The attack at the Mohammed Art Exhibition in Dallas by two armed men is a deplorable act of criminality, in relation both to the murderous attack on the security officer but also as an unlawful affront to the concept of freedom of speech. The event has an indisputable similarity to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo head quarters in January this year by Islamic extremists which occurred following the satirical publication of a cartoon depicting Mohammed. The Mohammad Art Exhibition today in Dallas, organised by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), offered a $10,000 prize for the best cartoon depiction of Mohammed drawing on the same contentious issue we witnessed in Paris.
Little has been revealed about the identity of the attackers, however, the nature of the AFDI which is renowned as a prominent hate group would suggest there may have been underlying religious motives. The presence of Gert Wilders, a prominent Dutch politician with an anti-Islamic discourse, would certainly support the charge that the AFDI has a hateful agenda thereby making the exhibition a source of antagonism for Muslims in the U.S.
Before I proceed I would like to raise the issue that depicting the Prophet Mohammed visually is contrary to Islamic tradition, particularly the Sunni sect, and is a contentious issue which has led to protests in Denmark and France prior to the events discussed above. Fundamentally, these visual images are insulting to the Muslims who view them and this should be considered before evaluating the nature of these events.
Pameler Geller and the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo have repeatedly justified their democratic rights to exercise their freedom of speech, even if this is involves insulting those associated with the images created; this is a view I completely comprehend as I would be firmly insulted living within a democracy if I felt my rights were being undermined and what I wanted to publish was being subject to censorship laws. But I think there lacks a level of sensitivity in this discussion, with an amoral emphasis on principles of freedom of speech as an integral aspect of democracy with a disregard for how people may take offence to such publications.
In relation to the events in Dallas, I staunchly believe that the exhibition was an unnecessary way to exercise these democratic liberties and that the exhibition carried an insensitive agenda that is culturally insulting for Muslims. There would be absolute uproar if an organisation of a similar nature made a visual mockery of George Washington, or engaged in decimating the American flag, both of which are national icons for the U.S that carry emotional significance. Mohammed is a symbol of reverence within the Islamic community and to insult this figurehead so overtly, with full knowledge of the religious implications of such an action, is ignorance at its most blatant. To then adopt a stance of profound shock at the Muslim backlash against such publications of Islamophobia is entirely illogical; if someone insulted your parent or spouse publicly in the media, there would undoubtedly be a level of antipathy to the perpetrator and it is this familial bond that we can relate to which corresponds to the religious devotion Muslims have for Mohammed.
Please do not take this to assume I am in support of the shooting instances in Paris and Dallas or that I am in favour of resorting to violence, but what I am referring to is the lack of moral consideration of these two events. Neither the AFDI nor Charlie Hebdo recognise how derogatory and disrespectful their actions are, and I personally think to financially incentivize this Islamophobia is an abhorrent slap in the face to any Muslim devoted to their religion.
There does need to be more consideration within journalism and NGOs regarding the repercussions of their agenda and expression of their views. If members of society grouped together to create the ‘best’ cartoon drawing of two men kissing, from my experience of British society, the levels of hostility would be unlimited from all sectors of society, regardless of race or class. To my knowledge, these events have not/ do not occur and I think this can be attributed to the stigma and reception of such a portrait. It raises questions why ‘comical’ depictions of Mohammed, and Islam as a whole, is tolerated as a legitimate way to express our freedom of speech and is much more common than images mimicking the LGBT community.
I condemn the murders attributed to the events in Dallas and Paris in their entirety and I do view it as fundamental acts of criminality, if not terrorist. But I do believe there should be a greater level of sensitivity in contemporary publications and there certainly should be a greater level of respect for the cultures of those at the opposite end. Both events, yes have demonstrated a defiant commitment to liberty and freedom of speech, but if these depictions of Mohammed continue to occur there is a strong likelihood of more brutal and murderous spats of retaliation. The loss of lives should be considered first and foremost, and individuals wishing to uphold such democratic principles should make this their number one priority.
I understand what I have written about is a very contentious topic and so if you do have any follow up suggestions or criticisms, I welcome any feedback below.
I hope you have enjoyed the read and will take on board some of my concerns.