I was unhappy to read that “Draw Muhammad Day” creator Molly Norris had voluntarily gone into hiding. While I thought the concept of “Draw Muhammad Day” was ridiculous and viewed it in the same light as the South Park episode that supposedly depicted the prophet, I recognize that Norris’ intent wasn’t to be offensive or malicious. In Islam, intentions count for something just like actions, and no one should be punished for simple naïveté. It’s atrocious that Norris has received threats and feels unsafe enough to go incognito.
Which is why I’ve added my name to the list of American Muslims in the media who support Molly Norris and her right to free speech. My signature on a statement isn’t going to do much for her, but I hope she understands that she has our support.
A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS
We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.
We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.
We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.
We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.
The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).
Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.
We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.
We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.
You can see the entire statement and signatories here. May God keep you safe, Molly Norris, wherever you are.