One artist is adding a digital pen to the millions who have declared #JeSuisCharlie (#IamCharlie) in the wake of the attacks last week in Paris, France.
Posting under the reddit handle IDrawMuhammad, the cartoonist plans to post one image of the Muslim prophet every day for the next year to a thread of the same name. The first drawing was a simple depiction of the Islamic prophet and thus far the drawings have all be fairly tame — especially when compared to Charlie Hebdo’s incendiary cartoons.
The American artist tells Canada.com in an email interview he or she was inspired by the attacks in France last week that left 20 dead, including three terrorists, to starting drawing the prophet. The intent isn’t to offend Muslims — for whom depictions of their prophet can be quite offensive — but to make the point “art and speech should not be censored in anyway.”
The anonymous cartoonist (verified through the original reddit account) is keeping his or her identity close, but explained in an interview the gesture isn’t intended to be malicious but an expression of freedom of speech:
What was the moment when you decided you wanted to draw Muhammad every day for a year? Was there a tipping point in the coverage of what happened at Charlie Hebdo?
I just saw the international reaction to the attack through comics, blog and reddit posts which inspired me to start doodling a picture of Muhammad. It wasn’t until I was about to post it did I decide to do it every day for the rest of the year.
Do you make your living as an artist?
I incorporate graphic design in what I do to some extent but I am not a paid artist for anything. I have done some freelance work. It is mostly what I do in my spare time.
Where are you from?
I am from the United States.
Are you being censored by Reddit?
I have not been censored on Reddit nor have I seen any posts censored as of yet. They do place a NSFW tag on pictures of Muhammad out of respect for Muslims. I have not considered posting on any other boards but I do plan to create my own website as a means to post my drawings daily. I have already reserved the domain MyFriendMuhammad.com. It should be up shortly. (Editor’s note: as of posting, the site was not yet live. The artist has since created IDrawMuhammad Twitter and Facebook accounts.)
Have you ever done an online art project like this before?
I have posted goofy images that I made before but none that were significant in any manner except to get a laugh out of people. I am not very political or religious and have never used art for anything outside of personal interests and as part of a hobby.
How do you respond to people who say because cartoons of Muhammad are offensive to Muslims, newspapers and other media shouldn’t print them?
From what I understand, it is offensive for practicing Muslims to depict Muhammad, since they could never be able to depict him accurately. I am not a practicing Muslim and I want to show I can exercise my freedom of expression without being censored by anyone’s beliefs. I respect any media outlet that wishes not to offend Muslims by refraining from showing images that depict him but they should be doing so out of respect and not out of fear.
Why do you think this is an important expression of freedom of speech?
Art and speech should not be censored in any way. Any individual, company or organization has the right to be offended but they do not have the right to try to censor anyone outside of their realm of control. It is my right to create and post whatever images I desire within my own capacity. It is Charlie Hebdo’s right as a satirical publication to publish whatever they wish. Muslims have every right to be offended or to speak out against the publication but for extremists to use violence and death to try to scare the world into abiding by their beliefs is something the world can not and will not stand for.
How do you respond to people who say what you’re doing, or what Charlie Hebdo does, is racist because it attacks a minority in French society (and all of Western society)?
It is not intended to be a prejudiced response against a group of people. It is to show we will not be scared into censoring anything that we wish to say. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical publication. Offending and pushing buttons is what they do. They do not have to answer to anyone or respect anyone’s beliefs. I am sure any religious or political person would be offended by some of their content no matter what they were affiliated with. You have to allow the rest of the world to say and believe what they want. You cannot censor them or retaliate with violence because you disagree with them.
The cartoons so far show Muhammad sort of as an average guy, in funny situations. Do you expect this to be the case for the whole year or will you pursue themes or respond to big news stories?
For now, I am just going to put Muhammad in boring situations as an average guy. I am not a writer or satirist but I may try to inject some humor into it at some point. I may also depict him in different ways using different art styles. I will not always be able to dedicate enough time every day to make it polished, but I will fulfill my promise in drawing him at the very least. Another user photoshopped his face onto Mario’s body, creating Mariomadd, which is pretty funny. My follow-up comic left the caption blank and let users post funny captions, so I may take that route and just let others add the humor for me.