Cartoons of Muhammad controversies

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Sharia law is usually interpreted as forbidding depiction of Muhammad or any prophet. This has lead to a number of incidence relating to satirical cartoons of Muhammad. Critics of the cartoons argue that they amount to religious defamation.


Jyllands-Posten cartoons

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An English Language Translation

The Jyllands-Posten cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. They were drawn by Danish cartoonists and published in 2005. This led to riots in several countries, deaths of rioters and death threats towards the cartoonists.

South Park

South Park is a satirical animated cartoon produced and set in the US. It features several religious figures as minor recurring characters, including Muhammad.

  • "Super Best Friends" featured Muhammad as a character but this episode resulted in little to no controversy. This episode is no longer rerun on television because of the "201" controversy.
  • Episode "200" featured a story which anticipated the appearance of Muhammad in the following episode "201". Before 201 was broadcast, the creators and broadcasters were sent death threats. Ironically, the episode discussed threats of violence as a tool of censorship. Security was increased at the broadcaster Comedy Central and heavily censored version of 201 was broadcast. They justified this by citing concern for the safety of their employees.

"If there's anything we've all learned, it's that terrorizing people works."

— Kyle's satirical closing monologue in 201

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

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Everybody Draw Mohammed Day is an annual pro-freedom of speech event held on May 20. It began in 2010 in response to the South Park "201" controversy. People are encouraged to depict Muhammad and publish the pictures on the Internet. The event has been praised and condemned by various quarters. On one hand it protests for freedom of speech and against threats and censorship. It also renders the threats impractical to carry out by weight of numbers. On the other hand, it involves an activity that almost all followers of a religion find offensive, most of whom had no part in the threats of violence.

While it is senseless to needlessly antagonize and upset people, freedom of expression is a fundamental value in many cultures. All other religious figures are routinely criticized and satirized. South Park routinely satirizes other religious figures such as Jesus and Buddha; Islam is not singled out for criticism. Criticism of ideas and satire are necessary for a healthy society. That point alone is sufficient to justify depictions of Muhammad, at least in the context of satire and comment. For this reason, Muslims who are offended by depiction of Muhammad are looking at inappropriate media which they can choose to ignore. It is very unreasonably to expect censorship of materials that Muslims can easily self-censor themselves. This addresses the main criticism against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day that it may offend Muslims.

Charlie Hebdo cartoons

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The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has depicted Muhammad on many occasions.

On 7 January 2015, two Islamist gunmen killed 11 magazine staff and injured many more. They also killed a police officer outside the magazine offices. The cartoons of Muhammad were probably the main motivation for the attack.

A survey of British Muslims found that while most (78%) found the cartoons offensive and 27% had sympathy for the motives of the Charlie Hebdo attackers, the majority (68%) opposed violent reprisals. However, a significant minority (24%) disagreed that violence can never be used against publishers of images of Muhammad. [1]

Garland, Texas gunmen 2015

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Two gunmen were shot dead by police after they opened fire at a conference featuring a 'draw the prophet Muhammad' contest. [2] The issue is more nuanced than assaults on other satarists in that the conference was certainly anti-Islam and arguably Islamophobic. [3]

Depictions on Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a policy of not self-censoring while also maintaining a neutral point of view, including cases of religious figures that some find objectionable. Since Wikipedia is a high profile web site, it is subject to repeated requests for the removal of all depictions of Muhammad. Wikipedia has stood by its policies and not removed the images. It has a fraught talk page for discussion of the images but almost every request can be answered fully by referring to their FAQ on the issue.

Why Muhammad cartoons and satire are necessary

Freedom of expression is beneficial to individuals because it allows people to exchange ideas and better understand the world. It is also is pleasurable and liberating to speak ones mind. It allows individuals to raise concerns with the government. Freedom of expression helps ensure good governance by spreading news and allowing ideas to be examined. It is also necessary for other personal and political freedoms. [4]

The criticism and satirising of religious figures is an integral part of freedom of expression. If some ideas are beyond question, this leads to loss of personal and political liberty.

"The freedom to speak one's mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty -- and thus a good unto itself -- but also is essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole."

— Chief Justice Rehnquist [5]

"all suppressed truths become poisonous."

Friedrich Nietzsche

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. The Young Turks, 'Draw Muhammad' Contest Organizer Ups The Hate Following Shooting, 5 Aug 2011
  4. [3]
  5. [4]

External links

Gallery of depictions, including those published by Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten Muhammad

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