The "Everybody Draw Muhammad" Contest

In response to the South Park / Muhammad controversy, several bloggers with a libertarian bent have been pushing the idea of a “Draw Muhammad!” contest to retaliate against the New York-based Islamic extremist group Revolution Muslim. The idea originated with noted sex columnist Dan Savage, who has advertised it as a way to retaliate against Revolution Muslim’s “veiled threats” and “water down the pool of targets.”
This call for solidarity is in the same spirit of mischevious defiance against extremism as Jon Stewart’s response (the “go f*** yourselves now” choir) and the decisions of newspapers across the world to reprint the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2005, but it also seems just a little gratuitous. The right to freedom of expression is a beautiful thing, but do we need to beat all (or most) Muslims over the head with it to prove that point? Part of the humor of the South Park episode was that Muhammad was only perceived to be the figure in the bear suit; it turned out to be Santa Claus in the end.
When  I imagine the depictions that are likely to emerge from this contest, I tend to think that they will be more like the painting of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung that so enraged Christians back in the pre-9/11 era.
We all have a right to free speech, including speech which denigrates religious figures, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a modicum of respect for people who have a legitimate reason to be offended. I don’t agree with most restrictions on hate speech, and I certainly don’t believe that anyone has a “right not to be offended,” but that doesn’t mean that I go around shouting racial slurs at people.

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