On Wednesday night, in a feeble, man-in-a-room-by-himself type of solidarity, I drew a cartoon. I say ‘drew’ – it was on the computer of course. Every time I actually try to draw something with a writing implement I seem to end up playing hangman, and losing on purpose just so I get to draw a stick man being hanged. I never said I was issue-free.
The cartoon of course involved a man named ‘Muhammad’. It couldn’t not, given what prompted it was the shooting dead of a group of people, many of them elderly, who had drawn or supported the drawing of cartoons of a man named Muhammad. Nobody need see what I drew, mainly because it’s shite, but it’s enough to know I did it and will happily accept the consequences of it when nutters appear in front of me screeching religious slogans and letting loose the dogs of lunacy.
This website should provide a fairly clear example of how little interest I and the others who write for it have in censorship or holding back in any way. If we want to write something that people find insulting or offensive we will do exactly that, and then we’ll pepper it with a cheeky ‘cunt’ or two to make even those who agree with the sentiment wince.
There are, though, things that are banned even here. Racism, homophobia, sexism; these don’t belong here. Cards on the table: I wondered whether to allow even this type of thing simply to help better reveal the bigots among us, but the internet generally hears the sound of the gun as it shoots the old dog rather than the farmer’s claims of compassion when pitchfork-carrying animal lovers come for him, and if there’s one thing I enjoy it’s as easy a life as possible. Am I the farmer? Stop saying that, of course I’m the fucking farmer.
It seems there are some among us who would like to add ‘religious commentary’ to that list of generally disallowed notions, words and images. They’re so angry about it they shoot cartoonists. Dead, no less. I mean, I’ve seen some of their cartoons and their level of ‘humour’ might deserve a knee or two blown out, but assassination is going a bit too far.
There are competing reasons to deny these people the right to tell us we can’t say what we want about religion. Chief among them, certainly for the French who have a justified pride in their various freedoms, is that nobody should be able to tell us what we can and can’t say about anything at all. Another is less about tradition and more about brains.
Religion: it’s all bollocks.
I can’t be bothered to go into why religion in all its forms is cataclysmically disastrous for 21st century humanity. It’s enough to say that it’s all wrong: there are no gods, there’s no afterlife, you’ve no evidence for any of it and just because I don’t have any evidence either doesn’t make it a 50/50 shot that just after I die the next words I use will be ‘Oh, er…I apologise?’
The issue here is one of favouritism. I can call a radio phone-in with the Archbishop of Canterbury and call him a ‘mitred tit’ live on air and not expect much beyond the tutting of grandparents across the land. I can walk down the street wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘Vishnu is a silly blue-faced twat’ and the worst I can expect is someone stopping me to ask who Vishnu is. I can draw a picture of the second-most powerful character in Islam and all of a sudden mild displeasure and frowning is replaced by men running about in black – always in black because it’s nice to look cool while you’re murdering people – shouting and shooting and generally making life terrifying for everyone nearby. And all because Islam wants to be a special case.
Obviously Judaism wants to be another special case; anti-Semitism is in the news a lot at the moment. I’ve attempted to provoke argument in the past by claiming to be anti-Semitic, before of course underlining that I’m also an Islamophobe, fantastically anti-Christian and I think Ghandi was a backwards-looking bastard. Jews have had a horrible time of it in countless ways but it’s been nothing to do with me; if I want to insult Jews along with the rest I will. And nearly all Jews will probably understand the point I’m making and let me.
But Islam wants to be even more special. They don’t care that we can call the Pope a dickhead and suffer few repercussions – do the same about Allah and expect a treasured part of your body to be irreparably damaged. Well, no, we won’t be allowing that. I don’t want equality for lesbians but not gays. I don’t want a Zambian visitor to my country treated differently from a Chinese, Spanish or Fijian one. I like equality to be equal, and if I want to treat every religion equally badly then I goddamn well will.
It’s time Islam grew up. As is made repetitively clear following incidents like the Paris shootings it’s a tiny minority of Muslims causing the trouble – but it’s another tiny minority of Muslims condemning it, marching against it, kicking these fuckers out of mosques, denouncing them publicly rather than believing they can prove they’re decent people solely by not actively supporting maniacs. There’s a reason the English Defence League come across as demented – they don’t represent normal English people and we want to make sure the rest of the world realise that as vocally as we can, hence every rally they organise being outnumbered by decent people shouting back.
Freedom of speech and of the press bump up against some understandable boundaries beyond which only those with vindictive bigotry in their hearts will tread. Superstitious god-fearing nonsense cannot be claimed as one of those boundaries, because next on the list is the licencing of pet unicorns and giving elves the right to vote.
Instinctively I want to end with something brutal, something which diabolically insults one of Islam’s principal flights of fancy, to see whether I’m worthy of the wrath of people like the imminently dead brothers in northern France. I have the freedom to call our long-deceased pal Muhammad whatever I want, but also the freedom not to. Je suis Charlie indeed.