After Texas, is it ‘high time’ we ban Muhammad cartoons?

Print More
Pamela Gellar

Photo by Mike Stone courtesy of Reuters

Political blogger Pamela Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative's Houston-based founder, speaks at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, which is sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, in Garland, Texas May 3, 2015. Two gunmen opened fire on Sunday at the art exhibit in Garland, Texas, that was organized by an anti-Islamic group and featured caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad and were themselves shot dead at the scene by police officers, city officials and police said. REUTERS/Mike Stone

Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content by logging-in here.

Does showcasing Prophet Muhammad cartoons now constitute direct incitement to imminent violence? If so, what does that mean for U.S. law and for freedom of expression?

  • Richard

    Thousands of Muslims are running away from their home countries to seek a better life, future and hope in Western lands.

    Once they are comfortably settled they start demanding by the sword what you can and cannot do.

    Not clear why Muslims must propagate to the West in such swathes only to enforce their laws on others.

  • Edward Carton

    ???? WHAT on earth is this reporter talking about, “ban Mohammed cartoons”? Does this writer have no understanding at all of the concept of Free speech? Suppose Mohammed cartoons are banned because they are offensive. What’s next–banning criticism of Christianity because it’s god-given? Banning promotion of other religions because, after all, Christianity is the only true religion? Ban blasphemy because it’s banned in the bible?

    This writer needs to do a bit more thinking before putting fingers on keyboard.

  • Billysees

    Where is common sense nowadays?
    Why pick on Muhammad?
    Why not do what Paul wrote about —
    Let’s follow after things which make for peace and things whereby we may help one another…….Romans 14:19

    I’ve been very interested in the ‘Scout Law’ recently. There are 12 of them. I think the ‘Scout Laws’ read better as an ‘instruction in righteousness’ than any Biblical laws are supposed to.

    I found two that could apply here. I replaced the word ‘scout’ with ‘good person’ to make the laws sound applicable to everybody.

    From the Boy Scout Handbook —

    5. A ‘good person’ is COURTEOUS. He is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that good manners make it easier for people to get along together.

    8. A ‘good person’ is CHEERFUL. He looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that comes his way. He tries to make others happy.

    They should be preached from pulpits, taught in schools, put up on billboards and announced…

  • Brian Pellot

    Maybe you should read more than the headline. Or, if you’re only going to read the headline, read all the way to the end, where you’ll find a question mark.

  • bqrq

    It is wrong to intentionally inflame the Muslim population, especially those who are peaceful, by subjecting them to those acts which their deeply help religious beliefs deem to be blasphemy.

  • Free Country


  • Billysees


    Your whole comment is perfectly said.

    It’s troubling though that some are bent on distorting the many applications of ‘free speech’, especially when it is clearly known the harm and violence that ‘offensive free speech’ can bring about.

  • Jon

    Like nearly all of your past articles, I agree completely. Yes, it’s “not nice” to incite someone, but when someone is incited by reasonable actions, like a simple drawing, the blame is on them.

    I too am now in the awkward position of supporting the event that Pam Geller put on. In fact, I’m glad she put this event on, because it is clear that it is needed. Please, moderate Muslims, speak up in support of free speech – and specifically of drawing your prophet Muhammad. I know many Muslims and the ones I know are moderate, reasonable people. Without the voice of moderate Islam supporting the drawing of their prophet, it becomes easy for anyone to see Islam as radical and dangerous.

    If you are Muslim, won’t you voice your support right here on this thread? Or better yet, if you are a Muslim writing for RNS, such as Omar or others, won’t you write a column in support of drawing your prophet? I support the freedom of everyone to draw my heroes.

  • Mike

    “Thousands of Muslims are running away from their home countries”

    You missed the point, even while they are running away they are making sure they push the Christians off the boat or ship or whatever — a clear symbolism of what is to come.

  • Edward Carton

    Point taken.

  • Jon

    Oh, one minor quibble. The headline does sound like you support banning depictions of Muhammad. Since most people read only the headline, your article as a whole probably has the net effect of arguing for banning depictions of Muhammad.

    I don’t think you’d want this, but that’s what you’ve probably done.

  • Michael Glass

    dI have seen the cartoon that won this competition. A copy of it can be found on this web page here:

    A drawing of a sword-wielding bearded man says “YOU CAN’T DRAW ME!

    The cartoonist replies, “That’s why I draw you.”

    I think the cartoon makes an important point. Even though the competition and even the cartoonist might have been prompted by the politics of hate, the cartoon itself makes a powerful point about freedom of expression.

  • Brian

    When considering two wrongs, does one of them have to be right?

  • If a religion is permitted to shut down the Constitutional rights of the United States all the soldiers who ever died protecting our country died in VAIN.

    Religion is not a race, an ethnicity, a sexuality, or an eye color.
    Even religious people know this, as they change religions all the time!
    Look how many Catholics and Jews change religions when they get married!!?

    Religions are just ideas about reality – dumb ideas. And Ideas do not have rights.
    People have rights: to free expression.
    Ideas do not get special protection in the United States.
    Ideas can be laughed at, jeered at and debated.

    Some Muslims (and Christians) are profoundly ignorant of Freedom of Speech and don’t understand Separation of Church and State.

    We have no other choice but to teach FREEDOM OF SPEECH as it is the 1st Amendment – and die for it when necessary.



  • samuel Johnston

    If we allow our society to be intimidated by intolerant immigrants, instead of insisting that they join us as citizens in this greatest social experiment on earth, then the experiment is over and tribalism is triumphant.

  • @BRIAN,

    “It leaves me defending Geller’s legal right to have hosted this “art exhibit,” criticizing her relentless politics of hate, and condemning the gunmen who chose to display their dissent with violent attacks rather than peaceful protests”

    And if the KKK wants to march, or Farrakhan’s nasty Nation, you have to support them too.

    And that is how America works.
    It is the one irreplaceable right we must never surrender, especially to these barbaric ideas from the mists of time – THE RIGHT to speak and express FREELY ABOUT ANYTHING!

    If this offends someone, GOOD!
    Certain religionists need to be schooled in freedom of speech – or leave the USA!

  • Jon

    Thanks Michael. It’s a good idea for a drawing – I’m glad he won.

    It’s too bad that so many news stories on this don’t have the backbone to reproduce images of the “prophet” from the event. I’ve even seen some that were blacked out. Come on journalists – be journalists.

  • Anonymous

    If as you say should the, “law bar us from poking hornets nests or force us to face the potential consequences of doing so,” then any one person or collective of people can arbitrarily create a ‘hornets nest’ in order to achieve any particular goal and shut down discussion. No better than the terrorists themselves. This is exactly what ISIS has done. Speak up and we’ll kill you.

    Imagine if the pro-lifers on the abortion debate started killing or threatening pro-choicers just on the basis of their political beliefs. Would you still be arguing that the pro-choicers shouldn’t be vocal because of the threat from the pro-lifers, we should cede debate and policy to the most violent? Of course not. The blame would be squarely on the attackers and weapon wielders.

    If this were to come to fruition, it would bring hypersensitivity to it’s maximum and make illegal any possible opinion as long as someone with the opposing opinion was violent or threatening violence.


  • Anon,

    “The blame….squarely on the attackers and weapon wielders…”

    The only bigot I’m concerned about is the one carrying a gun.

  • Jack

    I am no fan of Pam Geller or gratuitously insulting anyone’s belief system, but I am a big fan of freedom of expression. It would be a grave mistake to clamp down on this freedom, especially in this instance where it would constitute rank appeasement of bullies.

    Christians didn’t lash out in violence when some demented artist placed a crucifix in urine. Part of being a mature and civilized adult in the modern world is not to respond to insults with violence. If you are secure in your faith, insults should not trigger knuckle-dragging eruptions of barbarism.

  • David

    It’s extremist-on-extremist violence that represents virtually no one.

    It’s like the KKK being shot at. Yeah, they should be allowed to express their views, but what a bunch of idiots.

  • Richard Young

    Except for the fact the the Boy Scouts of America discriminates against gays and women, I agree with you.

  • @Jack,

    “knuckle-dragging eruptions of barbarism.”

    Finally I can agree with you 100%

    The only bigot who has no rights is the one who shows up with a gun.
    – Atheist Max

  • @James Carr,

    Only people who truly believe in God, and who formerly truly believed (Atheists like me) are aware of how dangerous religion is.

    We understand absolutist belief.
    We do realize they will stop at nothing – because faith will do that.

    This is why I advocate dumping religion all together. If one religion is allowed to be respected, then all will demand equal respect – yet none of them should be respected as none of them appear to be true.

  • Jon,

    “Come on journalists – be journalists.”

    The fear is foolish. They can’t kill all of us.

  • @Billysees,

    “Why pick on Mohammed?”

    I would rather see us pick on Mohammed with cartoons. Because if we don’t use cartoons we will have to use other things.

    “Infidels are those who say ‘God is one of three in a Trinity.” Q’uran – (Sura 5:73)

    “Make war on the infidels who dwell around you.” – Q’uran (Sura 9:123)

    “Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them.” – Q’uran (Sura 2:191)

    You are doing Muslims a favor by making fun of Mohammed. They need help ridding themselves of this nonsense. 10% of Muslims are actually Atheist – and they don’t believe in any of this – but they need help coming out of the closet.

    These innocent Muslims are marked for death. And it is a disgrace to humanity to allow these Mohammedan claims to go unchallenged. Cartoons are the least we can do!

  • James Carr

    Religions cannot be equal if there is only one God, and only one Religion names Him as their Founder. All religions should gravitate towards the Catholic Faith because it answers all questions and turns away no one open to the Truth. Pride and prejudice keep others in their culturally developed religion, and Catholicism is not the easiest Faith to adhere to.

  • “It is wrong to intentionally inflame the Muslim population, especially those who are peaceful…”

    Inflame? My freedom to draw a picture INFLAMES someone?


    I don’t like drawings of Crucifixes in schools. Do I have the right to kill you for drawing one!?
    Of course not! Get a grip! Don’t grant such permissions to Muslims – or to anyone else!

    The only bigot who has no rights is the one who shows up with a gun!
    It is called freedom of speech, people!

  • Greg

    James, yes if we are to ban drawing contests of Mohammad, then we need to ban all Christian blasphemy called labeled as “art,” as well as inciting types who also go into bakeries and caterers demanding those businesses serve at gay weddings.

  • @James Carr,

    All religions are all equally nonsensical – including Catholicism.
    I say this because there is literally ‘no sense’ in any of it.

    Why would a god need to spill blood very specially on the ground in order to accomplish anything? Nonsense.

    As for difficulty – try mandatory prayers 5 times a day! Then we’ll see who has the easier religion.

  • Augustine Serafini

    Ms Geller seems only to promote hate speech not freedom of speech.

  • “hate speech”

    All speech is hateful to somebody.

    Even Jesus was full of hate: “Don’t waste….on the people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs!” – JESUS (Matthew 7:6)

  • Brian

    You think it is good to offend someone.

    That is a good summary of your posts.

  • Brian,

    Offending people who are in the wrong is the only way to progress!

    Slave masters were offended by abolition.
    Liquor stores were offended by “Mothers against drunk driving”
    Car manufacturers were offended by Ralph Nader’s Seatbelt laws.
    Tobacco Companies were offended by the Surgeon General’s Report on Cancer.

    Civilization requires offense – sorry you didn’t learn that in school.

    If you feel offended, it is probably because you are on the wrong side of humanity.

  • NJ1984

    Thanks for this! Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. Ms Geller and her friends had every *right* to publish whatever they want, as long as it does not propagate hate speech. The two gunmen had NO right to take matters into their own hands. So far it’s perfectly clear who was in the right and who was in the wrong. There is really no debate here. But the fact of the matter is, I may have a RIGHT to insult you, rile you up and generally abuse you, but should I not have a responsibility to desist? Just because I can, does that mean that I must? These cartoons were good for nothing but getting an innocent man wounded and two idiots shot. Can we not condemn these gunmen AND question Ms Geller’s motives? I see a lot of “either you’re with us or against us” rhetoric here. Is there not a third option? “I am on the side of whatever gets people not killed in the name of religion or anything else”?

  • Susan

    James, that’s right the only reason while I’m still Jewish is because I haven’t realized that Catholicism is the only valid religion. What an arrogant claim to make. It is a claim that is not supported by the Pope or the Catholic Church any more so you are actually not even being a good Catholic.

  • James Carr

    Susie, the Catholic Church does claim its place as the one, true Faith. It recognizes the parts of any faith that is in agreement with its teachings, but correctly understands itself as the holder of the Full Deposit of Faith.
    Actually you are correct that you are still Jewish because you don’t realize the validity of Catholicism. For Jews its more amazing since their own prophecies point to Jesus as the Messiah waited for. Why the continued obstinance? The same pride that held back the Pharisees. Catholics are technically the Chosen People now, the descendants of the Jews who recognized the Messiah and continue to teach God’s Truth.

  • Free speech means nothing if offensive speech is shut down.

    Muslim extremists are welcome to use their own free speech to argue for whatever they want, but in the West, they need to know that they might become offended.

    “You have the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend you.” — Ricky Gervais

  • samuel Johnston

    “if there is only one God”. Pretty big if, and getting if -er all the time. The chemistry of evolution (chemical self assembly) obviates the need for any gods at all, on even “creation myths”).” …the Catholic Faith because it answers all questions…” So do all frauds, the question is – are the answers verifiable (subject to independent, disinterested, examination).
    I prefer ten gods, because I have ten fingers. I detest those who have twenty gods, because they count their toes, which I consider disrespectful!

  • Richard Hicks

    Therefore, those who are raped were at fault and asking for it because they were exercising their right to free expression.

  • Jack

    I’m not surprised, Max.

    Atheists are at their best when defending freedom of expression against religious thuggery.

    Of course, atheists are at their worst when trying to take apart the Bible.

    It’s like watching Don Quixote doing battle with windmills.

    Funny, but also sad.

  • Jack

    Bqrq, I am not for gratuitously insulting anyone’s belief system, but the unintended result of such insults is the bringing to light of all that is wrong with radical Islamism.

    And that may not be a bad thing. It helps empower the true reformers within Islam and it wakes up western civilization to the dire nature of the threat it faces from Islamist extremism.

  • Jack

    Samuel, how does the “chemistry of evolution obviate the need for any gods at all?”

    By its very definition, evolution is about some things going on to become other things.

    It tells us nothing about how initial things came into being in the first place.

  • Jack

    Actually, James, you’re incorrect about “the chosen people.” Even your own Catholic faith, at least in its Vatican II form, acknowledges that the Jews remain the people of God. The idea that the Church has replaced the Jewish people as the people of God has no scriptural backing, and Paul in his 11th chapter of Romans demolishes replacement theology so thoroughly, it is hard to understand how the visible church ended up embracing that erroneous view.

  • “atheists are at their worst when trying to take apart the Bible.”

    Atheists don’t take apart the bible.
    The Bible disintegrates by itself.
    As does the Q’uran, The Mishnah, the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Bhagavad Gita.

    Zombies, Jack. ….I can’t get past your Zombies (Matthew 27:52)

  • criticizing her relentless politics of hate,

    I assume you’ll get to Dan Savage once you’re done with Geller, right?

  • Jack

    In other words, Max, you think that because you’ve never seen a thing happen, it has never happened.

  • Jack,

    “because you’ve never seen a thing happen, it has never happened.”

    Oh, come on. You are the pot calling the kettle ‘black’.

    Why don’t you believe Mohammed flew up into the sky on a white horse? Why don’t you believe it?

    Besides, gullibility is nothing to be proud of. Look! There’s sasquatch.

    Furthermore, I never said Jesus “didn’t” – I only said there is no reason to believe he did. That is a big difference.
    You have made claims about a god (Like Muslims claim Mohammed flying) which you have not supported.

    I say “i don’t know” and “i don’t believe”.
    You say, “I know” and “it happened” – the onus is on you to prove your claim.

    Normal logic:
    I have a million dollars
    – Where?
    Here it is.
    – I see it, wow.

    Religious logic:
    I have a million dollars
    – Where?

  • Jack

    Max, all that ultimately matters is whether something is true or false, factual or fictional.

    If the claims of a religion are true — that is, in accordance with reality — they should be believed.

    If they are untrue, they should be discarded.

    We can argue back and forth about whether a specific religion, or religion generally, hurts or harms humanity. But ultimately, all that matters is whether there is or is not truth behind religious claims.

    No sane person would want to disbelieve something that is true or believe what is false.

    And so the logical thing to do is spend less time arguing over the subjective — whether religion is good or bad — and stick with the real, objective issue of whether it is based on fact or on fiction.

  • Jack

    There is nothing wrong with merely “feeling offended.” Everybody feels offended about something. People who are a pain in the behind get offended about everything, granted, but it’s normal to get offended at something occasionally. I’ve certainly seen you get offended when I pointed out the foibles in your own past posts.

    So it’s not the taking of offense that’s the problem. It’s what people do with their feeling offended that matters. It’s when they take to violence or to legal methods to shut down dialogue that I have a problem.

    But I don’t mind at all when people merely take offense to something. Let them…so long as they don’t cross the line to coercion.

  • Jack

    Nice try, Max, but if it were that simple, then only simpletons would believe, and the world would be bereft of books by world-class thinkers, past and present, employing the rules of historical and legal evidence to point to the veracity of Biblical claims.

    But I’m sure it hasn’t even escaped your own limited attention that the world is filled with such books by such people.

    You wouldn’t dare read or study any of them in any serious way, because your position against faith is based on emotion, not facts or logic.

    But they are there nonetheless. And their very presence and authorship by some of the greatest minds in history contradicts your claim that it is unreasonable to believe in any religion or its claims.

  • James Carr

    Jack, you are technically correct, it is my personal logic that labels Catholicism as the path the Chosen People should have taken. I revere the Jewish Faith, for out of it the Truth came into the world, and Jesus, Himself, read Scripture. Had the Jews all accepted their Messiah….we would all be Jews today……but the refusal of many has frozen their Faith in time. Catholicism has taken up the duty of carrying on the Will of God.

  • “if it were that simple, then only simpletons would believe, and the world would be bereft of books by world-class thinkers”

    You are making a fallacious appeal to authority.
    The fact that smart people believe something doesn’t mean it is true or good.

    The scientific method has only been with us for 400 years. The brilliant minds predating science, such as Augustine, had little choice but to accept God on authority – how could they know where else earthquakes came from? Or tides? It all appeared the machinations of a deliberate hidden hand.

    Even Thomas Jefferson, a hater of supernatural claims, struggled with the occurrence of sea shells at the tops of mountains – he wondered how else but by some deity?

    Instead of relishing our newfound freedom from the mind-manacle of religion, The Religious embrace old ignorances – preferring easy abjection and surrender to the more difficult, but more rewarding life of personal responsibility.

  • Susan

    “For Jews its more amazing since their own prophecies point to Jesus as the Messiah waited for. Why the continued obstinance? The same pride that held back the Pharisees.”

    Well, no the prophecies in Hebrew Bible do not point to Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies for the coming of the Messiah. You have to read the prophecies backward already believing in Jesus to believe that Jesus is the Messiah or take verses completely out of context. It is faithfulness not obstinance. You know nothing about who the Pharisees really were. Their depiction in the New Testament is completely distorted and inaccurate. It is part of early Christian polemics to prove the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The Pharisees were deeply religious men. They were trying to sanctify everyday life. Some of them were poor. They were not motivated by pride. They were a democratizing force because they wanted to turn every home into a portable Temple.

  • Susan

    Judaism is not frozen in time. It has continued to develop and change over the centuries. If it did not change and adjust to different times and places it would not have survived. Most Christians are not aware that the Hebrew Bible was followed by Midrash, Torah commentaries and Talmud, and many think that these developments are not worth studying. The Conservative and Reform movements developed in Germany. There is a Reconstructionist movement in Judaism that has nothing to do with the Christian Reconstructionist movement that started in America.

    You can’t say that Jews are obstinate and prideful and frozen in time and then say that you love Jews. You don’t. What you have is what a Protestant theologian called the “theology of contempt.”

  • @Jack,

    “No sane person would want to disbelieve something that is true or believe what is false.”

    A wise comment.
    Reminds me of perhaps the only noble Bible verse,

    “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
    (Paul to the Philippians 4:8)

    The rest of the letter is nonsense. Paul (whoever he was) is so wrong about so many other things – it is ironic his appeal to truth is so correct.

    The time to believe in something is when you can demonstrate it. Otherwise you are believing something Unreasonable – like Sasquatch.

    By that standard, Jesus, Mohammed and Vishnu are not things to have any confidence in.

  • Jack,

    “It tells us nothing about how initial things came into being in the first place.”

    Saying “I don’t know how thing came into being” is honest.

    Saying, “God did it” is wrong twice:
    First, because you don’t know.
    Second, because you are only sticking one mystery on top of another mystery. Who started god? Another God? Which god? And who begat that god?

    Just learn to say, “I don’t know.”
    It is much healthier than claiming, “god did it.”

  • samuel Johnston

    The ancient Greeks debated the first cause notion and concluded that the arguments for “beginning” and “always” were about equal. Centuries later, Kant explained that the mind created/demanded certain things, in order to operate, among them beginnings and causality. A demand of the mind does not affect nature in the slightest. Theology has not yet caught up with Kantian insights, much less modern physics. Nor has it ceased to play word games with objects, as if words and objects were interchangeable.

  • @Jack,

    “But I don’t mind at all when people merely take offense to something. Let them…so long as they don’t cross the line to coercion.”


    To offend with words (rather than violence) is a way is to throw someone off balance – to off end – to give them an intellectual jolt and force them to think.
    I enjoy being offended because I like to think – and I like to hear a good debate. It is good for us.
    I especially like to be offended about my Atheism – but it very hardly ever happens. I’m still waiting for someone to really debate me about God – to really make the good case for why I’m wrong.

    Nobody has come even close to offending me nearly enough. 🙂

  • samuel Johnston

    “..true or false, factual or fictional”. I continue to opine that you attended some seminar and embraced this simple minded view. True or false, is an ultimate case test, independent of the viewer. Fact or fictional is a subjective test. Your bulling does not improve your argument. It just makes it more offensive.

  • Ed Donaghy

    Substitute the word MUSLIM in the above statement with ANY group of sincere believers. This would give us the wisdom of the Boy Scout pledge as well as the rational conclusion of the West’s respect for personal belief. The thorny quandry of freedom of speech then solves itself.

  • Pingback: After Texas, is it ‘high time’ we ban Muhammad cartoons? - COMMA Network()

  • Billysees

    ” And it is a disgrace to humanity to allow these Mohammedan claims to go unchallenged. ”

    I agree. Your brilliant Max because you bring these things to our attention. I guess that most of us would not even know these issues if it weren’t for your effort.

  • Billysees


    ” …the Boy Scouts of America discriminates against gays… ”

    That’ll change in time. It’s starting already.

  • Pingback: Geller effect * Rohingya plight * Dad-son marriage: May’s Religious Freedom Recap - On Freedom()