhetoric surrounding this debate is shifting to a different purpose.

    You said: "I disagree with some tenets of Islam. So why shouldn’t I criticize it?"

    Criticism of religion is completely valid, but I object to the idea that it is necessary to intentionally insult and criticize at the same time.

    Has this discussion moved from a critique/protest against the violent threats of radical Islamic extremists to a crusade against Islam in general? I feel like this argument has strayed from admonition of the original perpetrators (Revolution Islam) to a over-arching condemnation of Islam and its moderate practitioners as a whole, which in my opinion is a pretty big leap to make. Even if you DO have an over-arching problem with Islam in general, which is also valid, I feel it's not an appropriate segue for that particular debate to be spawn from actions of extremists; it makes it appear as though mainstream Islam and Revolution Islam are inexorably linked in values and practice, which they are not.

    For further reading/information on the values of MAINSTREAM Islam:

  2. I do not speak for everyone who participated, just me.

    My original intent for drawing the cartoons was my proffered reasons A-D. Why does upholding free speech and standing in solidarity have to be exhaustive?

    I do want to protest radical Islam. I do want to critique (not lead a "crusade" against as you ham-fistedly put it) regular ol' Islam. And I do want to criticize how moderate Muslims respond to radical Muslims. You say I shouldn't do all three at once, I disagree.

  3. I had heard about this a bit, but I hadn't given it much thought until I read the below post:

    It sparked my curiousity and eventually led me here, but I think I said all I had to say on the matter in my comment to that article which I will paste below since I suppose it applies (skip it if you are uninterested); however, I did want to add one more thing. I support what you are doing and you have my thanks for doing it.

    My comment to the article was the following:
    "The problem for me is that this isn’t a silly issue about drawing stick figures.

    This is about people trying to force religious law on others and deeming the punishment of death fitting for those who do not comply.

    Christianity, Islam, etc, none of them have the right to govern a free man’s life. What if it wasn’t drawing stick figures? What if it was sex before marriage or the right to be gay? To me it is exactly the same as if they were killing people for pre-marital sex or homosexuality.

    Not only do I not believe in your religion, your religion isn’t law and I do not have to abide by religion under any circumstances.

    I don’t oppose Islam or Muslims who practice it, nor just radical Muslims; I oppose every single religious man out there who believes he can force his beliefs on others.

    Every man is equal in civil and political rights, and more importantly every man is free, but that freedom ends when a man’s actions undermine the freedom and rights of another man. The moment that one debilitates or violates another man’s freedom or rights is the moment that one becomes a criminal.

    And that is exactly what anyone who tries to force religion on another man is, a criminal. Did these people receive some kind of right to religion and belief that I did not? That you didn’t?

    I think not.

    This isn’t about the “N” word or cancer or grandmothers. This isn’t about tangible things that we can define; this is about belief which is exactly why it remains in the realm of a man’s freedom and exactly why we cannot allow, to any degree, our right to believe whatever the hell we want to be undermined, including believing in flying spaghetti monsters or that there is no god.

    Especially our right to believe that stick figure drawings of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed are not sacred."

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