The Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper approached forty artists asking for depictions of Muhammad and received in response twelve cartoons of the Prophet - several playing on the perceived connection between violence committed by Muslims in the name of Islam around the world today. These 12 cartoons were published in the paper. One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name. The cartoon also plays into the fairy tale about Aladdin and the orange that fell into his turban and made his fortune. This suggests that the bomb comes from the outside world and is not an inherent characteristic of the prophet.
Once the cartoons were printed, the reaction of Muslims worldwide to what they perceived as a direct attack on Islam was immediate. An apology was demanded from the paper and initially refused. Boycotts of Danish products were begun. Muslim Ambassadors to Denmark were recalled. The editor of the newspaper has received threats. Palestinian gunmen took over an EU office in protest, and threatened to blow up churches if an apology was not received in 48 hours. The EU President defended the right of "freedom of expression" in the cartoons. The Editor of the newspaper did apologize, but by this time the cartoons had been republished in papers all over Europe leading the Islamic Human Rights Commission to state that "the republication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in Europe is indicative of the hatred that precedes genocide." The Jewish ADL issued a statement pointing out their concern with both the offensive nature of the cartoons, and concern about the extreme reaction, and what it perceived as a double standard when anti-Jewish cartoons and statements in the press in some Muslim countries go unremarked. And, of course, Robert Spencer has reprinted the cartoons with his usual Islamaphobic comments on Front Page.
Obviously, this is an emotional issue and people on both sides feel very strongly. There are many questions to consider. Does one have the right to make fun of religion Of any religion Any ethnic group Any race Where is the line between freedom of speech and censorship Are there any limitations on freedom of speech
And so today, I and many other Muslims feel compelled to stand up and be counted. To defend the honour of a man I grew up to regard as a Prophet. No, not from a dozen cartoons published by a neo-Conservative Danish newspaper. Nor from their reproduction in newspapers across Europe and even New Zealand. We feel compelled to defend the honour of the Prophet of Islam from the shameful actions of some people claiming to be his followers. No, we are not ashamed of Islam. We are not ashamed of the Prophet Mohammed. What upsets and shames us is the depths to which some Muslims have sunk. I wonder at how low Muslims have stooped that some of them are prepared to resort to mob violence to display their religiosity. In doing so, they appear ignorant of (or worse still, reckless to) the fact they are mainly targeting the innocent.
The Arabic phrase used by the Koran to describe the Prophet Moham