Writing in opposition to the recently publicized “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” a show of solidarity for Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame, Saif Ansari of The Daily Bruin writes:
There is no need to abuse or disrespect others in order to show that one cares about the right to free speech. And, although it is within your rights to insult or taunt, you shouldn’t. So it is curious indeed that some advocates of free speech, in an attempt to defend it, support exactly what the right to free speech permits but certainly does not condone: the abuse of others in its name….
To be clear, it is within the rights of every advocate of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” to participate in it and to voice his opposition to Revolution Muslim and others who seek to suppress the right to free speech. I oppose “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” however, not because it violates any right, but because it abuses one….
But Ansari misses the point, both of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” and of the right to free speech. Nobody would be interested in offending against the Muslim prohibition of the depiction of their prophet if it were not for threats of violence that have been issued against anyone who violates that prohibition. The point of drawing Muhammad now is to defend freedom of speech by emphasizing that it protects the right to offend—and this requires a patently offensive act of solidarity. If freedom of speech were the right only to say only what was unoffensive, it would not be a right, but a permission of society. Back in 2006, The Undercurrent explained this principle in our nationally-issued pamphlet which reprinted the original Muhammad cartoon:
As American citizens and as human beings, we know that free speech includes the right to offend. Our right to speak is not erased the moment someone wants us silenced. We have that right always, undyingly, and in principle. If, at the very moment we are called to defend that right, we instead limit it, downplay it, and appease those who attack us for exercising it, then it won’t be long before its exercise will no longer be possible.
The media should respond by expressing solidarity with the persecuted editors: they should re-print the cartoons. There are too many American editors to kill. It’s easier to intimidate a few people than an entire nation.
Drawing by Diana Hsieh