Fallout From the Cartoons of Muhammad

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

I believe in unfettered speech, a free press, even hate speech. I am against a lot of so-called political correctness.

At the same time, I understand the difference between caricaturing, say, a pope vs. a gratuitously insulting depiction of Jesus or Mary.

Christians would justifiably be highly offended and furious about the latter. Similarly, as a Muslim (albeit a quite secular one), I sympathize with the reaction to what is considered blasphemous or, at the least, insensitivity to the point of bigotry of an insulting portrayal of Muhammad.

It's the same as flushing a copy of the Koran, burning a Torah, putting a crucifix-cum-Jesus in a jar of urine or blowing up a statue of Buddha.

It's the same as shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. It's vile.




Even as The Post covers the Muslim responses to the European press running cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad ["Cartoon Protests Stoke Anti-American Mood," news story, Feb. 7], The Post fails to run the cartoons so its readers might judge the situation for themselves.

Publish the cartoons.




While Muslims' reaction to the publication of the cartoons ["Tension Rises Over Cartoons of Muhammad," front page, Feb. 3] is understandable, perhaps if the protesters had shown equal outrage about the hate, intolerance and violence perpetrated by radicals in the name of Islam, we might see a broader condemnation of the cartoons' publication. Instead, Muslims have reacted to the actions of radicals largely with silence or, worse, support. This silence makes it easy for many non-Muslims to paint the religion with the same brush used to create the cartoons.

Respect is not unconditional. It must have a foundation in basic human rights, nonviolence and tolerance.




Why did a Danish newspaper choose the prophet Muhammad as a subject for cartoons rather than an al Qaeda figure? The prophet has been dead for 1,400 years, and disparagement of his name has been known to elicit a strong reaction from Muslims since the Middle Ages. Muslims cannot retaliate with similar comments about Moses, Jesus or Mary because these also are revered figures in Islam. It was disingenuous for the paper to claim that publishing caricatures hurtful to billions of people was merely upholding freedom of expression.

Unfortunately, the reaction to the cartoons in some Muslim countries has not been exemplary, either. The prophet almost certainly would have condemned terrorism and violence against the innocent as practiced by a small number of his followers today. He also would have forgiven the offending newspapers for demeaning him. Those who set embassies on fire in response to the cartoons [front page, Feb. 6] do not follow Muhammad's example. Instead, they play into the hands of extremists who seek to promote a clash of cultures.




As a Danish citizen I would like to point out that although we Danes believe in freedom of expression, we also exercise a self-imposed censorship regarding our national values. An obvious example: In our little country there is a common consensus that the royal family cannot be exposed to damaging caricatures. Right now we're in an uproar because they burn our flag -- it's so shocking to us that Muslims would destroy our most sacred symbols. I find this an appropriate lesson on our road to maturity, and I admire the delicacy with which American newspapers draw the difficult line between freedom of the press and sensibility. We Europeans could certainly learn from that.


Casciavola, Italy


Insulting cartoons of Islam's prophet have nothing to do with freedom of speech. In many parts of Europe, including Germany, it is illegal to express and espouse Nazi teachings. This is a clear limit on freedom of speech, whatever the Europeans claim to espouse.




In response to a cartoon showing Muhammad with a bomb as his turban, Muslims are calling for Denmark to be bombed. Have Muslims considered the irony of that response?



Eugene Robinson's Feb. 7 op-ed, "Prophetic Provocation," did not ask why Muslims have chosen to make Europe their home. If their faith is paramount and they don't care to assimilate, and if they are offended by the openness of the West, why live there?




As an educated Muslim, I am outraged by the disgusting cartoons depicting our prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I consider myself a mainstream Muslim who does not condone violence or fanaticism. However, such insults to the spiritual beliefs of Muslims are dangerous.

At a time when many Muslims feel under attack by the West, it is irresponsible to fan the flames. Muslims who don't even mention the prophet's name without the expression "peace be upon him" consider such depictions sacrilegious.

If the West is really interested in making lasting peace with the Muslim world, it needs to learn about the fundamentals of Islam and respect for the spiritual values of others.


Laguna Niguel, Calif.

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