Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pam "Draw Mohammad" Geller: Hero or A-Hole?

She Might Break The Guardians of the Galaxy Rule . . .
Rhomann Dey: He said that he may be an... "a-hole". But he's not, and I quote, "100% a dick".
Nova Prime Rael: Do you believe him?
Rhomann Dey: Well, I don't know if I believe anyone is 100% a dick...
Nova Prime Rael: Do you believe he's here to help?
Rhomann Dey: ...Yeah, I do.
-- Guardians of the Galaxy 
In case you somehow missed it, Pam Geller, anti-Islam (and, to be completely fair, not anti-Islamist--but just broadly anti-Islam) activist held a Draw Mohammad Contest (The American Freedom Defense Initiative) event in Texas in order to 'stand up' for freedom of speech. The idea was to give a $10,000 USD award to some lucky artist who would win the contest while surrounded by "massive security."

It turns out: it was warranted. Two men using jihadi rhetoric attacked the exhibition and wounded a police officer. Both were killed.

Today's question is: Was Geller a heroic defender of free speech to hold the contest? An insufferable 'a-hole' for inciting violence and insulting Muslims? Could she be both? How do we tell?

Pam Geller
Let's take a quick look at the person behind the contest Pamela Geller. She is a committed anti-Islam activist who believes America is falling under Sharia law with the help of president Obama who she has called a jihadist in the White House. She has:
  • Led the charge against the 'Ground Zero Mosque' (a term she coined)
  • Paid for mass-transit ads that opponents said implied Muslims are savages (including ones that suggested if you leave Islam, you would be hunted and killed--which is the legal penalty for apostasy in some Islamic countries)
  • Was an inspiration to Norway shooter Anders Breivik
While she says she opposes "political Islam" as opposed to "Islam," The Omnivore feels pretty safe in saying that (a) Islam has an implicit political component which, for example, Christianity doesn't (in the same way) and (b) Geller's views are in no way nuanced. She's anti-Islam and isn't remotely shy about it.

She's definitely an a-hole--but is she 100% a dick? That's a harder question.

The Draw Mohammad Day Shooting
You probably saw the news about the recent shooting and its aftermath. The gunmen had posted their religious-based intent. One of them had been questioned by the FBI for jihadist leanings already. There isn't really any question about why they did it or what they were on about. We might well question whether or not they represent some fundamentally relevant form or strain of Islam, sure--but their motivation is crystal clear.

Here's a fact you probably did not know: The artist responsible for Draw Mohammad Day is still in hiding having left behind her friends, family, and career.

In fact, she's been in hiding for five years.

Oh, and there actually wasn't a Draw Mohammad Day shooting--because the event that just happened wasn't 'Draw Mohammad Day.' Draw Mohammad Day was on May 10th, 2010. The artist in question is US cartoonist Molly Norris--and she was horrified by Danish cartoonist riots and threats and the South Park back-lash, came up with the idea that if EVERYONE drew Mohammad, the terrorists couldn't possibly kill them all, had her idea (and, erm, drawing) go viral--and, well, you can guess.

She also desperately tried to retract her drawing and distance herself from the growing spectacle--but no matter: she met with the FBI and is now on the run, underground--and probably with good reason.

Pam Geller may be selling books based on her activism. Molly Norris' life was just ruined by her brush with it.

Here Is A Brilliant SNL Skit On Drawing Mohammad
Here's what happens on a Pictionary-Style Game Show where the secret word is "The Prophet Mohammad."

Back To The Asshole Question
Prior to the Texas shooting, The Omnivore mostly ignored Pamela Geller--she was (and is, rhetoric-wise) an over-the-top: a caricature of anti-Islam sentiment who believes that virtually every single Muslim and every Muslim community is pushing towards a future where we are ruled under Islamic law. This, logically speaking, is on a line with Rand Paul's scenario where US Drones launch Hellfire missiles at innocent couples seated at cafes: It's science fiction.

HOWEVER . . . if two wrongs don't make a right, it turns out that even if you are a caricature of anti-Muslim sentiment, when your provocation brings out religiously motivated murderers, your enemies can be cast as caricatures as well.

When everyone is a caricature . . . no one is.

What Geller did, a-hole or not--100% a dick or not--was prove that even with all the lights on, all the security in the world, and for nothing more than pen-and-paper, you can get killed for drawing Mohammad. If you don't approve of insulting the Prophet because it victimizes Muslims (who are a minority in the west and, often, in economic senses and social senses oppressed)--if you believe that what Geller was doing was needlessly provocative--if your response to the first sentence in this paragraph was "Come on, Omnivore, that's not news," then The Omnivore has some news for you: You're part of the problem.

See, The Omnivore doesn't have much love or sympathy for the hate-edged existence of Pam Geller--she exposes her motivations through her branding well enough.

But The Omnivore has tons of sympathy for Molly Norris and it turns out--it turned out, anyway--that the only person who was willing to do what needed to be done on that front was Pam Geller. What needed to be done? Draw Mohammad--draw The Prophet in an insulting manner--a provocative manner--because what needed to happen was that we needed to see--and to keep seeing--that drawing Mohammad brings out murderers.

Why Do We Need To See That?
The reason we need to see that is because unless we are seeing it--unless we are exposed to it constantly--it is easy not to think about it. There is no reason to draw Mohammad. There are plenty of good reasons not to: Insulting friendly Muslims isn't a game or a sport. It's rude--it may even be oppressive. It's a horrible act--and when taken up with the glee that Geller does, it's the hallmark of a horrible person.

However when taken up by someone who isn't drinking the haterade, it really is an act of free speech and The Omnivore thinks that Muslims, when exposed to what appears to be a predictable flow of events have a clear choice to make: Indignation over Insult or Sympathy for Molly Norris (and the people murdered at Charlie Hebdo, and on and on).

Until this choice is made by "mainstream Islam" the choice defaults to the guys with the guns.

The Omnivore wants to make this clear: there were plenty of Muslim organizations who supported the drawing of Mohammad (in at least some sense) and CAIR noted that the actual response to Draw Mohammad Day should be compassion (as Mohammad showed people who insulted him).

This isn't a "where is the outrage" question that speaks to ignorance of what actual Muslim groups are saying.

No, the point here is that when moderate Muslims are insulted by someone drawing the Prophet--and when Americans on the left maintain that such drawing should be avoided because it gives offense--then the problem is not yet solved. Any Muslim who considers themselves a moderate--or an American--will have to reconcile insult vs. murder--and to be insulted in the full light of that comparison is a choice.

That choice--to hold that insulting the Prophet is a personal affront when the people doing so are reliably targeted for death in the name of Islam--is indefensible. Pam Geller proved Molly Norris was right: Everyone should be drawing Mohammad.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder what would happen if (randomly) computer-generated images were labeled as portraits of the Prophet. Can software be subject to fatwa or jihad? Or is that just too silly for anyone who's less than, say, 94% a dick?

    No one wants to know. Probably.

    -- Ω