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‘Draw Mohammed’ protest sparks dialogue

Students chalked pictures of the Muslim prophet to support free speech.

Drawings of the Prophet Muhammad are sparking dialogue between two University of Minnesota student groups.

Thursday evening the University of Minnesota Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists got together for the controversial “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” which sparked both safety precautions and campus discussion. The University’s Muslim Students Association is hoping to talk with CASH this week about how the event affected them.

CASH members chalked drawings of Muhammad on sidewalks throughout campus Thursday to raise awareness that “people’s freedom of speech shouldn’t be censored because of other people’s religious affiliations,” said Christopher Nolting, physics junior and co-chair of CASH.

But members of the Muslim Students Association didn’t agree with the group’s approach.

“It just wasn’t the right way to go about this,” said chemical engineering junior Omar Alamy, spokesman for MSA.

Police officers contacted CASH leaders prior to the event Thursday because they were “concerned about the protest” and wanted to “make sure nothing got out of hand,” Nolting said.

Two officers also monitored the group while they drew.

Azhar Abdusebur, president of MSA, walked around campus the night of the protest to “make sure no one was doing anything crazy.” He said there wasn’t any activity from Muslim protesters he saw.

Leaders of MSA told members at its weekly meeting to not react to CASH’s protest.

“If we did anything, it would just add fuel to the fire,” Alamy said. “We’d rather educate everyone on how to react to something like this.”

CASH members also gathered to watch two episodes of South Park that attracted criticism in 2010 for depicting Muhammad. The cartoon helped spawn the original “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” continued as a popular event by critics since.

Nolting said the event was sparked by past violent responses to depictions of the prophet and the recent anti-Islam movie.

“Everyone has the right to be offended, but you can’t go out and act violently in some way,” he said. “You shouldn’t fear for your life just from a drawing.”

Nolting said the drawings were mostly innocent and lacked detail.

“Some of the drawings were pushing it a little bit,” Nolting said. “But most of them were just stick figures with an arrow pointed to them saying Muhammad.”

By Friday morning the drawings were defaced or completely erased by people who found the depictions offensive.

“As a Muslim, that is the most offensive term you can say, and they know that,” said physiology junior Warda Odhowa, vice president of the MSA. “But they did it anyway. … They did it.”

“Nothing we did was physically violent,” Nolting said. “It’s disappointing that people got so offended by just a drawing or a word.”


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