‘Everyone draw Mohammed day’ challenges South Park censorship

This year’s May 20 promises to be one of the most controversial days in recent years. On April 22, Seattle artist Molly Norris declared May 20 “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” in defense of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s comedic depictions of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed during a two-part episode, which began airing April 14th.

Over the following month, debates regarding the controversial issue have spread globally across the internet leading us to the question, “Have we lost the right to Freedom of Speech?”

April 14th marked the milestone “200th” episode for the long-running Comedy Central animated comedy series South Park.The plot of the episode revolved around Stan accidentally insulting Tom Cruise, which results in Cruise recruiting 200 other celebrities who have been mocked by the show to file a lawsuit against the fictional town of South Park. The controversy ensued when Tom Cruise attempted to “harvest Mohammed’s immunity to satire and ridicule.”

The following day, Islamic extremist Abu Talhah al Amrikee posted a threatening note to the website of a New-York based radical Muslim organization, Revolution Muslim.

“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them,” said al Amrikee in response to the show’s portrayal of Mohammed.

Theo Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered by the Islamic radical Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004 for creating the ten-minute documentary Submission.

The documentary dealt with the topic of violence against women in Islamic societies Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the incidents in Europe, images of Mohammed have been absent from television. This did not change for the April 21 episode which featured a prolonged audio beep through a monologue and for every mention of the name Mohammed. Comedy Central instituted the censorship in an effort to protect Stone and Parker, but the ramifications from the censored episode took on a life of their own.

The day after the censorship, Molly Norris declared May 20 “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” in an effort to defend not only the show’s creators, but our first amendment right to free speech as well.

Norris asked for everyone to draw their own version of Mohammed and have them sent to a website dedicated to a made-up alliance called the Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH).

Immediately after Norris’s declaration, fellow artists, newspapers and blogs supported the plan citing our right as Americans to freedom of speech.

While Comedy Central had the interests of their creators in mind, many people around the world believe Comedy Central was wrong for censoring the episode.

“In the name of free speech and the First Amendment, yes I feel it was wrong of Comedy Central to censor the episode,” said Heidi Gosen, 22, a graphic design student.

This is not the first time South Park had discussed Mohammed in their episodes. In Season Five, Mohammed was included in an episode as a super-hero along with other religious figures, which was not censored by the network.

As student Jeff Janik, 23, said, “It’s not like Mohammed is the first character to be made fun of in the show. Jesus was put halfway down the head table at ‘Imaginationland’ with the lion from The Chronicles of Narnia as the king, the Pope was shown as the Easter Bunny, and even in that same controversial episode Buddha was shown snorting cocaine in front of kids.”

However, there are people who find the event very insulting. Ghazi Abdallah, 26, said, “It’s very hurtful that someone would disrespect Islam in a comedic way. Muslims are very peaceful people, but the ones who are extreme are the ones people form stereotypes about. I don’t like the day at all and I’m happy the network censored the show.”

While public support for “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” has gained momentum across the world, the originator of the plan has quickly backed away from her decision to create the day, saying she will no longer be part of it.

Norris has also asked the name of the day be changed to, “Everybody Draw Al Gore Day,” which very few people are considering. Furthermore, Jon Wellington, the creator of the Facebook group, has also backed out of participating in the event due to the large amount of offensive representations of Mohammed submitted.

While there is no definitive answer to issue, time will tell where this issue stands in our lives. As Heidi Gosen said, “As long as the artists aren’t risking any illegal retribution, they should be allowed to express these views in any way they are able.