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May 15

You can't call me that

"I'm not a racist, if you think I am you are the racist."

Says Pamela Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative president and sponsor of the "Draw Muhammad" contest in Garland, Texas.

"Fewmets" is what I say.

She claims to be an anti-jihadist. Yet her organization does nothing to promote dialog with Muslim communities, nothing to support intervention programs to help potential targets of jihadist propaganda. No, instead they sponsor a deliberately provocative event.

"Freedom of Speech! Freedom of Speech!" they cry.

Sure, you have freedom of speech. You also have a moral obligation to your fellow citizens to act in a socially responsible manner, one in which you can communicate your message and not get anyone hurt. A "Draw Muhammad" contest with a $10K prize is almost the equivalent of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater for your own amusement. Sure, you can say it, but you can also be held responsible for the consequences of your speech.

So what is the big deal anyway? We must remember that any depictions of the Prophets, even respectful ones, are forbidden. Although not explicitly banned in the Quran, several hadith (collections of deeds, sayings, and stories about Muhammad taken as supplemental religious text) do forbid the creation of visual depictions of figures. However, we have many examples of historic depictions of Mohammad, almost all intended for private viewing as to avoid the charge of idolatry. In others he is depicted in form, but his face is obscured.

"The Koran itself doesn't say anything," Dr Azzam Tamimi, former head of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought told the BBC, "but it is accepted by all Islamic authorities that the Prophet Muhammad and all the other prophets cannot be drawn and cannot be produced in pictures because they are, according to Islamic faith, infallible individuals, role models and therefore should not be presented in any manner that might cause disrespect for them."

Part of the prohibition seems to be based on idolatry. Part seems to be what Dr. Tamimi articulates. Part seems to be a desire to distinguish Muslim faith from the icon heavy form of Christianity found near Muslim lands.

In the end, however, it is a matter of respect. Respect for one another and respect for other people's beliefs.

The same people who are trying to justify the event on the grounds of freedom of speech would likely be some of the same who would be crying out in horror at an even that invited people to defecate on a cross or to make paper dolls out of the American flag.

In case you haven't figured out by now, I am all for being provocative to get people to think; but consequences and simple acknowledgement of human dignity have to be considered.

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