Draw Mohammed Day, Free Speech, and Punching Down

I have mixed feelings about Draw Mohammed Day.

A darker part of me wants to be an iconoclast, to stick it to people who would restrict free speech, who would punish “blasphemy” with death. And, truth be told, it is kinda messed up that people in power in these middle eastern countries are so attached to this symbolism.

At the same time though, if you are going to be an iconoclast, how about you punch up instead of down? Burn the American flag if you want to protest bullshit reverence of a symbol. Americans are hyper sensitive about people burning the flag

Occupy Oakland Protesters Burn US flag Source

The US flag is a ripe target for iconoclasm. In our secular democracy, it is revered as a quasi-religious symbol. As a consequence, people are passionately over the top protective of it. Ultimately though, this is a product of nationalism. Nations are a fiction, a social construct that divide people. It is a core assumption on which white supremacy and anti-immigrant politics rest. It also the core assumption on which war, American exceptionalism. and imperialism rest. We don’t need nationalism and a piece of cloth does not need defending. What needs defending are the marginalized and the interests of the worker.

The optics of Drawing Mohammed, regardless of whether its for free speech or Islamophobia is that it is happening in a context. The context is violent western intervention in the middle-east and hostility towards refugees trying to flee that violence. This includes hostility to refugees and immigrants who want to live in a society that values free speech and liberal democracy.

Many Youtube atheists, including one who I am a super fan girl of participated in Everyone Draw Mohammed day. I am not calling her out. She has since deleted the video. I have good reason not to call her out because regrettably, so did I. I also participated in the hysteria after the Charlie Hebdo and the South Park Cartoon Wars episode and I should have known better.

The fact is though, drawing Mohammed is going out of your way to hurt people. Its not progressive, it racist. Its punching down. If you’re going to burn something, burn your own symbols. Burn a Confederate flag. Burn an American flag. Don’t draw Mohammed.