I'm a member of the website DeviantArt.com
. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's basically a site where people can post anything ranging from photographs, to drawings, to written works, even flash programs.
The site recently added the ability to create a group, where artists with similar interests can more easily share their work.
One of the more entrepreneurial atheists on the site decided to start a group titled 'DrawMoDay' after the Everyone Draw Mohammed Day.
Unfortunately, it didn't take long for this to thoroughly offend one of the Muslims residing on the site. The Muslim in question was Stuart Perry, a man living in the UAE, and who could take some amazing photographs. (In fact, the way I found out about all of this is that I was watching Stuart for his photos.)
Anyway, long story short, Stuart was so outraged by the fact that this group even exists, that he removed all of his submissions, save one new submission, which is only a black box, with large red lettering with reads: "Ban DrawMoDay NOW!!! They are offending muslims"
Under the box, in the artist's comments area, he wrote:
An internet group that has already been banned from face book has appeared on DeviantArt.
The idea of the group is to insult and attack the beliefs of muslims under the guise of "freedom of expression" and "freedom of speech".
The group which entices others to Draw the Prophet Mohammad, seemingly for the purpose of insult only should be removed from DeviantArt Immediatly.
Though I have complained to the help desk no response has been forth coming. I feel it is time for righteous individuals here on DA to mass together and protest against this nonsense.
I ask of you to complain here [link] under the section "abuse report".
If nothing has been done by June 1st 2010 about this group I will start a public appeal against the group and against the lack of support from deviantart, anyone wishing to help out with material, stamps and a petition to pass around please contact me through note to avoid repercussion from negative individuals.
This idiocy must STOP NOW!!!!
He then sent a letter of complaint to dA's help desk.
They responded with this:
Thank you for contacting deviantART, I will be assisting you with your support ticket.
Here at deviantART we enjoy providing a platform for our deviants to freely exchange ideas in a respectful atmosphere and we recognize that some individuals may hold viewpoints, political or otherwise, which are unpopular, scorned or outright hated.
We do prohibit the submission of what may be termed “Hate Art”, but we do not automatically consider certain symbols or symbolism to be a violation of policy; it is only when the symbolism is combined with hateful and disrespectful speech or used in an openly hostile manner that we will take administrative action.
We will remove an individual from our community or delete a deviation based on the exact statement(s) which have been made or the manner in which they interact and not by the simple basis of their beliefs, political, religious or otherwise.
If you can actually provide me with specific evidence of any clearly racist or bigoted behavior then I will be more than willing to investigate further, but if your complaint is based solely on symbolism or religious affiliation then I am afraid that we must consider this ticket to be closed.
Please note that the images depicted in #DrawMoGroup's favorites are not created by the group itself but individual artists. If you find that any of these images is offensive to the extent where they have broken our policies, please report them through the Moderation desk using the button located on the deviation page.
Thank you for your cooperation!
Customer Service Representative
Stuart didn't seem to like this at all, as he promptly sent out two more complaints. The help desk told him to "respect others opinions" (Stuart's quote of the help desk).
So, instead he took the opposite approach and told all of the other Muslims on the site to also flood the help desk with complaints (not really by name. Maybe a few. Mostly just "Muslims must oppose this" sort of thing.)
Soon, not surprisingly, he had admins asking him personally to, please, not flood their desk with complaints, as it would do nothing to change their decision.
Here's an exchange I found interesting:
Admin: Please stop sending people to flood the help desk. Your ticket was responded to with speed and courtesy. I understand that you are offended by such things but they are well within the law here -- and we have to respect the rights of people to draw what they wish. By being so outspoken with your angst against this matter, you are actually drawing attention to the group, which I assume is not your intention.
Whilst we are sensitive to your claims, we also can't just ban groups because people get offended. That's why we provide you with mature content filter, which you should use to ensure that you don't view things which you find to be offensive, or against your ideology.
I must ask that you refrain from encouraging others to flood the help desk with tickets too, as this will not change our stance on this matter, but it may result in some people being blocked from the help desk or losing access to other areas of the community if they fail to adhere to the simple guidance provided.
Stuart Perry: Obviously DA staff don't read newspapers and watch TV.
Is it not obvious that the muslim community would be offended?
Remove the group.
During all of this, I decided to try and open a dialouge with Stuart, since I had admired his art for some time, and hated to see him going into the deep-end like this.
This was our conversation, in response to his "Ban DrawMoDay" submission:
ME: I'm sorry, Stuart, I respect you greatly as an artist, but I have to disagree with you on this issue.
You don't have the right to not be offended.
Simply making this group go away won't make the issue go away. Rather than just trying to ban them because you disagree with them, why not try to open a civil debate with them?
Perhaps some are doing this simply to spite Muslims. But I'm sure a much larger amount are doing this to point out the sometimes ridiculousness of the rules and bureaucracy of the religion.
I mean, why is a stick-figure okay, but not a stick-figure with a name tag which reads "Mohammed"? It can't just be the crudeness of the drawing, because there have been very detailed drawings of Mohammed, which are also disapproved of.
Essentially, what I'm trying to say is, whatever happened to the phrase "I don't agree with what you have to say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it"?
Stuart Perry: I have the right to be offended, am offended and will take action.
ME:But all I'm saying is that this isn't the right way to take action. When you don't like something, you don't simply brush it under the rug and pretend it's not their. You deal with it. You talk to the people who are offending you, and try to find out why they're doing what they're doing.
An example: The Westbro Baptist Church is a pseudo-church/cult/hate-group here in America. They like to do things like protest funerals of soldiers, and tell anyone who's not them that they're going to hell.
I hate them to the core, and I believe that they represent pure evil incarnate. But I would never outlaw them. I would never make it illegal for them to protest. Because no matter how much I want them to stop doing what they do, once I make it law that they can't do that, then soon other people will be having the same laws forced upon them.
Some people counter-protest Westbro. It's some of the most uplifting imagery you can find. Some of the counter protesters even raise large sums of money for charity. If Westbro were outlawed, the counter-protesters would also be outlawed under the same laws. Yes, the bad would be gone, but so would the good.
You do realize that the very freedoms that allow these people to offend you are the same freedoms which allow you to be offended, right? It IS called free-speech. That's not some evil, loaded word. It means exactly what it says.
Unfortunately, that's as far as our conversation ever got. While I was busy talking to a dogmatical brick wall, Stuart was busy threatening to sue dA under California law (dA operates out of CA).
Before I had a chance to see how this would play out, or see if Stuart would respond to me, dA Permanently Banned him from the site. So . . . there's that.
While this did only happen yesterday (the perma-ban) it seems to have been a bit like cutting the head off a snake. None of the other Muslim users seem to be raising much of a stink (not that they were before. Really, it seemed like it was all just Stuart, and a small handful of people who were caught up with his enthusiasm, if you can call it that.)
So, we may have to wait and see if the issue truly is resolved, but it seems like all it took to stop unjust whining was the banning of one pretty good photographer, and one pretty terrible rationalist.
P.S. Here is the actual submission in question, incase you want to read more of the comments or what not. Although, it's no longer active, so I don't know how long that page will stay up.