Happy Draw Muhammad Day!“The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”– Salman RushdieAlthough some Muslims in the Islamic world often seem to forget that the religion of Islam has had a long and illustrious (see what I did there?) tradition of depicting Muhammad in art, I absolutely love the idea of “Draw Muhammad Day” as a means to push back against totalitarian theocrats and Islamic bullies who would seek to silence the thoughts and opinions others.An artist by the name of Heini Reinert, recently submitted a piece for “Draw Muhammad Day.” It was my favorite piece this year, as it depicted Muhammad being drawn by an off-page artist. Muhammad was without hands, as the off panel artist hadn’t gotten around to drawing them yet. Additionally, in an homage to one of the original Jyllands-Posten drawings, a headdress with a bomb. The tiny Muhammad in the cartoon is captioned as saying, “Hurry up with my hands so I can kill you for drawing me!”I especially liked this drawing for a couple of reasons. In the Islamic world those who are without hands are guilty of crimes, and the punishment is to cut off their hands. There isn’t a greater insult, as hands are our tools that help us survive and thrive, or to worship God. Cutting off one’s hands is to cut off their vitality.Although Islamic blowhards shout threats of violence against those who dare to depict Muhammad in art, I think we should all start showing the Prophet (whenever and wherever depicted) without hands. Why? Because there is no greater offense than silencing the free speech of others and trying to chain their thoughts and words to the insular and peevish dogmas of an overly self-righteous religion. Then, in retaliation to their refusal to submit to such archaic, unegalitarian barbarism, to inflict real violence against them. This is a crime perpetrated primarily by those in the Muslim world, and until Muslims (all Muslims) can learn to act peacefully, it is my strong opinion that the Prophet should be without hands till that time when Muslims can either accept it as a form of punishment for their crimes against other people’s rights and freedoms.I shouldn’t have to remind anyone, but it’s a well known truth thatPeople have rights. Not religions.As I briefly touched on already, I also appreciated the cartoon because it references the bomb-turban cartoon which sparked the original Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy, which lead to riots, a turn of violence, and ultimately 200 deaths worldwide. Instead of apologizing for the turmoil they helped incite, the first reaction of Muslim Imams was to cry Islamophobia and bring charges of blasphemy against all those who would dare to disregard their fancies and blatantly dismiss any need to kowtow with the same bent over reverence they do to a mere historical figure, although perhaps not an unimportant one.As always, after the first “Draw Muhammad Day” there were more threats of violence, a call to silence Islam’s detractors using the intimidation of death—that warped sense of justice that exists only in the mind of a true xenophobe. Islam’s message was clear. If you didn’t bow down, bite your tongue, and submit to the demands there were going to be even more threats of violence—and, regretably, there always seems to be a group of overzealous radicals containing at least one devottee willing to take it upon himself to be the judge, jury, and exocutioner of another person’s life.Why? Because that person drew a simple, yet perhaps slightly irreverant, cartoon. And this only goes to highlight the problem. Religious extremism convinces otherwise regular people that their beliefs are under attack should someone else not agree with them, and that the best way to deal with this is to go insane and begin killing other people for a trivial offense (if even an offense at all).Religious extremism makes its adherents intollerant by pitting their religious faith against the outside world, creating a false ditchotomy of “us vs. them,” and then saying that when the rest of the world doesn’t bend down to their will, it is defiance, disrespect, or a plot to damage their religious faith or beliefs. But the fact remains:People have rights. Not religions.It’s ironic how certain hypersensitive factions want to call us all Islamaphobes when we write criticisms of Islam, some valid and some wide of the mark, all the while not seeming to realize that Islamaphobe literally means “to be fearful of Islam.” And why wouldn’t we be fearful of Islam when its threatens us and holds fear over us, when it threatens to abuse us if we choose any other lifestyle than the Muslim one, and threatens us with oppression and tyranny should we rebel? Why wouldn’t we be, at the very least, timid?I should hope that before anyone recklessly toss out the term “Islamaphobe” to describe those who they think are gross and racist, maybe theyu should first consider that the term might be less of a slander to that person than an actual description of the inherent problems within Islamism and Islamic extremism.In other words, maybe we have every reason to be scared of Islam, just as much as we have a right to point out why, and if that means we are “Islamaphobes” for criticizing Islam – I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it’s going to be. And that’s simply not going to change. Why? Because:People have rights. Not religions.I wonder how many cartoonists will have to die before people start to realize that any ideology, whether it is Islam or any other, that seeks to bind our tongues and chain our lips and cut off our hands cannot be an ideology designed to bring about an everlasting peace, but rather is clearly an ideology designed to actuallize the worst state of affairs imaginable, a world ruled by tyranny and oppression. How many have to die for the most bent over backwards liberal to admit that it is so, and the most conservative left wing nut to admit their own beliefs share a great deal more in common with those they consider to be the enemy than they’d probably care to admit?Perhaps more telling is the fact that this crying “Islamaphobe” at the first sign of any perceived criticism seems to be a dodge not to deal with the initial criticism in the first place. God forbid you admit not being perfect, Islam! God forbid you be held up to a higher standard, and that these criticisms are meant to motivate you to do so! God forbid you change for the better! That would just be ... un-Islam-like.So this cartoon controversy has proved that Muslims know how to get mad easily. I mean, really hot-under-the-collar, red in the face, on a summer day in the middle of the desert, two humps on a camel – mad. That’s pretty darn mad. But I would bet a full dollar that most of them didn’t even understand why they were so mad in the first place. Not really, anyway.Was it really because some anonymous cartoonist in some far away country drew a silly, slightly mocking, picture of a famous historical figure, who was a known warlord and conqueror?Nah. I give Muslim people more credit than that. Even the illiterate ones (note: literacy rates are extremely varied among Islamic countries, ranging from high to low, but many of the countries with the largest Muslim populations also seem to have the highest rates of illiteracy) have to realize that getting irate over a cartoon they haven’t seen let alone understood the gist of makes little to no sense.It’s the ones who did understand that were the problem.These are the ones who got whipped up into a frenzy. But not because the lambasting was offensive. But because they recognized what the cartoons represented ... the loss of authority and the encroachment of antithetical ideologies, like the freedom of speech and the right (yes, right!) to blaspheme. You see:People have rights. Not religions.Here, for the first time in living memory, Islam was wide open to criticism. Real, biting, harsh as hail criticism.Islam was still reeling from the shock of getting doled out one polemic after another, a rapid fire concession of critiques—some valid, others slightly less so—but if anything was made clear by the criticisms dealt and the Muslim reaction to them, it was that Islam just wasn’t ready to receive criticism, positive or negative. Not just yet.The enlightenment had come too soon to a people not yet primed for the responsibility of handling with care their opinions and the opinions of others. As such, every criticism felt like an pin prick, and Islam reeled back in terror and shock of the very sharp sting they had experienced by coming into contact with the modern world.The Imams, who knew that this meant Islam would either have to learn to adapt or go down fighting, chose to go down fighting. Not paying attention to the fact that they were on the wrong side of history.As such, Islam declared war on what the rest of the world considered to be a civil discourse, the exchange of ideas, and the right to cordially disagree—including the occasional satirical cartoon—all things, mind you, which are legally protected in most of the countries in which Islam seemed to be having a problem with.All I can say is, welcome to the 21st century Islam. You don’t like what others may think about you? Tough. Sometimes you have to roll with the punches. How come? Because:People have rights. Not religions.Perhaps, it’s worth pointing out that as individuals people are allowed hold intolerant, obstinate, even silly or nonsensical beliefs. As people that is our right. People have rights, not religions. Of course, we may not always agree with others when they share, in a public manner, their intolerant, obstinate, silly and dumb beliefs, but as individuals, they have the right to think however they wish.Religions, on the other hand, do not have the right to unchecked intolerance. Religious leaders, using their authority, who incite mobs on the behalf of religious principles in order to use intimidation to dictate what others may think and do, all while demanding subservience to comply with its oft irrational demands, is straight up totalitarianism. This we cannot abied. Why? Because:People have rights. Not religions.Groups of people, coming together to demand fair treatment, that’s fine by me. If you get your feelings hurt, then let’s talk about it. But groups of people coming together to seek vigilante justice for mere perceived offenses, that’s NOT okay.It’s doubly not okay when it seems that no real sense of justice can be had because no real crime was ever committed. I know that some people don’t undersand satire. I know that some people have no sense of irony. That’s simply not our problem. It’s theirs. And they need to learn to deal with it without devolving into clothes wrenching, hair pulling lunatics and violent madmen.Here’s my beef with Islam. It’s a religion that is a little bit out of control. There is no unifying group, so it’s a lot of little groups all acting independently of the others, all seeking what’s in their best interest, while ignoring the interests of others. It’s out to silence us for liking humorous cartoons, or speaking our mind, or sharing things which it might find offensive that we find entertaining. It’s out to get the cartoonists who may raise valid criticisms through satire. It’s out to get those who would seek to defend the cartoonists’ integrity as artists. It’s out to shackle its detractors tongues and chain our mouths and keep them shut upon pain of death.Meanwhile, it calls us intolerant!See what I mean about not grasping irony?But it’s true. For the non-Muslim, we simply do not regard silly superstitious rules with the same amount of kowtowing obedience.But here’s a newsflash. We don’t have to.Why? Two reasons. First, we may not be Muslim. Secondly, as a non-Muslim we don’t adhere to the beliefs or tenets of Islam, therefore we don’t believe in Islam’s god, and so Islamic rules and regulations simply do not apply to us.Even as I am critical of Islam, it should be noted that I’ve never once tried to restrict what a Muslim person can think and believe. But the moment a group of peoples, or a religion, seeks to infringe the rights of what I can think or believe, or ther rights of others, just because it can, that’s when I say it is even more deserving of ridicule.My message to Islam, is this:Get used to the idea that people have rights, not religions. Once you grow comfortable with this concept, the rest will get easier for you.The simple truth of the matter is, if you don’t want to be made the subject of ridicule then, by all means, stop acting so goddamn ridiculous all of the time.If you want respect, you’re going to have to earn it. Needless to say, you can’t earn people’s respect when you are continually attempting to infringe upon their rights, bring harm to them, or otherwise try to force them to concede to your worldview.That’s the complete opposite of being tolerant. In fact, there’s actually a word for it. It’s called INTOLERANCE.And you actually have to wonder why people draw cartoons criticizing and deriding you? I know it was hard to find out this way. It always is hard learning that, contrary to what you believed, you really are the asshole.Poor Islam.Poor, poor Islam.So anti-social yet so in want of a good friend.Author’s note: I wrote this article in May 20, 2014, long before the tragic Charlie Hebdo incident in France where the satirical magazine was fired on by two Islamic extremists who shouted out “God is great” and “the Prophet is avenged!” as they killed 12 people for nothing more than excercising their basic freedoms of expression and speech.