On Monday, May 4, 2015, a Texas woman named Pamela Geller held a contest at which people could win ten thousand dollars for the best drawing of Muhammad, hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Previously, the American Freedom Defense Initiative has been accused of Islamophobia.
The contest, held at an art museum in Garland, TX, was at an end when two men drove up and started shooting at a police officer. A few seconds later, both gunmen were dead.
Mere days later, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, though there was no proof that they were behind what has been defined as an act of terrorism.
Meanwhile, people had expressed a lot of anger over the incident – not at the gunmen, but at the nature of the contest. Drawing Muhammad is forbidden by the Quran.
People are now arguing that contests of such a nature are unacceptable and should be banned, for not only the protection of the people, but also for being offensive.
And yet, a contest for drawing Muhammad is not the only time art has offended a religion. Take the art piece, Piss Christ, for example, which consists of a crucifix in a bucket of urine. As a Catholic, I personally find that very offensive.
One might argue that depicting Jesus on a cross is allowed, and that the Bible does not explicitly forbid the placement of such a depiction in a bucket of urine. But that may just be because nobody would have guessed that someone would do such a thing.
Drawing Muhammad and putting a crucifix in urine amount to the same thing: blasphemy. Sacrilege. And yet, to argue that we must ban the former despite not banning the latter is preposterous, as is the idea that it should be banned for the protection of the American people.
Despite disliking Piss Christ, nobody attempted to shoot up a museum for displaying the piece.
Art clashing with religion is nothing new and is protected by the First Amendment, specifically the section referring to freedom of expression.
Was drawing Muhammad, and encouraging others to do the same insensitive? Absolutely. But should it be illegal? Absolutely not.
This is America, after all, and freedom of expression, while it may cause offense to some people, is absolutely vital to the nation. Banning something for causing offense, or simply for the protection of the people, is a slippery slope.
The idea of banning cars, because it will prevent drunk driving incidents, is ludicrous.
Banning LGBT events from existing because they could offer affront to someone’s religious beliefs would not, and should not, be tolerated. That is what freedom of expression is all about. We cannot simply ban something because it offends people.
In a perfect world, nobody would do anything offensive. However, that perfect world can never exist, because in order to avoid offending people, nobody would do anything, or say anything, or think original thoughts.
So no, contests revolving around the drawing of Muhammad should not be banned. Neither should art pieces such as Piss Christ, or movies like The Interview or American Sniper. These art pieces allow for a lot of discourse and discussion that would not be tolerated in many other countries.
We cannot ban any of these things, because to disallow freedom of expression would mean an end to the very thing that defines America.