So, what exactly happened with that ‘Draw Muhammed Day 2015’ event yesterday…

I had hoped to hold a Draw Muhammed day event in Canada’s capital, Ottawa – on the grounds of Parliament Hill – yesterday, May 20th,  the International Draw Muhammed Day.
I must admit that through this whole process, I have proven myself to be rather naive, since I thought that ‘following the rules’ was the best way to approach this issue…
As per instructions, I applied for the appropriate permit and was told (via phone) that all was in order and only the security issue needed to be addressed before the permit would be granted.
So, I worked with the Protective Policing detail of the RCMP, the people in charge of the security of The Hill, to move the time and specific location of the event in order to make it as easy for them as possible to ensure the safety not only of this event, but also of every other visitor to The Hill.
In order to ensure this could not possibly be interpreted as an attack on one religious minority and their beliefs, I ensured that this event would be critical of all religious persecution of freedom of speech:  since the Pope claimed violence would be a justified response to an insult to his mother, I invited people to draw the Pope’s mother; since people are in jail for having used an image of Buddha with headphones, I invited people to draw an image of Buddha with headphones.
And, to demonstrate that the prohibition against depicting the likeness of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed is by no means as universal as some loud voices today would have us believe, I planned to display historical Islamic depictions of Muhammed.
In addition, I invited people to draw any other religious/political figure they want – this was a freedom of speech event at the occasion of the International Draw Muhammed Day, nothing less or more.
After both an email and phone exchange with various members of this team, I had met with them – in a local coffee shop, none the less, and was told that thanks to my eager cooperation, all of their security concerns had been addressed and the permit would be issued within hours.
Naively, I believed what I was told, and started to let people know about the event.
Being just one individual and not a member of any organization or political party, I simply posted the info on my blog and sent emails to my friends, who sent emails to their friends, and so on….a word of mouth thing, as I have no budget for ads and such.  RISE Canada even took it upon themselves to put up a Facebook page for the event, as I had not even the skills for that.
I waited for the promised paperwork, and waited, and waited.  As of Tuesday afternoon, I was assured it was coming.
Then, at 5:25pm on the 19th of May, I received a phone call informing me that the permit for the event was denied.
Frankly, I was surprised and at a loss for words – I did all I was told and was assured that all ‘security concerns’ were fine – yet, it was precisely ‘security concerns’ that were cited as the reason fro the denial.
No appeal was possible.
No explanation for what these ‘security concerns’ were was going to be provided.
I contacted the RCMP protective detail assigned to me for the event and let them know….and while I realize I don’t understand internal politics, it seemed to me that they were not the ones with ‘security concerns’.
So, I updated the info on my blog, re-sent emails and let everyone know that indeed, in Canada, our constitutionally guaranteed ‘freedom of speech’  only extends to bureaucratically permitted speech…
Anyhow, everybody respected the prohibition against the event – only some reporters and numerous security forces were reported to have shown up….
I have been asked by many people to please re-schedule the event for another time and that is indeed what I will do.
Yet, I am left with the logistics question of how to go about it, since the official permit will, no doubt, be just as likely denied as the first time….and begging for a permit to exercise freedom of speech seems very silly, if not downright oxymoronic…
Anyhow, that is the stage in which things find themselves now.

10 Responses to “So, what exactly happened with that ‘Draw Muhammed Day 2015’ event yesterday…”

  1. drsimagoel Says:


    Thank you for wring so diligently on this project. No means not now. Keep at it.

    Sorry to hear about this, I remember how you were looking forward to this event.

    Please keep in touch.

    Dr Sima Goel Chiropraticienne/Chiropractor, D.C.

    6900 Decarie Blvd. Suite #3123 H3X 2T8 Montreal Quebec Canada Telephone: (514) 344-6118

  2. Paranthropus Says:

    I say do it anyways. Apply for the permit. Notify the press. Show up regardless of the outcome. If they arrest us it will be national news. I’ll go with you.

    • xanthippa Says:

      This might be the only appropriate course of action…. Let me take a few days to collect my thoughts and then I’ll announce what I’m planning to do.

      Because do something I must!!!

  3. CodeSlinger Says:


    This is Canada: the rules are designed to oppress.

    The whole system is designed to oppress in subtle, deniable ways.

    Therefore, Paranthropus has it right.

    Show up with a few friends.

    Put up some easels with pre-drawn examples.

    Use signs and loud music to attract attention.

    Start drawing.

    Have people there to “informally” record everything: audio and video.

    Stream it directly to servers outside the country.

    Ideally, at least three people should be recording, so they can cover each other and the “event” at all times – especially when the RCMP show up.

    Be prepared with pithy “sound bites” making the following points:

    • freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are essential to the health of a free society

    • regulating the exercise of rights is just a sneaky way of violating them

    • police action is improper in the absence of a breach of the peace

    • your security is not their concern unless and until you ask them for help

    • the idea that the public can trespass on public land is a contradiction in terms

    Record what the RCMP say in reply and how they conduct themselves.

    Do not move when they order you to leave, but do not resist actively if they remove you physically.

    Be especially meticulous about recording this part.

    Arrange you affairs so your life keeps working if you have to spend a few days in jail.

    Be prepared to file suit for wrongful arrest and other violations of your rights.

    Once again, this is Canada: the whole system is carefully crafted so anything that matters to the elite is impossible to change from within, and illegal to change from without.

    • xanthippa Says:

      Yes, CodeSlinger,

      this is along the lines of what I am thinking. I just need to iron out the logistics.

      Actually, over the last week or so, I have put my affairs in order, let my family know all my passwords and final wishes – just in case this or worse were to happen.

      Getting things just right will be important, because I do not want to deteriorate the status of free speech in Canada any more than it already is.

      Plus, I need some organizations to get behind this and drive the publicity: on my own, I can only attract a small crowd because being a single individual, I do not have funds to advertise or to create publicity and so can only rely on word of mouth and the desire of freedom loving Canadians to help!

  4. peterodonnell Says:

    Maybe something more subtle, like a bike event, where a hundred people ride bikes around Ottawa and somebody measures the temperature to see if it’s true as Canadians believe that riding bikes can change the weather. Don’t do it right before a cold front, we don’t want to encourage them.

  5. William Says:

    You could call it “Draw Muhammed Look-Alikes Day.” “Absolutely no pictures of actual Muhammed allowed– out of respect.”

    • xanthippa Says:

      That might be missing the point: we CAN and MUST be free to caricature anyone or anything we want!

      The principle is that if we accept limits on our speech for whatever noble reasons, we will eventually not have the ability to defend all our other freedoms. And without the ability to defend our freedoms with speech, the only option remaining would be violence.

      I, for one, do not want violence: not when speech is the alternative.

      Which is why we must never give this non-violent ‘alternative’ up.

      And even appearing to give in to the prohibition would indeed be giving up our freedom.

      Aside: the Islamic prohibition against depicting Muhammad is a recent development and, frankly, a bit more of a fetish than a religious dogma. It simply did not exist more than 300-400 years ago. And even now, it is not universally accepted by all the world’s Muslims: for example, Iran has recently released a Muhammad bio-pic where he is very much depicted. Perhaps they don’t show his face fully, but they do show his figure.

      So, let’s not give in to few ignorant, but loud voices and let them impose the heckler’s veto on us all!

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