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Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, also known as Draw Muhammad Day, was an online event supporting freedom of artistic expression in protest against those who threaten violence in retaliation for depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, an act forbidden by Islamic texts. What started as a protest against Comedy Central’s decision to censor a depiction of Muhammad in the South Park episode “201” eventually grew to target Muslim extremists as a whole.
Drawing Prohibited by Islam
According to hadith texts (but not the Qur’an), Muslims are prohibited from creating depictions of any living creature with three dimensional shade in cases where the subject would be venerated. Depictions of living creatures for any purpose other than education is considered sinful in Islam, with the exception of creating drawings for the purpose of education. Because the prophet Mohammed is considered to the be the holiest of all Muslim prophets, a drawing of him is considered blasphemous by most fundamental interpretations of Islam.
Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten
On September 30th, 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons; many of which depicted caricature of the prophet Mohammed. The publication of the cartoons resulted in a number of protests throughout Europe and the Middle east, some of which erupted into violently deadly riots.
South Park Episode
In early April 2010, South Park episodes 200 and 201 were broadcast on Comedy Central, which featured a character in a bear costume identified as the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The extremist website Revolution Muslim, which previously released a picture of the partially decapitated body of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, released a statement threatening the South Park creators for creating the episodes and posted the addresses of the Comedy Central New York office and the network’s California production studio. Comedy Central subsequently censored the episode to remove all mentions of Muhammed.
Everybody Draw Mohammed Day
On April 20th, 2010, the Seattle-based cartoonist Molly Norris published a cartoon urging people illustrate various depictions of Muhammad in response to the censorship, which would be posted online on May 20th (shown below). On April 22nd, advice columnist Dan Savage posted Norris’ cartoon on the Seattle news site The Stranger.
The protest migrated over to Facebook where a page titled “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” (now removed) was launched, urging viewers to post images of the prophet on May 20th. The Facebook group attracted over 100,000 fans and the campaign gained considerable media attention. Additionally, the blog Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor was created as a fictional sponsor of Norris’ first drawing. On May 9th, YouTuber thunderf00t uploaded a video in support of the event, gathering more than 450,000 views and 14,200 comments over the next five years (shown below).
On May 19th, the Pakistan government banned Facebook in the country in preparation for the impending online event. In response, the social networking site MilatFacebook (now MyMFB) was launched as a Muslim-friendly alternative to the social networking site. On May 20th, the day of the event, Reason Magazine announced the winner of their “Everybody Draw Mohammed” contest, which featured a connect-the-dots depiction of the Muslim prophet (shown below).
On July 11th, New York Daily News reported that the Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki issued a fatwa against Norris and all participants in the online event.
“The medicine prescribed by the Messenger of Allah is the execution of those involved.”
On September 14th, the Seattle Weekly reported that Norris had changed her identity “on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI.”
2015 Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attack
The 2015 Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attack was a mass shooting that took place on January 7th, 2015, inside and near the headquarters building of the French weekly satirical news magazine in Paris in early January 2015, which resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people, including many staff journalists and cartoonists, as well as police officers, and left many more wounded.