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 “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” organizers and participants: I’ve said all I need to about this group.
- 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.”