Would America’s Founders Have Drawn Mohammed?
We all know about the shooting in Texas by now (obligatory link for those who do not).
There are three different responses to what happened; some defend and support Geller without criticism, others defend her 1st amendment rights while critical of her actions, and some undoubtedly believe that her speech is not protected by the 1st amendment and is properly regarded as incitement to violence.
Count me in the second camp. There are conservatives and libertarians who insist that we ought to draw Mohammed simply because people have threatened us with violence if we do. This is not a rational position; it is emotive and reactive. I do agree that it is an outrage for anyone to threaten and/or commit acts of violence for any reason other than self-defense. But in ethically evaluating this issue, there is more to consider than the threats made by fanatics. Is the act good in itself? Does it have other consequences? Ultimately, what good does it do?
I don’t believe the act of drawing Mohammed in a way deliberately intended to provoke outrage is good in itself. I believe it also results in the alienation of non-violent Muslims, and I don’t believe any good comes of it.
I follow the example of Thomas Jefferson, who, while extremely critical of all religions nonetheless respected them in public. Of Jefferson’s regular attendance at church, Margaret Bayard Smith wrote: “[h]e could have had no motive for this regular attendance, but that of respect for public worship.” George Washington also condemned the burning of the pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes Night, a long-standing tradition for Anglo-Saxon Protestants:
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture
We have the example of two founding fathers who not only respected religions that they were personally critical of, but who were also outraged when public offense was given to them. It is hard to believe that Catholicism was once viewed with as much hostility and suspicion by Protestants as Islam is now viewed with by American Christians in general. The future may hinge upon winning over moderate Muslims and turning them against groups like ISIS in large numbers. If so, then drawing Mohammed (at least in the way Geller would encourage) is as imprudent as the papal effigy burnings – and deserves a response similar to Washington’s.