Monday will be the fourth “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Last year’s event was dedicated to protest the jailing by Saudi Arabia of Hamza Kashgari, a writer who had tweeted some civil comments about the Prophet Mohammed on Twitter.
It appears that the goal of freeing Kashgari wasn’t achieved. Writing in the New York Times last month, Salman Rushdie reported that Kashgari is still in jail, awaiting trial. The Uncertaintist wrote to the information office at the Saudi Embassy to the United States to confirm this, and to ask what specific charges are pending aginst Kasgari. The inquiry wasn’t answered.
As I wrote here last year after DMD III,
it was altogether unclear how drawing cartoons of Mohammed, or typing out ASCII-graphics stick figures of him could ever have been expected to do any good for Kashgari. What’s needed is an act of solidarity that engages rather than alienates Muslims of goodwill. Muslims are the decision makers in this case, and Muslims are the principal audience for the morality play the Kingdom is acting out. Gratuitously insulting somebody’s religious beliefs is a predictable way to fail. Daring his captors to keep him in jail is a surefire way to keep him in jail, or worse.
So, let’s try to stir up some interest in Kashgari’s case, or at least preserve the memory that there is a Hamza Kashgari case. Drawing Mohammed cartoons has been done to death anyway. Instead, let’s read what Hamza Kashgari wrote on May 20th, encourage others to do the same, and foster discussion about what Kashgari did that was wrong.
Here’s what he’s in jail for, as reported last year by The Daily Beast site:
On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.
On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.
On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.
There, you’ve read it. Now bring it to somebody else for them to read it, with an explanation of who wrote it, and what has happened to him as a result. Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper about it. Seek out Muslim friends and discuss these 111 words with them. Here are some suggested discussion points:
What’s wrong with these ideas, within a faithful Islamic framework? Isn’t Mohammed a human being according to the Islamic faith? Wouldn’t acquiescing in placing a “halo of divinity” around Mohammed be a serious lapse? Isn’t bowing to a man for religious reasons idolatry? … and so forth.
Don’t have many Muslim friends? Post something about Kashgari on a web discussion board, and feature the words there. Feel free to mention the case and the words that keep a man in jail after Monday, too. If in your web surfing, you encounter a discussion about Draw Mohammed Day 2013, then remind folks that there’s some unfinished business from 2012.
Update: In October 2013, Kashgari was released.