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Outrage over Prophet Muhammad drawings routed in history, current events

Outrage over Prophet Muhammad drawings routed in history, current events

Outrage over Prophet Muhammad drawings routed in history, current events


Associated Press (February 2, 2006)

LONDON – For centuries Muslim artists have drawn animals and landscapes, soldiers and sultans. But one subject has long remained taboo the face of Muhammad. Revered by Muslims as the last prophet sent by God, if he is drawn at all, it is with his face obscured or featureless. Now, a Danish newspaper’s attempt to fill in that blank has Muslims across the globe accusing Europeans of provocation.


Experts say the controversy could help fuel the rise of extremist movements in the Middle East.



The controversy began when a children’s book writer complained to a Danish newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten, that he could not find an illustrator for his book about Muhammad. The paper asked several cartoonists to come up with their own takes on what Muhammad might have looked like, and published them in Septem-ber.



The drawings were reprinted by France Soir and several other European papers Wednesday to make a point about freedom of speech.



The Quran does not expressly forbid illustrations of Muhammad, but the Is-lamic tradition carries several injunctions against depiction of any human fig-ure, and indeed of any living being at all, for fear that might lead to idolatry and because it suggests man can mimic the creative power of God.



The ban on pictorial representation, never universally followed, began to re-treat as Islam spread into areas beyond the Arab world.



Persian and Turkish miniatures from the 12th century onwards depicted human figures, including that of Muhammad, although his face was always obscured, of-ten by a divine flame.


Full pictures of Muhammad’s face “are very, very rare” in the Muslim world, said John Voll, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. “Virtually all Muslims would not think it appropriate.”



The Danish cartoonists not only showed Muhammad’s face but added such flour-ishes as a bomb-shaped turban.



Radwan Masmoudi, director of the Center for Study of Islam and Democracy in Burtonsville, Maryland, said that it was the way that the cartoons depicted Muhammad, rather than the act of depiction itself, that was fueling most of the outrage.



“He was portrayed as a terrorist, as somebody who has no moral values,” Masmoudi said.


The controversy comes at a time of increased tension between the West and the Muslim world. Resentment has been building over the situation in Israel, the war in Iraq, and the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program.



“These pictures on top of that really constitute an insult to Islam that no Muslim can accept,” Masmoudi said.



The decision to reprint the cartoons will only add “fuel on the fire,” said Emily Hunt, of the Washington Institute.



Public opinion in the Muslim world risks being radicalized because of a fun-damental misunderstanding over Europe‘s defense of free speech, Hunt said. “It comes across as if the West has deliberately insulted Islam.”



This is not the first time that Western depiction of the Muhammad have sparked controversy. In 2002, the American Public Broadcasting Service cut scenes depicting Muhammad from a documentary about Islam following objections from American Muslim groups. In 1997 the American Supreme Court’s refusal to re-move a carving of Muhammad from its marble frieze depicting historic lawgivers sparked rioting in the heavily Muslim Indian region of Kashmir.



Associated Press Writer



Associated Press

February 2, 2006 Thursday  6:50 PM GMT 

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