Why this artist will draw Muhammad every day for the next year

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.

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Hamburger Morgenpost, a German newspaper that reprinted Charlie Hebdo cartoons, firebombed in overnight attack

German police arrested two suspects in connection with an arson attack on a Hamburg newspaper that reprinted cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad from the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.

The assailants threw stones and an incendiary device into a basement window of the Hamburger Morgenpost’s building, the city’s police department said in a statement. The newspaper said on its website the arson attack destroyed several files in its archive.

No one was hurt in the attack, which the tabloid said took place after 2 a.m. Sunday. The two suspects are male, aged 35 and 39. The police are continuing to investigate the incident.

News organizations across Europe published the controversial Muhammad cartoons on their front pages following the deadly attack last Wednesday on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Three connected terror attacks in the city, including at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery, claimed 17 victims.

With files from the Associated Press

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Paris shooters cornered in printing plant. Brothers say they ‘want to die as martyrs’

DAMMARTIN-EN-GOELE, France • An official in the French town where two terror suspects are holed up with a hostage near a school tells The Associated Press that phone contact has been established with the men. A lawmaker inside the command post tells French television the men “want to die as martyrs.”

Audrey Taupenas, spokeswoman for Dammartin-en-Goele, says officials established phone contact with the suspects in order to negotiate the safe evacuation of a school near the printing plant where the men are cornered. She says the suspects agreed.

Yves Albarello, a lawmaker who said he was inside the command post, said the two brothers told i-Tele on Friday they “want to die as martyrs.”

The men are suspected in the attack against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

Security forces backed by a convoy of ambulances streamed into the small industrial town of Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, in a massive operation to seize the men suspected of carrying out France’s deadliest terror attack in decades.

One of the men had been convicted of terrorism charges in 2008, and a U.S. official said both brothers were on the American no-fly list.

At least three helicopters hovered above the town. Nearby Charles de Gaulle airport closed two runways to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff, an airport spokesman said. Schools went into lockdown and the town appealed to residents to stay inside their houses.

The siege unfolded after the suspects hijacked a car in the early morning hours, according to police and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the operation.

Tens of thousands of French security forces have mobilized to prevent a new terror attack since the Wednesday assault on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris left 12 people dead, including the chief editor and cartoonist who had been under armed guard with threats against his life after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

His police bodyguard also died in the attack, which began during an editorial meeting.

Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi were named as the chief suspects after Said’s identity card was left behind in their abandoned getaway car. They were holed up Friday inside CTF Creation Tendance Decouverte, a printing house.

Xavier Castaing, the chief Paris police spokesman, and town hall spokeswoman Audrey Taupenas said there appeared to be one hostage inside. The police official, who was on the scene, confirmed a hostage.

Christelle Alleume, who works across the street, said a round of gunfire interrupted her coffee break Friday morning.

“We heard shots and we returned very fast because everyone was afraid,” she told i-Tele. “We had orders to turn off the lights and not approach the windows.”

The police official said security forces were preparing to intervene. The town’s website called on residents to stay home and said children would be kept at school.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said both suspects had been known to intelligence services before the attack.

A senior U.S. official said Thursday the elder Kouachi had travelled to Yemen, although it was unclear whether he was there to join extremist groups like al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based there. Witnesses said he claimed allegiance to the group during the attack.

The younger brother, Cherif, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for his links to a network sending jihadis to fight American forces in Iraq.

Both were also on the U.S. no-fly list, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said. The American officials also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss foreign intelligence publicly.

French President Francois Hollande called for tolerance after the country’s worst terrorist attack in decades.

“France has been struck directly in the heart of its capital, in a place where the spirit of liberty — and thus of resistance — breathed freely,” Hollande said.

Nine people, members of the brothers’ entourage, have been detained for questioning in several regions. In all, 90 people, many of them witnesses to the grisly assault on the satirical weekly, were questioned for information on the attackers, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement.

A third suspect, 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, surrendered at a police station Wednesday evening after hearing his name linked to the attacks. His relationship to the Kouachi brothers was unclear.

The Kouachi brothers, born in Paris to Algerian parents, were well-known to French counterterrorism authorities. Cherif Kouachi, a former pizza deliveryman, had appeared in a 2005 French TV documentary on Islamic extremism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for trying to join up with fighters battling in Iraq.

Charlie Hebdo had long drawn threats for its depictions of Islam, although it also satirized other religions and political figures. The weekly paper had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, and a sketch of Islamic State’s leader was the last tweet sent out by the irreverent newspaper, minutes before the attack. Nothing has been tweeted since.

Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the attack.
Charlie Hebdo planned a special edition next week, produced in the offices of another paper.
Editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, who was among those slain, “symbolized secularism … the combat against fundamentalism,” his companion, Jeannette Bougrab, said on BFM-TV.
“He was ready to die for his ideas,” she said.

Authorities around Europe have warned of the threat posed by the return of Western jihadis trained in warfare. France counts at least 1,200 citizens in the war zone in Syria — headed there, returned or dead. Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida have threatened France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

The French suspect in a deadly 2014 attack on a Jewish museum in Belgium had returned from fighting with extremists in Syria; and the man who rampaged in southern France in 2012, killing three soldiers and four people at a Jewish school, received paramilitary training in Pakistan.

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Toughen Up, U.S. Cartoonists Warn Newspaper Editors

Imagine waking up as an American editorial cartoonist on Tuesday, January 7th. You go into work (if you are one of the lucky ones still employed), sharpen your pencil and sit down to read news of the bloody massacre of your colleagues and friends, the only people who truly understand you.

In the close-knit cartooning community, January 7th, the day Islamist terrorists executed four cartoonists and eight other journalists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, will be remembered henceforth as Black Tuesday.

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