Ethics Train Wreck Update: “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” Claims Its Inevitable Victim

When the self-righteous cartoonists of the U.S.A. decided that gratuitously insulting the entire Nation of Islam, moderates and radicals alike, through a pointless April 20 “protest” that required posting thousands of drawings of the Prophet online, I pointed out, to no avail, that this was an irresponsible act with no accountability, and thus cowardly. The Islamic extremists that started this train wreck by threatening the lives of the “South Park”  creators over an episode that pretended to have an image of Muhammad couldn’t attack everyone, so it was completely predictable that they would focus their fury on Molly Norris, the Seattle cartoonist whose satirical drawing coined the phrase “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”  And they did. A fatwah has been issued against her, essentially placing her on a death list, and Norris is now in hiding, at the urging of the F.B.I. She has to create a new identity, and may live in fear for the rest of her life.

This is the only tangible result of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”—the devastation of the life of the young woman who drew a clever cartoon, and then urged everyone not to make her satiric invention a reality.  Oh, it probably lost America some support among more rational Muslims too, much as the threatened Gainesville Koran-burning would have. I suppose it demonstrated widespread support for columnist Richard Cohen’s fatuous “Americans have a duty to follow through on any offensive use of the First amendment if anyone objects to it, no matter how unnecessary, destructive or thoughtless it may be” argument. I submit to you that neither of these excuse what “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” did to Molly Norris, and those who organized and participated in the April 20 protest share responsibility for her current plight, and, if she is assassinated, her death.

The current ethics verdict on other key train wreck participants:

  • South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker: They created the episode that sparked the original threat. They did nothing wrong. South Park mocks all religions equally, and amuses its audience. They should not restrain their creativity out of fear of Muslim radicals. In fact, they have a duty not to—not because of Richard Cohen’s argument, but because American artists and entertainers must not be censored by foreign cultures and alien ideologies that are contrary to principles of American freedom.
  • Comedy Central: The cable channel disgracefully censored Stone and Parker’s work, a breach of its duty to its audience and “South Park,” its obligation to our culture as a supposed champion of cutting edge satire, and a complete abandonment of its integrity.
  • Molly: She drew a funny and wise cartoon in response to the “South Park” debacle, attracted publicity, and didn’t realize the seriousness of what her cartoon might start until it was beyond her power to stop it. She is ethically blameless.
  • The radical Muslims: They are culturally incompatible with American ideals, and their efforts to threaten, bully, and kill Americans who don’t cringe in fear of them is ethically indefensible, even in response to intentionally provocative actions like the April 20 stunt.
  • Moderate Muslims, a.k.a “Good” or “Peaceful” Muslims: They have an ethical obligation to criticize, oppose, and aggressively discourage the conduct of their radical counterparts. If that is what they are trying to do, they have a duty to do it better. The moderate Muslims are part of the same world religion as the radicals, and maybe I’ve missed something, but I haven’t heard about Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Mormons, Scientology, or other religions—radical or otherwise—sending Americans into hiding for fear of their lives. As the Catholic Church has a duty to take charge of purging the child-molesters from its ranks, and cannot stand by, tut-tut and say, “Well, that’s not us, you know—we are the real Catholic Church,” Muslims cannot act as if their violent fellow Muslims are none of their concern. When followers of a religion are sending Americans into hiding, the religion must accept some responsibility and accountability for it.
  • Our Government: American artists should not have to submit to censorship or go into hiding because of threats from foreign or domestic religious radicals. Our government has an obligation to protect our Constitutional rights, and that means 1) not making excuses for the religion that inspires the radicals and 2) showing more concern for the safety of Americans than for the tender sensibilities of Muslim nations.  The fair, responsible and appropriate way to do this is to send a clear message to Muslims and Islamic nations that the United States holds them accountable for violent acts and threats done in Islam’s name, and we demand a good faith efforts to discourage, apprehends, and punish those who perpetrate such acts.

Wait a minute! Could this mean that we should hold “good” Muslims partially accountable for what “bad” Muslims do?

We should know the difference, and we should not act as if there is no difference.

But the answer is surely “Yes.”

15 thoughts on “Ethics Train Wreck Update: “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” Claims Its Inevitable Victim

  1. Aside of everything else, do you think there’s a chance that moderate Muslims are afraid to speak out and attract the ire of the radicals?

    I would love one of our leaders to step up and condemn what has happened. I would very much love to see someone say, “Anything other than complete condemnation of these threats and behavior is unacceptable.”

    Barack already commented on the VMAs last year, how hard would it be to get him to support this?

    • Exactly right. It’s like the Congressional Black Caucus being unwilling to condemn corrupt members, like Rangel, only worse. I remember the Muslims dancing and celebrating in Cairo when they heard about 9-11. If moderate leaders want to convince us that they, rather than those rejoicing at the death of innocent Americans, are the true representatives of Islam, then they have to speak up.

  2. Jack,
    Forgoing our previous exchanges on the subject of the Park 51 Complex, I’m forced to:

    How is it ethically acceptable for Matt Stone and Trey Parker to create a cartoon which they KNEW was likely to offend people (and not just extremists), and yet UN-ethical for Rauf and others to build the Cordoba House? In fact, you even go so far as to say they have a duty NOT to be bullied, yet you state that those behind the Cordoba House should give in to the protests?

    Moreover, I don’t see how it’s the “duty” of moderate Muslims to publicly distance themselves from the extremists when, frankly, their beliefs are already different enough. The fact that they both use the title “Muslim” is irrelevant considering the fundamental interpretation of scripture is entirely different. Should a protestant have to publicly denounce and distance themselves from plural marriage because a number of Mormons refer to themselves as “christians”?

    The more you right about this topic, the more anti-Islamic it seems. And believe me, I’m not trying to make that connection. What am I missing?



    • The difference? Stone and Parker’s business, like Seth McFarlane, Joan Rivers, The Simpsons, Kathy Griffin and may, many others is offending some people to make other people laugh. That is an important objective, and one that has to be defended. Being gratuitously cruel without being funny has no such virtue. But South Park is not being offensive to be offensive. The offense is a means to the objective, not the objective itself.

      The GZM, on the other hand, has no over-arching justification for being as offensive and insensitive as possible, especially since being offensive is counter-productive to its stated purpose. South Park cannot make the same joke without tweaking Islam. The GZM can be built elsewhere, and still be the same structure, symbolizing the same things.

      Surely you see the distinction? It’s mighty clear to me.

      As for the Moderate Muslims: Their beliefs are certainly not so different that they can separate themselves from any accountability for what their religion’s extremes do. Why do you say that? I feel accountable for Abu Ghraib, slavery, the betrayal of Native Americans, Viet Nam, and everything the United Staes has ever done wrong, just as can feel pride in the Marshall Plan, the Declaration of Independence, WW II, women”s rights and electing a black president. I have a duty to speak against my countrymen when they do wrong, whether I share their beliefs or not. Also my alma mater, my profession, and my family. Why do you let Muslims off the hook? It’s a basic obligation: if you are part of a group, you share the blame for what it does, and what it’s members do. You can also quit the group, and may have an obligation to do so.

      • Jack,
        I guess the Park 51 Complex would be more kosher in your view if they posted a big sign out front that said “9/11 ROTFL!!!” ? The goal of the complex is to provide a place of worship and understand, which, to me, seems like a much more laudable goal than humor.

        Furthermore, any number of people don’t consider South Park funny at all and rather view it as cruel and insensitive. I can’t imagine the family of Terry Schiavo were less hurt by South Park’s portrayal of their situation because others found it amusing, nor do I imagine Rosie O’Donnell laughed when they portrayed her as a gluttonous slob. More to the point, you berated Family Guy some months back for airing a Palin joke involving her daughter with Downs Syndrome as being in bad taste, how is this any better? Attacking Muslims for comic relief is okay, but attacking Palin isn’t?

        Finally, how anyone who knows anything about the fundamental beliefs of Wahabism (the brand Islam favored by Al-Queda) can consider them at all akin to those held by Rauf and his supporters is beyond me. The two ideologies use the same terminology yes, but their understanding of what those terms mean is fundamentally different. The Mormon example wasn’t pulled out of nowhere; the theological differences involved are just as far apart from one another as those between Fundamental LDS and Protestantism.

        Moreover, any number of Muslims in this country HAVE come out harshly against extremist attitudes and continue to do so. Frankly, I think any number of moderates are tired of having to prove that they’re NOT extremists when the prevailing attitude in this country is to group them together. What exactly aren’t they doing that they should be? I must still be missing something ..


        • Lots of things. I think you’re trying awfully hard to miss the point, to be honest.

          I am the last person to want to ban speech because someone, or many people, find it offensive. I do think that if you are going to offend someone, you ought to have a good reason. You haven’t given one good reason—because there isn’t one—why the GZM has to be there to “provide a place of worship and understand.” If that was the only place such a Center could be built, I’d agree that the Muslims should build it despite the many, many people it would offend. It isn’t the only place. Building it there changes its nature and symbolism completely. And please recall: I opposed EDMD and the Koram burning because they were insults to Islam just to insult Islam. The same principles apply in both directions.

          I criticized the Family Guy bit because there was no joke there—it was just a mean-spirited attack on Palin’s family. It was humor malpractice. I wouldn’t suggest that Comedy Central pull it; it just proved to me that Seth McFarland is an unethical jerk, although a generally clever one: making fun of a Down syndrome infant BY NAME is as low as it gets. You disagree?

          As for South Park, it is enough that the people who find it funny find it funny. Nobody has to watch it, you know. But it’s hard to ignore a giant tower in your city. You really have to get this more than you’re letting on, Neil.

          Expressing generalized regret about the actions of Islamic radicals and saying that it is a nation of peace is not sufficient, and I have not heard much more than that. What other religion has an official “hit” process like the fatwah? Or anything approaching jihad? Why doesn’t the religion convene a meeting and condemn and reject these aspects of the religion? The NAACP demands that the Tea Party reject people who show up at rallies carrying racist signs…why do you think it’s unfair to require Muslims to unequivocally say, stop threatening and killing people who disagree with us, stop mutilating young girls, stop subjugating and humiliating women in the name of Allah, or we (that is, the moderate Muslims) will stop you, because we don’t want this happening in our religion.

          They don’t need to do that to prove they aren’t radicals. I know they aren’t radicals. They need to do it to prove they proactively reject the aspects of their religion that are antithetical to American values, and will stand against them. If you have heard or read such a statement, please point me to it.

  3. Pingback: Gerrys Blog » Blog Archive » Judd | Ashley Judd, Tooth Fairy’s Girlfriend – The Moviefone Blog

    • I’d say they strike me as stating the obvious, political posturing and weasel words, accomplishing nothing but diplomacy. Who are “innocent” civilians? I’d like the moderates to define the term. Is Molly Norris innocent? Or is mocking Muhammad “guilt”? “Soul-searching?”
      Whoop-de-Doo! “Punishment on judgement day?” A cop-out. “Have it discussed it the U.N in the future?” Now there’s a threat. The “sayings” of the Prophet have to be interpreted in light of the Koran, and in that contact, not one of them is necessarily contrary to radical theology.

      These may be genuine, and they may be politically expedient deflections of criticism. If your religion keeps threatening and killing people, you either work to stop it (talking about it is not substantive action), or quit the religion.

  4. It seems to me that the U.S. Government is in need of something. This something has been lacking for a long time and some might find it “unconstitutional”, but it is needed and it should not be an option.

    The government needs another national monument. One that can be expanded in the future, but this one would be an “honorary recognition” of world religions. Colorado Springs has something called “Garden of the Gods”, but they don’t have any statues. If the government would commission a different kind of “Garden of the Gods” where statues resembled and depicted the central figures of the world’s main religions, without focus on any particular religion, then I think we’d have a fair standard of what the United States determines is acceptable for depictions of religious figures.

    • But it couldn’t include Muhammad, right? The moderate Muslims would be ticked off because their central figure was omitted, or the radical Muslims would be issuing fatwahs against the Park Commissioner. How do you with this crowd?

      • It HAS to include Mohammed. It has to be created by an act of Congress with a close to unanimous vote. It has to be a clear message: radicals must submit within our borders. Ideologies are not welcome here if they conflict with American values.

        It starts there and it’s evidence that the government will also not tolerate “honor killings” and other deplorable religious acts.

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