By Arsalan Iftikhar
attorney, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com
In light of the recent South Park cartoon controversy surrounding ‘depictions’ of the Prophet Muhammad, some brainiac cartoonists around the world have decided to declare May 20 to be ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad’ day.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Seattle artist Molly Norris started the day rolling when she created a poster-like cartoon showing many objects — from a cup of coffee to a box of pasta to a tomato — all claiming to be the likeness of Muhammad.
“I am Mohammed and I taste good,” said the pasta box in the cartoon. On top of the cartoon images (but no longer on her Web site) was an announcement explaining the rationale behind the event. Norris denies“>Norris now denies that ‘draw Muhammad day’ was her idea.
As I wrote in a recent CNN column on the South Park controversy, as an American Muslim civil rights lawyer and proud First Amendment freak, I can honestly say that I love both my Prophet Mohammed and cartoons like South Park. In any free democratic society, the concept of free speech can only be combated with more free speech, not censorship. If the creators of “South Park” choose to depict the Prophet Mohammed, that is their First Amendment right, and they should be able to do so freely without any threats of physical violence and retribution.
As we all know, the free speech clause of the First Amendment of our beloved U.S. Constitution legally allows for racist, xenophobic and bigoted attitudes to be held that could easily be deemed Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic or anti-black.
As proud millennial Muslims, we should think about how our Prophet Muhammad would respond to such silly faux controversies.
We should all be reminded of a well-known Islamic parable which tells the story of the Prophet Mohammed and his daily interactions with an unruly female neighbor who used to curse him violently and then proceed to dump garbage onto him every day from her perchtop window each time he would ever walk by her house.
One day, the Prophet noticed that the woman was not present to throw garbage outside of her window. In true prophetic kindness, he actually went out of his way to inquire about her well-being and then proceeded to visit this unfriendly neighbor at her bedside inside of her own home when he had found out that she had fallen sick.
This genteel act of prophetic kindness toward unfriendly (and overtly hostile) neighbors is the Muslim ‘Ubuntu’ standard that we should all use within our collective lives — not threats of violence aimed at the silliness of some sophomoric cartoons aimed at inciting a provocative response around the world.
As people get in a huffy over a bunch of stupid cartoons, every Muslim around the world should take a very deep breath and simply ask themselves one basic question:
“What Would Muhammad Do?”
When it comes to a bunch of silly and sophomoric cartoons, the answer would be two very simple words: Absolutely nothing.
NOTE: A few readers have asked about the source of the parable. It’s not in the Qur’an or the hadith, but it is a common story in the Prophet’s biography. Here it can be found in “Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters” by Omid Safi.
Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, global media commentator and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com in Washington.