The following letter was sent to the President and Vice President of the MSA:
Dear Ahmed and Rashid,
This Thursday, May 20th, is Everybody Draw Muhammad Day – a fictional event originally thought up by a Seattle cartoonist which has “gone viral” and become a very real movement. In the aftermath of the chalking efforts that took place at UIUC, our own campus, and Northwestern; dozens of blogs have picked up the story. Prominent commentators include critics such as Eboo Patel from the Washington Post on the one hand, and vocal proponents like “The Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta on the other. Additionally, the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) has issued a press release, and many SSA affiliate groups are poised to participate in chalking Muhammad on their campuses this Thursday.
We feel that repeating our previous event will not serve to illustrate any points which have not already been raised. I have been struggling to develop compromises which will allow AHA to accomplish its goals while minimizing any disrespect shown towards the Muslim community on campus. Here is what I would like to propose: On Thursday at 7pm, both of our groups could meet at the steps of Memorial Union. As an acknowledgment of the distress depictions of Muhammad can cause, AHA will agree to only draw a single non-inflammatory stick figure. We understand that any depiction of Muhammad will be offensive, but you may recall that our stick figures were deliberately drawn without any obscene embellishments which would needlessly defame Muhammad or display him in an unfavorable light. AHA will also include a very descriptive explanation about the purpose of the chalking event, in order to provide context and ensure that passers-by do not misinterpret our actions as a sign of xenophobia, hatred, or intolerance. (The MSA could certainly chalk its own message explaining your disapproval.) Then, as a demonstration of your commitment to protecting the freedom of expression, the MSA would agree not to tamper with or our chalking in any way. Of course, it is well within your legal right to modify and even to erase our figures – but understand that we feel compelled to draw Muhammad only because our freedom to do so is under threat. Finally and most importantly – both groups would then proceed to an agreed-upon location and have a peaceful, respectful, and hopefully productive discussion about the many complex issues at stake.
I welcome to your thoughts or suggestions, and I look forward to advancing the dialogue between our groups in a more constructive direction.
Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics (AHA) President
I don’t think my request was unreasonable… do you?