Celebrating Freedom Of Speech and Expression On ‘Draw Muhammad Day’

India is a democracy. In a free country, the right to speak one’s mind is guaranteed to all its citizens, regardless of what individual persons might think about the opinions or thoughts expressed. Freedom does not include the right to not be offended by ideas, as long as the ideas expressed do not call for direct physical harm or physical suffering on fellow humans (Note: Inciting violence because of religious opposition to criticism, and then blaming those who criticize said religion for the violence, is akin to blaming the victim after an assault). Unfortunately, certain elements in our country and abroad have taken it upon themselves to be the moral police of the world. They use threats of violence and intimidation to shut down freedom of speech. Despite the threats of physical harm and the direct incitement of violence, acts that are not protected under the free speech standards of any democracy on earth, the extremists are allowed to walk free and continue breaking the laws of the land while the shadow of public disapproval is cast over those who express their sentiments in peaceful displays of intellectual rigor and academic scrutiny.

As Manu Joseph, a journalist from Bangalore, said “The sentiments of the rational are hurt everyday by believers”. The depravity and moral ignorance preached by the various religious faiths are the scourge of humanity. It is essential that we challenge these beliefs. But we do so peacefully, using our constitutional right and duty to promote truth and defend our fellow women and men. In these times that we live in today, it is essential that we challenge the idea that dangerous ideologues can gang up on innocent civilians who are simply expressing harmless ideas with the desire to create a better future for all. It is essential that we strive for a society where we differentiate between people and the ideas that they hold onto. It is essential that we create a future where these ideas are held up to scrutiny and exposed if found wanting. And it is essential that people are respected and cherished for their innate goodness.

In response to ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’, 2010, here are a few images of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Our disclaimer is that these images are not intended to outrage religious feelings or any class or group of people. There is no malice in our intentions. All we wish to do is to preserve artistic freedom by celebrating the rights that our democratic constitution grants us. We strongly condemn any acts of violence and any incitement towards that end. This is a privately owned website with a select group of subscribers, and this article is not distributed anywhere in hard-copy. Nobody is under any obligation to read the articles. Everything we do here is in strict accordance to the Constitution of India, and in the interest of the country and people that we hold dear.

Rajesh's reproduction of a 15th century painting of Mohammed by Persian Islamic scholar al-Biruni.

Rajesh's reproduction of a 15th century painting of Mohammed by Persian Islamic scholar al-Biruni.

By Jen

By Jen

By Bala

By Bala

'Science Be Upon Us'- Basava Premanand as Muhammad, by Rakhi

'Science Be Upon Us'- Basava Premanand as Muhammad, by Rakhi




By Ajita Kamal

About the author



  • Editor,
    I thoroughly enjoyed the various blogs and cartoons of ‘Draw Mohammed Day’ on the internet. But I felt that your blog here is somewhat watered down, probably because its targeted to the Indian audience?

    You say “Our disclaimer is that these images are not intended to outrage religious feelings or any class or group of people. There is no malice in our intentions. All we wish to do is to preserve artistic freedom by celebrating the rights that our democratic constitution grants us”.

    Well.. I thought that the most significant reason behind this day, was to ‘spread the risk’.
    Atheists are offended by the islamists issuing all these fatwah’s, and assasinations (Theo Van Gogh). So, please dont water down your blog by issuing rather meek disclaimers. We want the islamists to stop their nonsense.

    • while you are right, astrokid.nj, nirmukta is based in India. i don’t think there is much tolerance around here… what if someone attacks the editor of nirmukta?? surely safety is as important as the freedom of speech. what does the editor think of this?

  • Sub: Hurting religious sentiments

    Religions have been around for at least a hundred thousand years. In this time span, religious concepts have undergone considerable changes. Human sacrifice and cannibalism used to be very common religious practices less than a thousand years ago. However these practices were considered heinous and so were abandoned. Such changes could not have come about without first criticizing these religious practices and hurting the religious sentiments of those who subscribed to human sacrifice and cannibalism..
    The Aghoris of North India still practice cannibalism as described in the introduction to this booklet. Should we refrain from criticizing this cannibalism for fear of hurting Aghori religious sentiments?
    Prophet Mohammad started out preaching against the religious practices of his own parents and ancestors who hailed from the Quereyshi tribe. In the process the Prophet hurt the sentiments of the Quereysh and so they plotted to kill him, and consequently Mohammad and his followers were forced to flee to Medina. After Mohammad achieved military supremacy over his part of the Arabian Peninsula, he broke the idols of the gods and goddesses in the Kaaba at Mecca, the idols which his own parents, his kin and the Quereysh had worshipped for ages. This iconoclastic act too must have been of considerable angst to most of the Quereyshis who had worshipped these idols all their lives. If the Prophet did what he thought was right, though it meant hurting the religious sentiments of his own people, why cannot we criticize other religions? Should there be a separate yardstick for Mohammad and another for the likes of Taslima Nasreen and others who criticize Islam? How is it that Muslim sentiments are more sacred than the sentiments of the Quereysh? Muslim extremists justify the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the hounding out of Taslima and at the same time condemn the Quereysh for hounding out Mohammad, though what the Quereysh did to Mohammad and what the Muslim extremists are doing to Salman Rushdie and Taslima are essentially identical.
    Sometimes this so called ‘hurting religious sentiments’ go to ridiculous lengths. It was almost a dogma of Christianity that the Earth was flat and that the Sun went around the Earth (Geocentric system) and that the whole world and its creatures were created to serve man (anthropocentric creation). Then Copernicus and others proposed the heliocentric system according to which the Earth went around the Sun. The Biblical sentiments of the Church, which was a dominant political force in Europe at the time, were hurt. Proponents of the heliocentric Earth were persecuted and dumped into dungeons and forced to retract their statements advocating the heliocentric theory. Galileo Galilei (1564 -1642) the most famous of these advocates of the round Earth and the heliocentric system was also persecuted by the church and forced to retract his scientific theses.
    Long before Galileo, Bruno Giovanni (1648-1600) was an early proponent of the round earth, heliocentric system and the idea of an infinite and homogeneous universe in which there are many groups like the solar system. He was imprisoned by the Pope for over seven years and asked to retract his teachings. Bruno refused and was burnt at the stakes by the Roman inquisition. Four hundred years after his execution, official expression of ‘profound sorrow’ and acknowledgement of error at Bruno’s condemnation and death were made, during the papacy of John Paul II. But does such crocodile tears make amends for the murder of innocents especially when the Pope still insists on condemning atheists and on many unverifiable dogmas such as the infallibility of Popes and the illegality of birth control? Bruno is seen by some as the first ‘martyr for science’ and rightly so.
    Darwin’s Theory of evolution also hurt the Church’s sentiments, which advocated a 6-day anthropocentric creation. Christendom and all its denominations scoffed at Darwin’s theories and tried their best to keep the theories out of school curricula. Darwin’s theories were even more abominable to the Church than the theories of a round Earth and a heliocentric planetary system. If it were in its power the Church would have meted out a far more brutal punishment to Darwin than to anyone else during its long history of Inquisitions and religious persecutions. However by Darwin’s times, science had acquired more credibility than the Church and its superstitious mumbo jumbo. In the face of irrefutable evidence, the ‘infallible’ Church had to swallow its holy sentiments along with its detestable pride. If the Church and its sentiments had their way we would have to teach our children that the Earth is flat and that the Sun and stars go round the Earth. We would also have to teach our children that the dinosaurs and all the flora and fauna, which inhabited the Earth long before man made his appearance on earth, were created to serve man.
    Christian sentiments are again hurt when the Pope or the bishops are criticized. But Jesus himself reserved the choicest epithets such as a brood of vipers and whitewashed sepulchers for the Jewish priestly classes – the Pharisees and the Sadducees – and declared that the detested prostitutes and the toll collectors were more worthy of heaven than the holy rabbinic classes. Such invectives from Jesus must have hurt some sentiments. If it was right of Jesus to do hurt sentiments of the Jewish priests, why is it wrong of me to play similar ‘compliments’ to my own priests?
    As long as less than a hundred years ago women had to enter Hindu temples topless. The first women who tried to enter the temples in Travancore with their breasts covered were forbidden to do so by none other than the king himself on the grounds that it would hurt Hindu sentiments and displease the gods. Now things have come full circle, and any woman entering the temple topless is sure to end up in prison for indecent exposure and of course for hurting the sentiments of the Hindu devotees who may be disturbed by the sight of the bobbing boobs. Now men are not allowed to enter the temples of Kerala with shirts on again for reasons of traditions and their ridiculous sentiments.
    It was the same with the Hindu caste system, which has been practiced in India for over five thousand years. The talk of abolishing the caste system altogether still touches raw nerves and hurts the sentiments of many an orthodox Hindu.
    In fact any statement may have the potential to hurt the sentiments of someone or another. Thus the Biblical tale of creation in six days has the potential to hurt evolutionary sentiments. Capitalist statements have the potential to hurt Communist sentiments and vice-versa. Superstitious practices and statements have the potential to hurt rational and atheist sentiments. However since atheists are not so vociferous, they do not seem to be entitled to vulnerable sentiments.
    In conclusion we have little choice but to hurt religious and other sentiments if we are to progress as a prosperous, humane society. Superstitious beliefs and taboos should not be allowed to stand in the way of the integration of human society, and in the way of a scientific outlook.
    (This is a chapter from my book “Religion or Irreligion”

  • Thanks a lot Xavier Williams for your writing. It is time to be bold enough to come out of the stereotype ‘not to hurt sentiment’. To build something new, the ground must be cleared off.

  • Muhammad must be such a great celebrity that a day is dedicated to draw him. To me all those drawings are not of him as no one knows how looks like,albeit the fact that he was a human being having features like each of us. So I think it’s just a waste of effort and time.

  • Wonderful.

    It is saddening to know that we require disclaimers before doing this though, or for that matter that hurting the religious sentiments of a group is a valid consideration.

  • You can convey whatever you want through drawings, speech, essay and more in here. But i will be there to testify against you all when the time comes up.
    May Allah (swt) grant me that opportunity, Ameeen.

    • Nissam,

      **But i will be there to testify against you all when the time comes up.**

      Just curious. Can you please answer the following questions.

      1) Where will you be testifying?
      2) Who you will testify to?
      3) What do you mean by when the time comes up? What time?
      4) And finally what exactly will you be testifying?

  • So many years down the lane, I wonder whether this whole business of caricaturing Mohammed was an exercise in defending free speech or a case of deliberate baiting of Muslims ??

    • **I wonder whether this whole business of caricaturing Mohammed was an exercise in defending free speech or a case of deliberate baiting of Muslims ??**

      I believe this draw Mohammad day came about as a way to show solidarity with those who faced death threats and in a few instances endured violence for the simple act of depicting Mohammad in a cartoon. It is certainly possible though that some of the original European cartoons were an attempt at baiting the immigrant Muslim community. But there was always the option of not taking the bait. Unfortunately some Muslims did not avail of that option. This is probably what is highlighted by the draw Mohammad day.

      BTW this kind of behavior is not unique to Muslims. Our own Hindu friends are not far behind. Remember the outrage when MFHussain drew those nude pictures of Hindu deities. But for some reason the Muslim response to such cartoons are made out as something unique.

      • I think it’s made out to be unique because we impose our cultural standards on theirs. Just drawing a person would offend no non-Muslim, but it offends Muslims greatly. That’s why the behavior is viewed as peculiar.

        Yet being angered over nude pictures of deities is somewhat more understandable.

        What I find interesting, however, is that Christians don’t seem to get mad at all. If you tour social media, there are so many jokes made about Jesus and cartoons as well.

          • I stand corrected. Still, what amazes me is that Protestant Christians, especially in the US, seem to have less sacred cows than Hindus or Muslims– that is, they’ve invited the profane into their religious practice. Consider this Facebook status I saw once, making a pun on Boaz, a biblical figure:

            Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz.’ While you are waiting on YOUR Boaz, don’t settle for any of his relatives: Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheating-az, Dumb-az, Drunk-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothing-az, Lazy-az, and especially his third cousin, Beatinyo-az… Wait on your Boaz and make sure he respects Yoaz.” A-MEN.

            This was being spread by evangelical Christians! Contrast this with the Hindu reaction to Ramayana characters uttering profanities in Sita Sings the Blues.

          • Basava,

            I do not know about the story of Ruth and Boaz to comment on the tastelessness of the joke. But why are we looking for identical analogues of how Christians react to blasphemy of their religious texts or figures. How about the instance where some Christians and a handful of atheists lost their collective shit when a developer wanted to build an Islamic center few blocks from WTC? Why aren’t such protests viewed in the same light as the blasphemy protests of Hindus and Muslims?

            As I said everyone has their holy cows. It comes in different shapes and forms. But I do concede that western (would not call it Christian) society is slightly more civilized in these matters than the rest of the world.

          • If you want an identical analogue then how about the book/movie “The last temptation of Christ”. I believe Vatican wanted the book banned and some US cities actually banned the movie. Of course the ban was overturned by a judge.

            But yes, the reaction to such movies and books in the west are no where near how Hindus and Muslims react to similar stuff. The protesters generally show respect for property in the west. Something that is not seen in our part of the world. However I do not think that has much to do with religion.

          • Agreed, you make good points.

            The point of my Boaz link was just to show that American Christians use their symbols in ways that Hindus or Muslims would never use theirs.

          • Another instance


            From the link.

            **What they did not anticipate was the scale of the protests, with 39 local authorities refusing to allow the film to be screened on grounds of decency and for fear of contravening then active blasphemy laws.

            Cinemas that did show it were picketed by religious groups, and the Pythons – John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam – received death threats.**

      • ###But for some reason the Muslim response to such cartoons are made out as something unique.####

        They are not made unique , they are unique. What makes them unique is not the difference in the attitude of Hindu/Muslim fanatics ( both have similar positions ) but the differences in attitude of Liberal Hindus (or ex-Hindus) & Liberal Muslim (or ex-Muslim) on the other. During M F Hussain , almost all Liberal Hindus & ex-Hindus justified his nude paintings , even if by using the false argument of “Hinduism is tolerant” or “Khajuraho” ,but Imran Khan (a so-called Liberal Pakistani) & recently Javed Akhtar (a person I deeply admire) rejected Rushdie due to Satanic Verses.
        Sadia Dahlvi openly denounces Taslima Nasreen’s works.
        Though I do not support Charlie Hebdo’s provoking cartoons , I am completely shocked by Seema Mustafa or Rana Ayyub’s usage of France’s Islamophobia to reject Charlie Hebdo’s works.The Liberal muslim is often wrongly burdened to openly condemn Muslim Terrorism everytime but they are themselves also wrong to say that Islam is “all white ,& must not be criticized”. I hope they soon say that Islam like any religion is “grey”.
        Also the Western liberal Christian & esp. Western ex-Christians are the most outspokenly liberal ppl on earth today. The fact that one can make “Temptation of Christ” or jokes on Christ shows that.

      • The following link shows how the Muslim response becomes unique , not because of fanatics but the moderates/secularists.

        The problem lies in the fact that often many Liberals of Muslim background absorb criticisms of Western Christianity or Indian Hinduism as made by ex-Christians or ex-Hindus & regurgitate those , if & when necessary ;but when same ideas are applied to Islam, they plead for ‘moderation’.For eg. Ayyan Hrsi Ali’s Heretic demands ,very much like “luke-warm” atheists that the Prophet (like even Hindu or Christian sages) was a fallible man & that Islam must be Reformed (a position that even moderate Hindus/Christians would agree to, when spoken of their religions).
        This is unlike the radical claim often made that Jesus or even Hindu avatars were out-rightly fanatics or that Hinduism & Christianity must be Eradicated (not Reformed) ;Thus was there reason for the author to Oppose it. Don’t you think this attitude of moderates is laggard when compared to their counterpart in other religions. Dont you think this must change?

    • This is the same as Osmania University & the JNU organising Beef parties a few years back to attack Hindu orthodoxy….nothing beyond.

  • Hay buddy everyone condemned the act done in charlie including Muslims too for that barbaric act ..that doesn’t mene you will mock with people’s sentiments. .that’s what’s not a freedom of speeches of any kind too..

    • The problem is why among a section of society , which is also liberal does that argument gain currency only if a certain religion is mocked. In India Islam should be not mocked bcz no one is mocked but yes politely criticised as everyone undergoes that.
      In France ,& esp . Charlie Hebdo -a leftist publication has always attacked even Christianity , then there was no such reaction nor was the above argument made but then why when Islam comes under the radar?
      Are Algerian Muslims less developed intellectualy than their French Christian counterparts–I am sure no. Say NO to ISLAMOPHOBIA that is following this event, like ppl in Germany did , not No to OFFENDING Special Religions. I reject those cartoons (as I would have when done to non-muslims too) but your argument invoked at a time when other religions are mocked day-in & day-out ,does not really make any sense.

    • Dear “xman”,
      Freedom to mock other people’s sentiments *IS* “freedom of speech”. Freedom to insult. Freedom to challenge. Freedom to offend. These are all a part of “freedom of speech”.

      If there was no freedom of speech during his time, Prophet Mohammed could not have preached in Mecca. Think about it.

    • Ok, freedom of speech means ability to talk “sweet things”?
      Why does Islam call non muslims Kuffar or infidel?
      Why would non-muslims be suffering from infidelity?
      Shouldn’t that be banned under hate speech?
      Or Christians only calling themselves Believers.
      What is so special about religious fictions?
      they are fairytales, that’s it.

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