University of Wisconsin–Madison

A Modest Reply

Below is the response I received this morning from the V.P. of the MSA:

“Dear Chris,

First of all, I’m really amazed by the coincidental dates of these events which are either during last week of class or a week after finals week. I know this specific date isn’t something you “made up” but rather a pre-scheduled date but the point that I’m trying to make is that picking such awful dates to deliver a message reflects a “possible” ill intention of the creator (original creator of the event and not you “Chris”).

That being said, I would like to let you know that at the moment, most student are off campus and thus the MSA would not be able to show up for this event. If you are really concerned about your freedom of speech then holding up a panel and a discussion meeting sometime during the fall or spring semesters would be the way to go. After such discussion, both groups (MSA and AHA) can proceed with their agendas easily without having a problem. However, you have already declined such a request two times, when I asked for it on the email 12 hours before the last Draw Mohammed event and when Rashid asked for it right before the chalking. Also, I have seen a couple of these blogs, one of which you quoted “parts” of my reply email and then received hate emails claiming that I “threatened” you and the AHA. Apparently, they were referring to me explaining my interpretations of a university’s policy to you!

Honestly, I’m beginning to question your peaceful intentions (excuse my honesty) because of your past actions. BUT, if you would like to prove to the MSA otherwise, then the MSA is willing to take that extra step to create harmony between the groups.

As far as commenting on the “one” stick figure, I personally believe that anything around the lines of “We have the right to depict the greatness of Prophet Mohammed” or “We have the right to depict the great character of Mohammed” would work. Most importantly is that you acknowledge the greatness of whom your depicting and stating that you’re depicting their character and not some false hate images.

That’s all I have got to say. You can go ahead and carry on your event and I’m glad you emailed us a couple of days in advance this time.

Ahmed Fikri”

And here is my response:

Dear Ahmed,

Thanks for your reply!

To address the timing issue, I agree with you that it’s unfortunate that these events took place at such an inconvenient time during the semester. I doubt that the creator of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” had any ill intentions in choosing the date – given that she has subsequently distanced herself from the idea and indicated that she never intended it to be taken seriously. I am of course aware that most students are gone at this point; many AHA members are also off campus by now. Nevertheless, I was hoping to have an informal meeting today with any MSA/AHA students who are still around.

I am a little confused about your comments about blogs which have covered these events. When you say that “one of which you quoted “parts” of my reply email” are you suggesting that I unfairly edited your email to me? If so, this is simply untrue. Your response in its entirety is posted on the AHA blog here. (If you’re referring to another blog, I have no control over their content)

By “and then received hate emails claiming that I “threatened” you and the AHA” do you mean that you have personally received hate mail? If so, let me apologize on behalf of whoever took such misguided and unacceptable actions. No matter how much we disagree, I would never suggest that anyone is justified in harassing you. However, it is true that I referred to your actions (i.e. contacting the Dean) as “intimidation.” Whether you intended your email to be a threat or not, at least one AHA member chose not to participate in the event out of the fear that doing so would result in disciplinary actions from the University. For the record, I later referred to the MSA’s modifications to our drawings as “creative,” “non-confrontational” and “cunning.” Greg Epstein blogged about this very issue on CNN today.

Finally, I am thrilled at your suggestion of holding a panel discussion next semester. I sincerely look forward to working with the MSA on putting such an event together in the Fall. Let me clarify that the reason we declined your previous offers was because the prerequisite to such a discussion was that we cancel our chalking event. (“I politely suggest that you cancel this event and prefer instead that we meet and discuss the issue respectfully”) A discussion, while less offensive and arguably more productive, would have failed to adequately demonstrate our commitment to free expression. I would also like to add that at the event itself, I made it very clear that AHA would be interested in having a discussion/panel/meeting with the MSA in the future. I intended to follow through with this, and prove to you that AHA is committed to cultivating positive relationships with all religious groups on campus.

There is no need to apologize for your honesty. The ability to express oneself, even in offensive ways, is the cornerstone of a free society. :)”

I really do hope that a panel discussion will happen next Fall.

Leave a Reply