Wars Fought With Art, Latest Battleground: Garland, TX

by Paula Newton February 16, 2015
Photo: American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Photo: American Freedom Defense Initiative.

After last month’s shootings at the Charlie Hebdo Paris headquarters, the remaining staff continued publication and the issue sold out seven million copies in six languages, in contrast to its typical French-only print run of 60,000.

Then, earlier this month, NBC news reported that a global cartoon competition based on the theme of Holocaust denial was launched in Iran in response to the magazine cover that featured a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. All cartoons must be submitted by April Fools’ Day because “April 1 is the day of big lies, and the Holocaust is a big lie that the Zionists invented to suppress the Palestinians,” said Masoud Shojaei-Tabatabaii, head of House of Cartoons and one of the competition’s organizers. A total of $25,000 will be awarded to three winners.

This Valentine’s Day, a gunman fired into a Copenhagen café, where a debate on freedom of speech featuring Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was being held. Vilks is the creator of a number of controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. He has been living under 24-hour police protection since 2010. One person was killed and three police officers were wounded.

Now, Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), has announced that she is organizing a “Draw the Prophet” contest and event in Garland, Texas—the same site of a recent “Stand by the Prophet” conference, organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (and protested by AFDI members). Artnet News called the AFDI contest “shameless Muslim-baiting.” The winner of this competition will be awarded $10,000. Entries will be accepted through April 5th and the event will take place on May 3rd.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed the AFDI a hate group and refers to Geller as “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead. She’s relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam and makes preposterous claims, such as that President Obama is the ‘love child’ of Malcolm X.”


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Hannah Dean February 16, 2015 - 21:32

The “Draw the Prophet” contest sounds less like freedom of speech (and image?) and more like modern-day Judenhass, a breeding ground for shameless racism/stereotyping.

Eric Thayer February 18, 2015 - 09:28

Wow. This is really something. I had to check out their website, just to see what all the fuss was about. I believe in free speech, and sometimes the results are abhorrent, inflammatory, and reprehensible. If the AFDI website were posting examples of other socio-political issues, I might be open to hearing their point of view. BUT, as it stands, Hannah Dean is spot-on. This vitriol is solely focused on the defamation of Islam and the intimidation of those who practice it. Countering hate with hate is simply unproductive, and I think that Ms. Geller should be focused on inclusive dialogue, and not using free expression as the tip of the spear.

Maybe we should all enter the contest, but with images of love and the inclusion of muslims in our culture. They would probably censor us, but it would expose her organization for what it is (even though the website does that well enough.)

Eric Thayer February 18, 2015 - 09:33

Another question, why did Glasstire show the image of the prophet? Many news outlets do not show those images, or blur them out, doing their best to respect Islamic culture. I’m not picking up a pitchfork and coming for you, but I would be curious to hear a Glasstire representative explain the editorial choice to show the image.

Paula Newton February 18, 2015 - 15:54

Personally, I do NOT believe that the picture is an image of the prophet AT ALL, but simply a goofy image meant to provoke some people. As a non-Muslim, it may not be my place to make such a decision, but as a human being who tries to respect all religions, I apologize if the image offended anyone’s personal beliefs.


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