CAIRO: A Facebook group created to mark May 20 as “Draw Mohammed Day” eliciting caricatures of the Muslim Prophet, has attracted 81,306 fans.
A response to the campaign in Egypt has been minimal, even though some cartoons that many Muslims would consider to be extremely offensive, began to appear on the Facebook page Thursday.
“It’s not an invisible campaign, the group and the event pop up on my Facebook page several times a day, as well as a multitude of blogs and newspaper articles surrounding it, and yet the biggest response I’ve seen was a ‘boycott Facebook’ movement," commented award-winning journalist Ethar El-Katatney.
"I think it’s just reached a stage where the anger has burned out and Egyptians — as much as they love their prophet — will find it hard to feel passionate about something they can’t yet see," she said. “Perhaps we will see the reaction after many cartoons appear, but not yet.”
Hussein Ibrahim, head of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc at the People’s Assembly was furious, saying that “Muslim countries should and must take a stand against what’s going on.”
“Our countries certainly have the ability and the means to make the whole world listen to them,” he said.
“We highly appreciate freedom of expression but on condition that it respects the belief of others, Prophet Mohammed is the key figure in Islam and insulting him is greatly insulting the Muslim faith,” he explained.
“This issue cannot be handled by talking only, we have to take action on several levels,” said Muslim Brotherhood MP Abdel Fattah Hassan, also a member of the PA’s Culture Committee.
“First of all, we need to go over there [in the West] and teach them that Islam is a religion of tolerance and mercy and show the proper behavior of a Muslim so that they would be informed about the religion. Second, official decisions to boycott their products must be made,” he explained.
In Pakistan, a court ordered authorities to block Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia after a petition filed by a lawyers’ group called the Islamic Lawyers’ Movement, described Facebook group “Everybody Draw Mohamed Day” as "blasphemous."
The Facebook page was a reaction to recent threats against the creators of US animated television series South Park that they risked the same fate as slain Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam in 2004.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post said the page’s creator, Jon Wellington, had reportedly withdrawn his support for the campaign.
Last month, Wellington told Comic Riffs: "I created a Facebook event because that’s an easy way to remind myself of upcoming events. … I am not a cartoonist, and I loved [Molly Norris’s] creative approach to the whole thing — whimsical and nonjudgmental."
Cartoonist Molly Norris on April 25 announced on a radio show last month that she was organizing a cartoon drawing event called “Draw Mohammed Day” in response to Comedy Central’s decision to censor a South Park episode depicting the Prophet in a way that some Muslims deemed “offensive.”
“We also encourage you to make a creative and funny depiction of Mohammed. There is no need to make hateful and totally respectless [sic] depiction of him. Remember that we also, sad, but true: hurt the feelings of the moderate Muslims as well,” read the page.
“We are not trying to slander the average Muslim, it’s not a Muslim/Islam hate page. We simply want to show the extremists that threat to harm people because of their Mohammed depictions, that we’re not afraid of them. That they can’t take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us to silence,” said the Facebook page.
Swiss-Egyptian Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, in an interview with AFP last month, had a message for his fellow Muslims about how to deal with Westerners who lampoon religious figures, and Islam’s Prophet Mohammed in particular.
"To ridicule religion is part of the Western culture," Ramadan said.
"When we had this cartoonist in Denmark and even here now with this new story about the cartoon (South Park), let’s just take some intellectual distance from this.
"Take a critical distance but let the people understand around you even if it’s legal, you don’t like it. React by saying I don’t like this, this isn’t me, I am not laughing at religion," he said.