Sunday 6 June 2010

Draw Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him)

The recent 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' controversy which began Facebook has meant that Saudi Arabia, bangladesh and Pakistan (temporarily) have banned Facebook and many Muslims have deactivated their accounts.

However, Dr Mehzabeen Ibrhim has suggested a different response:

They Asked Me to Draw Mohammad… So I Did

For most Muslims, there were only two ways to deal with the controversial “Draw Mohammad Day”: boycott Facebook, or ignore it completely. I stumbled across a third: to draw Mohammad.

I had heard about the event several weeks earlier, and assumed it was some kind of twisted joke. Having learnt my lesson after several so-called cartoon “crises”, I paid no heed to it; a stance mirrored by many of my Muslims friends and acquaintances. “Just ignore them”, they said. “All they want is attention!” So, I did, and life progressed as normal.

Then, a fortnight ago, I started to sense disquiet amongst the ranks. The word “boycott” started appearing in my Facebook feed. Then in my inbox. Then on my phone. It soon became clear that the initial “ignore” position was soon to be challenged by an old friend: the Muslim boycott.

Yet, still, I was not moved to action - or even inaction. I did not think a boycott of Facebook was the right way to go. Much like the Danish boycott, it mistakenly punished the social network for a group it had not created, and did not endorse. And even if Facebook agreed to close down the page, surely it would only spur its 100,000+ members to seek revenge? No, ignoring was the way to go in my mind. I would not budge.

Finally, the night before the big day, I received an email from a fellow student who seemed to have only just learnt of all the brouhaha: “I can't believe this exists. If anyone has the good way to guide these people, it would do so much good.” Below this brief message, she had pasted a link to the group in question. I had avoided it for so long, and now here it was. “Click me, click me!” it said. “Witness the madness!” And being the sucker for talking URLs that I am, I did what it asked. It did not lie.

Perhaps it was the vision of so much misinformation, tied up with a brown bow of ugly, Hollywood-inspired, Arab-villain-esque caricatures that inspired the following response, which soon became a tweet: “Idea for Draw Muhammed Day: we should all draw Muhammed! As in meem-haa-meem-daal. Submit 1000 pieces of calligraphy. Combat hate w/ beauty.”

For the non-Arabs, “meem”, “haa” and “daal” are the three Arabic letters needed to spell “Mohammed”, or “Muhammed”, or “Mohamad”, or… you get the idea. Arabic calligraphy is a traditional, well-respected craft, which has helped to fill the void in the landscape of Islamic Art, where portraiture would normally reside.

Surprisingly, my idea (which was more like an expression of my angst) seemed to resonate with a few people, as demonstrated by the number of retweets. I realised then that my status message wasn’t just a nice set of words: it was a call to action.
So, the following day – Draw Mohamed Day, May 20th - I set to work. Below are the results of 24 hours of non-continuous graft.

The hand-drawn illustration is a combination of Arabic and English (“Muhammad”). The surrounding text are quotes from several authentic narrations describing the physical attributes of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

They asked me to draw Mohammed, so I did. My hope is that my simple piece will inspire people to seek the truth about this amazing leader of mankind, by offering a glimpse as to why Muslims love him so much.

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim is a staff blogger for She currently studies Bioinformatics & Theoretical Systems Biology at Imperial College London.

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