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Denmark: Art and Religion Collide

Cartoon depicting Mohammed with a bomb for a turban.

It was this cartoon, published in Denmark's leading newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, that many found particularly offensive. It depicts the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb for a turban.

A little sacrilege is always a good way for an artist to stir up controversy. Take some elephant dung and throw it on Jesus's mom a la Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary" or put a crucifix in a glass of urine as Andres Serrano did for his "Piss Christ" photograph and the battle lines are drawn.

Ofili's piece led to a courtroom showdown between "America's mayor" Rudolph Giuliani (when he was still just the mayor of New York) and big-shot First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, while my hometown's hero, "Pasta and Politics" Senator Alfonse D'Amato, took his outrage over Serrano's work to the Senate floor.

I am no expert on the subject, but where would modern art be if artists did not have religious iconography to kick around? These are just some of the thoughts I was playing with as I waited in the lobby of the largest national newspaper in the oldest monarchy in the world.

Sounds grand, I know, but I'm talking about Denmark and it's daily broadsheet, Jyllands-Posten, which has created a royal row by publishing cartoons depicting Islam's founder and prophet, Mohammed. The cartoons were published September 30, but nearly three months later, the storm is still raging and Jyllands-Posten, which normally reaches about 700,000 Danes a day, has gone global.

It was a provocation, Rose told me, to artists, writers, translators, actors and comedians who, he believes, are intimidated when it comes to addressing issues that some Muslims might find offensive.

In case you missed it, here's the headline: Little Country, Big Stink: Danish Cartoons Spark Death Threats, Protests and International Condemnation.

The paper's offices are on a large square-cum-ice skating rink in central Copenhagen. At night -- around 3:45 p.m. this time of year -- the area is bright with Christmas lights and the yuletide spirit. During the day, it's gray and not so jolly. That's when I went to visit Flemming Rose, the offending paper's culture editor who came up with the idea of soliciting illustrators to draw their interpretations of Mohammed.

It was a provocation, Rose told me. A provocation to artists, writers, translators, actors and comedians who, he believes, are intimidated when it comes to addressing issues that some Muslims might find offensive.

"The point was that we have some people who submit themselves to self-censorship," Rose said. "And they are doing so not out of respect, but out of fear."

Rose listed several recent incidents to illustrate his point. After the 7/7 bombings in London, the city's Tate Gallery canceled plans to exhibit John Latham's "God Is Great," which featured a Koran (along with the Bible and Talmud) for fear of offending Muslims. And the translator of a new book by Dutch politician Aayan Hirsi Ali, a vocal critic of radical Islam, requested anonymity fearing the reaction of militants. (This is perhaps understandable. Ali previously collaborated on a film about Islam with Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a young Muslim man who claimed the film was blasphemous).

But it was the complaint by a Danish children's author who said he couldn't find anyone to illustrate his book about Mohammed that finally led Rose to take action. Free speech, he felt, was being compromised.

Muslim women in Denmark street

Denmark is home to around 200,000 Muslims, the majority of which live in Copenhagen.

"We thought we could dilute this fear by including several artists," Rose said. So he invited members of the Danish association of cartoonists to draw Mohammed the way they see him. Of the 40 members, 12 responded. Their submissions ranged from the predictably offensive, a portrait of the prophet where his turban carries a bomb with a burning fuse to the alternatively prescient, a picture of a young schoolboy named Mohammed standing in front of a blackboard where written in Persian with Arabic letters it says, "Jyllands-Posten's journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs."

There are about 200,000 Muslims in Denmark, accounting for 3 percent of the country's population. Soon after the cartoons ran, a few thousand of them took to the streets of Copenhagen in protest. But from there, the reaction snowballed to proportions that Rose never anticipated.

At least 11 Muslim countries sent letters of protest to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The Organization of Islamic Conferences, a body that represents 56 Muslim states, put the cartoons on the agenda at its recent summit in Saudi Arabia. And the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights appointed a group of "experts on racism" to investigate the matter.

And that's just the diplomatic blowback.

In Kashmir, thousands of businesses reportedly shut down for a day in early December to protest the cartoons. (A reaction that left most Danes I spoke to perplexed). And according to the Danish Foreign Ministry, the youth group of Pakistan's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, posted an $8,000 bounty on the lives of the cartoonists.

"That's like $600 a head. You're not going to get anyone in Denmark to kill anyone for $600," comedian Omar Marzouk told me at a cafe one afternoon. "That's my Pakistani brothers, though. They're so cheap."

Comedian, Omar Marzouk.

Comedian Omar Marzouk is a first-generation Egyptian-Dane. Marzouk derives a lot of material from his experiences growing up as a Muslim in Denmark.

Marzouk is a first-generation Egyptian-Dane who has made a successful living challenging the political correctness that he believes prevents Danish society from engaging in honest dialogue, especially when it comes to his country's immigrant community.

Marzouk's comedy cuts both ways. He's as likely to offend radical right-wingers as radical Muslims. (He posts death threats he receives from both camps on his Web site).

While he obviously appreciates free speech, Marzouk thinks that Jyllands-Posten's decision to publish the cartoons was irresponsible and poisoned a much-needed debate in Denmark.

"It comes at a time when there is less tolerance and growing prejudice in Danish society," he said. "You're given the impression that if you don't give up your religion you won't fit into this society because your beliefs contradict the core principals of democracy. It's bullshit. It's cultural arrogance."

Marzouk believes that the only thing the paper accomplished was to draw out and highlight the most radical of reactions.

To get a sense of what lies beneath the furor, I went to an Islamic bookstore in Copenhagen to speak with Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, a Dane who converted to Islam 24 years ago.

"If you ridicule Christianity in some places, the way Christianity is sometimes ridiculed here, you'll be put out. It's a very provincial outlook to say, 'Well, we can do it to our own religion so why can't we do it to yours.'"

Pedersen said that for the most part he's avoided talking about the issue because he feels it's "ridiculous."

"If we want to have a serious debate in Denmark, and I think we need to," he said, "the onset should not be by insulting each other."

Pedersen does not question Jyllands-Posten's freedom of expression, but why the paper would use that right to further alienate Denmark's Muslim minority. And he does not think that the outrage is a particularly Islamic reaction.

"If you ridicule Christianity in some places, the way Christianity is sometimes ridiculed here, you'll be put out," he said. "It's a very provincial outlook to say, 'Well, we can do it to our own religion so why can't we do it to yours.'"

Pedersen acknowledged that Islam faces a very big challenge finding its expression in Europe, but those who exploit that struggle, he said, are very shortsighted.

"The Western world has to adapt to the idea that it has to adopt Islam into its own belly because its here to stay," he said. "Fighting it is creating a civil war. Helping it to adapt is helping to bring a better future for all of us."

Cartoon of a seventh-grade boy called Mohammed.

Cartoonist Lars Refn submitted this cartoon, which features a seventh-grade boy called Mohammed. The blackboard reads, "Jyllands-Posten's journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs."

At Jyllands-Posten, Rose remained unrepentant about the cartoons.

It's just a graphic representation of what we are writing in the newspapers everyday," he said. "We live in an image-flooded culture and I don't think anyone truly believes we were trying to depict 1.2 billion Muslims with just a few pictures."

While the reaction was more than he bargained for, Rose welcomes the debate the cartoons have inspired.

"It's long over due," he said.

At least that's one thing everyone can agree on.

Darren Foster is a freelance journalist. He has contributed work to the CBC and Channel 4 (UK) and is working on a story about diamond mining in the Amazon for FRONTLINE/World.


Minneapolis, MN
As a Muslim, I condemn the actions of those Muslims who have attacked the embassies and caused such riots. I have tried to post to many web sites that talk about this issue. I am just one person; this is what I can do to voice my opinion. Unfortunately, Muslims lack leadership; there are no people who talk for us. A lot of Muslims are not actively involved in trying to show the real teachings of Islam. Many are scared if they become active they may get deported or accused of something they have not done. There is a great deal of paranoia going on, and I do not know if it is unjustified. The only way I could explain the feeling of Muslims in the West is that of the Jewish minorities in Europe before the rise of the Nazis. This feeling of being demonized, and scared to speak up for fear of retaliation. If we still had laws that protected the innocent, more people would have spoken up, but in this kind of atmosphere where every Muslim is a suspect of something sinister, everyone is scared to be visible.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
When we published our Dispatch from Denmark last December, it met with resounding silence. No one bothered to write us. Perhaps, we thought, that's because it was already old news. After all, the original protest over publication of the satirical cartoons of Mohammed had flared up last September. So, naturally, we were taken aback when the controversy suddenly re-ignited with a vengeance last week, and we began to receive an avalanche of email. Some of it, we regret, is hateful and unprintable. But most is well worth reading and considering. There is thoughtful commentary with a range of perspectives. As you can see from the correspondence we have posted, we are getting responses from all over the United States and the world: Turkey, Hungary, Egypt, Taiwan, Sweden, Morocco, Indonesia, England, Kenya, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Canada and yes, Denmark. We have heard from readers who identify themselves as Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, as well as those who express no religious affiliation. In this Internet age, our modest Web site has become a global forum to discuss this controversy. We encourage this debate and dialogue.

- Colorado Springs, Co
Why is it that when things are published, such as these cartoons, that everyone in the Islamic world jumps and screams? Yet, the Christian principles that this country was founded on are being chopped and thrown away and we are not allowed to say anything because we could "offend" the non-Christians? Maybe they should grow a tough skin just like we have had to develop in order for all of us to co-exsist.

kano, nigeria
Whoever didn't reject this image [in print] doesn't know what he is doing. You strongly know that the prophet is more respected than your father. How about if it's your old man, will you be happy? What will you gain by insulting the prophet? Guys, please respect religion -- Islam, Christianity, Jews...You won't gain anything by insulting people's religion. You only bring trouble to this small world...Peace out.

Pickering, Ontario
In the struggle to control the greatest masses of people, religions have been urging wars on others for millennia -- Judaism, Islam and Christianity alike...None of the religious "faithful" should be surprised that those of us who have thrown off the yoke are ready and willing to heap ridicule on them, not because the religious are not human, but because they are blind with eyes wide open. Mohamed - peace-loving? Gimme a break, he spread his ideas with the sword, and freely robbed the caravans to support his religious conquest. It is a historical fact.

I think these comments are in and of itself stereotypical. Why are we generalizing the actions of ALL Muslims and Danes, based on the actions of the significant few. It's interesting to see how we ( as humans ) go to such a point. GENERALIZING! Show some compassion, people.

Aamir Rashid - Rochdale, Lancashire
It is obvious that we have to respect all religions, whether it's Chritianity, Islam, Jews. Just suppose someone made some cartoons [insulting] any other religious personality other than Islam. People who belong to this religion would obviously protest against it because they love this personality and don't want to insult in any way. So I really condemn these cartoons. But I know that Muslims have to protest in a controlled emotional way. We should respect the beliefs of others and never insult any religion.

I'm sure you have heard hundreds say this but it can't hurt to say it again...ALL religions of the world, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism have all at one time or another persecuted another religion. And believe me this persecution goes far beyond drawing cartoons...If you truly have faith you will know that you shouldn't fight back or become upset because your religion is in YOU and no matter what anyone says or does or if an official declaration is made to force you to "practice" another religion, no one I repeat NO ONE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD can take away what is in you heart, mind, body and soul. So don't get upset... and if you do have faith you will follow your religion and NOT ACT OUT!

The negative comments that have been posted by other viewers are baffling. First, moderate Muslims have and continue to condemn violence in any form or by any pretext. Second, Muhammad was never a bandit or a thief. If you're to claim this, please cite your source(s). Finally, I want to assert a personal comment; free speech in most countries is absolute, but this shouldn't curtail discretion. The media has the right to publish or broadcast whatever it pleases (in Denmark at least), but they shouldn't be inciting religious intolerance or hatred; that's a crime. As for the Muslims, they need to introspect and scrutinize (self-criticise) with a scrupulous resolve; hopefulle they'll realize that their violence is unjustified.

Ali Samatar - Alpharetta, GA
The most that I got in all this was how ignorant human beings still are. The West exchanged Christianity wih freedom of speech, while the Muslims completely capitulated to the ignorance of modernism. As a Muslim, I condemn the rioting because the cartoons will never portray the true Mohammed since it was published in the West and has no likeness to him. To the West, after Iraq, everything you do, regardless of your intentions, will be portrayed negatively by the press in the Muslim world. So drink you coffee and ponder - what would Mohammed (pbuh) say.

Pamela Wilson - Seattle, WA
The Danish people are perhaps the most wonderful and civilized I have met in my many travels. Shame on the moderate muslims for not speaking up and protesting against the extremists who are using this for their own violent goals. Shame on the same moderate Muslims for not speaking up after the tragedies in NYC, London, Madrid. Perhaps the reason the Danish cartoons portyay the prophet is that it is the way the vocal Muslims behave.

James Nailor - Davenport, IA
The cartoons were completely on target. Before Mohammed became the great leader and prophet, he led a band of thieves that robbed caravans; check your history book. The Quran encourages its adherents to react violently; Islam is not a peaceful religion. Most other major world religions are no better because they were all founded by some guy who wanted to gain power and told a clever to story to get the naive masses to follow him. Why do we hold sacred these stories passed on to us by tyrants and thieves? How can any human have knowledge of the unknown?

Miami, FL
If Americans responded to the burning of the US flag the same way Muslims around the world are responding to a derogatory cartoon of Mohammad, we would be on our way to World War III. It seems to me that Arabs and Westerners are both guilty of throwing stones at each others' glass houses. Americans hold the flag as one of the most cherished symbols of our great nation -- a symbol that is desicrated often in Arab protests. Arabs hold their religion in a similar fasion. If they freely burn our flag then its my opion that we have the right to desicrate what they hold dearest to them.

Jucelino Freitas - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Muslims - do not believe that Brazilian Catholics liked the cartoons of Mohammed. We are as tolerant as you. Of course, there's a limit for everything. We must respect all religions. Why? One day we'll die, and we will not take anything with us. We have to build a better life, for everyone. If I could say something to you, I would say: do not play this game; the world will lose.
You are wasting precious time that you could use to think, to improve your peoples' lives. Let Danish newspaper owners (since we may consider people from Denmark friends) waste their time. Ignore this provocation. You don't need it to live, do you?

Cindy Long - O'fallon, MO
I'm so tired of the terrorists trying to over power the good people in that religion [and make them] look bad. Personally, I believe that there are more good people over there that would and truly want the freedom we have and I pray for the day I can see their flag waved proudly like we do in the USA. My son is in the Marines and it breaks his heart to see all those [people] suffering over there.

Dawa - Sewanee, TN
I am a Buddhist. When the Muslims in Afghanistan destroyed the thousands of year old Buddha statues I didn't protest. It was not because I was not disturbed, but because the destroyers were Muslims and I know they don't believe in statues. My opinion is that Muslims should also understand that there are other people in the world who have different views on life and on different things. For example, for me, depicting Muhammad in cartoon is much less insulting than destruction of Buddha's statues. But that's because I am a Buddhist. In the West, freedom of speech is one of the most important tenets and for it to be attacked is worse than depicting anybody in cartoons. Perhaps it is time to change within and then the respects from without will follow.

Mike Smith - San Francisco, CA
We live in a culture where Muslims are routinely depicted as backward, barbaric, medieval, corrupt, uncultured, terrorist by nature, parasitic, and with an insatiable lust for white women and the murder of children. On top of this, U.S. weapons are murdering Muslim civilians on a regular basis, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. So why the surprise at the reaction to the inflammatory cartoons? It's a fascinating doctrine of free speech that says I can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater, but I CAN throw gasoline on an already burning fire on a crowded planet bristling with nuclear weapons. And let's recall that Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher was executed at Nuremberg for nothing more than his racist cartoons and commentary.

Mohammed Theprophet - Madison, Wisconsin
Sitting in my prophesizing chair here in Madison I am so completely baffled by people's violent reaction to a cartoon that my head is going to blow.

Brian - Chicago, IL
The irony is that the point is proven by the cartoon. As with any cartoon, we have to ask ourselves what we should take from it? I interpreted the cartoon as an attempt to show that some followers of Mohammad are violent and use the faith to justify their violence. However, many radical Muslims have interpreted it as a blatant mocking the leader of their faith. What the West needs to understand is that in Islam, to make any visceral presentation of Mohammad is sacrilegious. What more radical Muslims need to understand is that freedom of speech does mean you have the right to express whatever you prefer, and that there is no safeguard within freedom of speech to protect certain groups of people. Freedom necessitates a lack of governance. Sadly, this incident will continue to grow with more and more outrage because for many Muslims, it reaffirms what they feel Westerners already do: persecute their faith and attack their beliefs. That being said, it absolutely sickens to me to see the lack of measured response that many Muslims around the world are expressing. While I think it's immature to stop buying Danish goods and such, it's their right. It's a bit of freedom in action. But to turn to violence against innocent people shows an utter lack of maturity on the Muslims involved.

There's a Seinfeld episode that has Jerry and his new Jewish girlfriend kissing during Schindler's List. It's very funny. I have seen Saturday Night Live episodes that had some fun with Anne Frank. There are also movies such as "Life of Brian" that make fun of Christianity. Do they offend some people? Probably. Do they spark riots, death threats, etc, flag burning, etc.? Never!! This is so totally overblown.

Robert V - Surabaya, Java
This cartoon is not really something to worry about. Many of my friends who are Muslim say the same. 99% of all Muslims in the country where I live in (Indonesia) are freedom loving and peaceful people and not on the road to terrorize or force people to believe in hatred against Westerners. Muslims should, however, stand up against shameful expressions of the Iranian president over the last few months. Was there any Jew around our world who threw stones at an Iranian embassy or who threatened to kill??

My religion is Budhism and I couldn't care less if someone runs over the statue with their car, because the value is resident in you not on some tangible object or image. Very simple, stop whining and show actions and people will rally behind your cause.

The great respectable Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Unto Him) was the last
prophet which Allah had sent to the world to preach Islam. We all follow his path. If people read his biography, they will realize that he was the best of all creations in the world. It's true that if the enemies do evil, then The Almighty will take revenge upon them. But that doesn't mean that we have to keep silent. When caricatures of our Beloved Prophet are being drawn and published all over the world, we Muslims must speak and act against it. Because he has shown us the way to God and its our duty to defend him. If you see someone mock your parents, won't you react to it? Our Prophet is our leader. We are his group. Anything which affects our leader will affect us also. If Muslims were terrorists, all the countries which published pictures of our Prophet would have been bombarded. But they are only protesting against it by their strong words and articles. It shows that the Muslims are patient. They follow the path of Islam. Islam is peace. If all these doesn't work then Jihad is only the final solution!

- Istanbul, Turkey
Someone wrote "Muslims show how violent they really are." I just want to ask: America attacked Iraq and killed many Iraqis people. Isn't this violence? If you humiliate Muslims, if you attack their countries for no reason then somehow they will show their anger...

Naseem Afzal - Islamabad, Pakistan
I have read most of the comments about the cartoons in the preceeding paragraphs. It's simply because people do not know about Islam so they give such comments. WE have, are and will continue to carry the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) in extreme reverence. We have no photographs of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) or even of Prophet Jesus [whom we accept as a Prophet of Allah and whom we respect second to only the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him)]or of any one else. The use of pictures in Islam is derogatory and is strictly forbidden. The cartoons published are in a very bad taste and require condemnation by all along with very severe punishments for those responsible. WE all hate it when cartoons of Jesus (May the Blessings of Allah be on Him), Mary (May the Blessings of Allah be on Her) are published. People do not understand that we Muslims respect all 124000 Prophets of Allah and we respect Jesus and Moses more than the Christians and Jews.The depiction of Muslims as terrorists and bad people has got to stop.
Please go and study Islam and then make your comments. It is strange that people who do not know anything even about Christianity are commenting, that too strongly , on Muslims.

Colorado Springs, CO
These cartoons illuminate the realization that mankind is still in its infancy. We as a species need to take a step back, a deep breath, and look at what we are doing to each other. This isn't an issue we should be addressing when there are so many going hungry and homeless around the world.

It's not fair to post such a disgraceful depiction of Muhammed or any religious figure. It's offensive not just to the reader but to all of the followers of the faith. Muhammed being targeted because he started Islam is disgusting. The world is blaming those of Islamic faith for what is happening in the Middle East. Not all Muslim are radicals. God gave us all choice in how to act; some chose better than others. As a Christian and a Westerner, I apologise to the Muslim followers in the world for such sacrilege toward the Prophet who taught them about God and his infinite love.

Laura Farris - Jeffersonville, IN
It is a shame that artists are rebuked for their creative expression. An analyst for a famous photographer said something to the effect that he never interferred with the creative process unless harm was being done. How can an artist anticipate the reaction of those who view the work? I think all religions are fair game in pictures as well as print. Look at all the wars fought in the name of religion. Lighten up and don't be so thin-skinned that you take punditry seriously.

The Muslims have only shown the world that they are truely violent in their beliefs. It's a CARTOON for crying out loud! And it speaks the truth about how violent these people really are. If we as a people don't stand up now and fight for democracy and freedom of the press then the muslims will continue to hold us in fear with their hatred and violence.

Shawn Brockway - Indianapolis, Indiana
If you believe that cartoons of Muhammad are blasphemous, lead to idolatry, etc., then don't draw them and don't look at them. If you see something that offends you religiously or politically, then you have the right to make your feelings known. I have always been against the war in Iraq. But I have no sympathy for a people willing to riot and kill in their efforts to suppress freedom of expression.

Like everything freedom has its own limits so please show respect to other religions if you want us to respect to your religion.

I have no prejudice about Christians in my mind generally, but I also can't understand why Christians need these kind of humiliating assaults to Muslims. YES there can be some differences but don't we trust the same God?

Aarhus, Denmark
First: someone wrote that Hitler, Mussolini and a lot of other tyrants were Christians. First let me say, a lot of terrible things have been done in the name of God, but you can't just say that all Westerners are Christians. This is not the way it works here since we have religious freedom. This also means the right to not believe at all. Many Westerners are not religious. Hitler was not a Christian. In fact he believed in ancient Nordic Gods, and wanted to promote that religion since he meant that Arians should not worship a Jew (Jesus).Trust me, to Christian's believe Jesus is as holy to us as Allah. He has been made fun of, ridiculed in all ways. Still you dont see Christians bombing and killing people because of it. Why? because our God tells us that we are to love our enemies. Pray for the ones that persecute us.

A Danish Artist - Copenhagen, Denmark
In that split second you laugh, your mind is not occupied with anything else. In that moment you are alert, awake, in the NOW. Thats all there is - the NOW. Everything else is a story your mind tells yourself about life. Life happens all by itself. There is nothing you can do, but to embrace it. Accept it. Do the best YOU can. Stay out of other peoples business. Be in your business. To make real changes is to work on your business. You can't change the world, only your beliefs about it.

WHO IS INNOCENT? Muslims? Christians? Jews? Nobody! Everybody must at look his or her own history. Everybody must be honest. All of these religions' histories are full of sins. Jesus and Muhammad are not guilty, we are guilty. Stop these silly discussions. There will be no winner because all of us are not innocent. I am proud to be Muslim and Turk. The Prophet Muhammad said, `All people are equal, as equal as the teeth of a comb. An Arab is no better than a non-Arab, nor is a white person over a black person, nor is a male superior to the female. The only people who enjoy preference with God are the devout"We Christians, Jewish and Muslims are honoring the same stories, and basically even reading the same books. 95% of what defines us human beings is the same. 5% is different, and too often we humans choose to focus on that 5%.What a waste. What a ridiculous self-deception.

A Danish artist - Copenhagen, Denmark
If you have really found God within, no one else's pictures from without can ever harm you.MY FEELINGS ARE HURT. I am a Danish artist who suddenly lost the freedom to speak, draw, paint and express myself about unbalance, inequality, power abuse, lies, offences of human rights - and not least about the murder and violence in the name of the HIDEOUS FACE OF FANATICISM. Maybe one of the Danish cartoonists tried to draw exactly that statement? Maybe you believe it to be a bad choice or a bad picture, but it was his and not yours. Draw your own pictures or don't. In a FREE world it is your choice.The foremost tool of an artist I believe can be to provoke. I do not put up with the fact that any religious group tries to rob that right from me. Where does it stop? What is the next issue someone gets hurt about? Which artists will be next in the line of censorship? Wilhelm Freddie had it coming to him many years ago. Dali and many before him made drawings of Mohammed less flattering than the 12 Danish cartoonists did. They are worshipped because they are FINE art and not because they portray prophets. They are hanging all over the world in libraries and museums, and the internet is full of them. Let's close down the internet, all libraries and museums entirely and put them to trial for hurting peoples feelings.A picture has to bring you over the edge positively or negatively. In a split second of shock or surprise - YOU will find yourself in the NOW. That is the grandest assignment any artist can have - I believe.

Ferhan AMLI - Izmir, Trkiye
I don't support violent reactions but Muslims are right to be offended and to get angry. All prophets are sacred for Muslims. I want to ask something. What does SACRED mean in your language or religion?

Carlsbad, CA
Are Muslims ignorant or hypocritical? Where was the flag burning, embassy destroying, and jihad yelling when South Park showed Muhammad with Jesus and Buddha in a cartoon as one of several "Super Friends"? What about Muhammad in illustrations of Dante's Inferno, where the Muslim prophet ends up in Hell with his entrails hanging out? Did you know The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a 16th-century picture of Muhammad in a mosque, the University of California has a 14th-century Turkish painting of Muhammad in his mother's arms, Edinburgh University has a 14th-century miniature of him rededicating the black stone at Kaaba, and the US Supreme Court in Washington has a stone frieze of Muhammad as an example of an ancient lawmaker? Where was the flag and embassy burning then? Why do you wait for some Danish cartoon to get offended? I know the answer so don't bother--ignorance! How sad, a religion that espouses love of God and family is filled with such hate and stupidity.

In the name of GOD the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. GOD Almighty in the Quran invites us to delve into another subject or leave the room if the ignorant run into an insulting conversation. He also orders us to answer their evil with goodness. He clearly commands the believers to utter peace when the ignorant say ignorant things. And He orders us to proclaim our religion with kindness and strong proofs and with no compulsion. So there is really no Quranic base for all these fanatic actions, but this seems to fulfill a sense of revenge against the West since there are other ongoing issues that are translated as oppressions committed by the West.

Steve - Schenectady, NY
Having seen the cartoon, I see it as commentary on modern insurgents instead of on Muhammad himself.

Denver, CO
It seems to me that if Islam truly is a peaceful, tolerant religion that didn't condone terrorism we would see these types of protests when a terrorist organization kidnapped and killed someone in the name of the religion. For years I have been saying that if these incidents of terrorism and murder don't represent Islam (which I believe they don't) there would be protests from the Muslim population about the terrorist attacks that continue ot occur in it's name. If the Muslim population would stand up and condemn people like Bin Laden, and Zarqawi the way they do about a couple of cartoons this world would be better off!

Ankara, Turkiye
Respect to Jesus respect to Muhammed, there is one God why be angry eachother. All religions are there only for one good and it is God.

Bowen Island, BC
I would like to see an interview with an outraged Muslim, perhaps a cleric, in order to begin to understand why their feelings run so high in situations such as these. Is there a hope for conciliation, or is it truly only to be rectified by violence?

Shawn - Okc, OK
The reaction to the cartoon only proves its truth.

- Corona Del Mar, CA
I hold my spirituality very close to my heart and believe that it is my spirituality. No other person can harm or take away my beliefs. I walk in peace and accept that others will not always share my beliefs. I will not condemn them for this.

Shelton Bailey - Las Vegas, Neveda
Yes we do have freedom of speech in the west and it is a wonderful privilege, which sometimes can be abused. After all you wouldn't see a cartoon with a dance line of Rabbi dressed in Sabbath clothes kicking their legs in the air singing "Have Nagila." Nor would they print a cartoon with five black men with big afros playing basketball with the team named the Flying Jigaboos. And why not? Because in our culture these are hot points and it just would not be tolerated. Get the point. Yes they can print whatever offensive material they want, the problem is I don't think they ever stopped to think whether they should or not. It's typical Western hubris, because of our supposed educational and technological superiority we think that gives us the God given right to poke fun at other cultures we deem less than ours. Shame on the Danish I would have thought Europeans would have better sense.

(anonymous) - Nova Scotia, Canada
What's next? If I speak according to my views and it is not what the Muslims want to hear, will they stike at me? Should the world walk on eggshells when it comes to the Muslim world? I had respect of their belief until this disgusting display. I am certain I am not the only one. These atrocious behaviours represented what they are about in front of the whole world. No apologies should be issued. I see children burning flags while the adults are happily watching. That is the picture of the next generation of hate in the making. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

I respect deeply held religious values, and I can see how an entire group of religious people find the cartoon offensive. If you are Muslim and are offended by the drawing, you have a right to be. And you have a right to protest, to start boycotts, etc. But crowds of people burning buildings and flags in the streets? This, friends, is the very definition of the violent extremism portrayed in the cartoon. The actions of the protesters send a clear message - that the cartoonist's message was correct. I hope that some day, a cartoon such as this will send the opposite message to the world. But that day appears to be very, very far off.

If Islam is violent then I can't think of a name for Christians. Hitler was a Christian wasn't he? Or Napoleon or Mussolini or Pinochet or George Bush. How did you forget that Americans used atomic bombs to kill Japanese people? I am Turkish and I am a Muslim. But there is a difference in Turkey. We have a democracy and there is secularism. It is very important, because we are the only country that seperates religion from the politics. People must respect each other's beliefs. Freedom of speech doesn't mean that you have the right to hurt others.

Izmir, Trkiye
Who attacked the East in world wars? Who killed the Jews in ovens? Were they Muslims?

Ankara, Turkey
If you want respect, show respect. Muslims never disrespect other religions. Apologizing always softens the situation and problem. The Prime Minister Of Denmark should apologize on behalf of this newspaper.

Salih Vural - Ankara, Turkey
Fredom has limits. There are limits in all life. Everybody may express their emotins but it must not hurt us. We love this peace. Please everybody must be careful. A little story can solve this problem.

I am a Buddhist. There are so many Buddha statues everywhere. People use them in different places such as gardens, kitchens, rooms etc. Who cares? As someone has said above they have mosques every where but we cannot build temples in their countries. They want to wear their clothes everywhere but if we wear what we want to then it's indecent. Where is the justice? Please, could some one teach Muslims some tolerance?

Bryan - St Louis, Missouri
I think this is fantastic! The Danish journalists see Muslims killing people in the name of their god, so they depict Muhammad in a drawing as violent. And the Muslims retaliate by burning down buildings and threatening to kill people. Those Muslims really drove the point home for the Danish and the rest of the civilized world.

(anonymous) - Toronto, Canada
Burning embassies and threatening to kidnap and kill Danes and then targeting Christian churches and establishments will not help the world understand your religion. Shame on those who use this incident as an excuse to be violent against non-Muslims. Then you wonder why the world associates terrorism and extremism with Islam.

Balazs K. - Budapest, Hungary
Freedom of speech is one thing; provocation is another. Every political cartoon is made to be provocative in a way. We Europeans are a little bit over the line in this issue. We talk about freedom of speech, opposing different opinions; but if 'Mein Kampf,' a film about Hitler, or any such topic arises, we say, "it can't be published, it hurts people's feelings". I am not a neo-Nazi, neither a Zionist; but there is some controversy in this case. On the other hand, the Muslims' reaction is also way too extreme. But here we should stop again: our culture has been familiar with political cartoons for many decades; what if the Islamic countries don't do that in their cultures?

Catherine - Taipei, Taiwan
I am totally outraged by the Muslim reaction. Whose fault is it if Mohamed as the symbol of Islam is associated with violence ? Islam has been highjacked by extremists only because all Muslims submitted willingly to this highjacking. Islamists have been constantly bullying and insulting to Europeans, including the ones we gave refuge to when their own country persecuted them. Self-proclaimed "moderate" Muslims have constantly failed to stand up to bullies, hence making the claim of Islam as "peaceful and tolerant" utterly unbelievable. Being "peaceful and tolerant" does not mean hiding low at home and looking the other way when your co-religionaries declare war on other civilisations and religions. It means fighting for years and years to promote a truly tolerant Islam, while being submitted to vilification and death threats from other Muslims. And as the "Mohamed taboo" shows us, Muslims are useless in the fight against extremism because they don't want to run the risk of being branded "blasphemous."

I just want to know the meaning of freedom of speech. The cartoons don't relate to the prophet at all; they relate to today's extremists. And by the way, they don't represent the prophet or Islam in any way. Everyone should have some respect for other religions and other faiths. People should know the diffrence between free speech and insult of peoples faiths.

Stockholm, Sweden
I'm surprised at the shallow interpretations of what is going on. The images are just a fuse. The bomb was set a long time ago when the Danes subscribed to Bush's empty rhetoric and sent their u-boats to the desert. In my view, this has very little to do with freedom of the press. If the West wasn't occupying Iraq, Saudi-Arabia and supporting the Israelis in absurdum, then the respect for the freedom of the press would be much stronger from the Muslims. The images have to be seen from a perspective of the enemy mocking the victim. Regardless of my own opinions, I am sure that is what the Muslims feel enraged about - images portraying their culture as terrorist while at the same time being occupied by the ones who made the images.

Hey Peace Loving Muslims, Now is your chance to condemn the over reaction and violence that marks your religion. I have plenty of Muslims that tell me that the violence that has been wrought by the extremists in Islam does not represent them. Well where is the outcry from you now? Remember violence only begets violence. Your brothers are only sowing the seeds of destruction.

Azmat Hussain - Kokomo, IN
Most Westerners have NO clue about the sentiments of Muslims on this matter. Not only that, there is no way that I could draw an analogy, or give an equivalent scenario that the Westerners could relate to. As you can see by the reactions, not many people even understand what the outrage is all about. I hope that this incident does not lead to senseless violence and becomes a way to enlighten the West about Muslim sensibilities.

Mert Can - Istanbul, Turkey
The problem is not publishing anti-Muslim caricatures, the problem is this prophet has never been drawn, even its shadow. In the Koran it is written "people always have twins, just God is "one" being." They never draw a portrait of the Prophet Muhammad because he was good but his twin might not be good and can fool others. For all these possibilities, it has not been drawn for centuries. That's what Muslims find offensive. The anti-Jewish or anti-Christian caricatures may include the prophets because they aren't told "not to draw any sign of the prophet because of its twin."

- Fort Worth, Texas
I cringe everytime I hear, see, or read about masses of Muslim protesters concerned about something as innocuous as this cartoon. These people are beginning to make it difficult for their own right to exist when they incite riots and use violence against those that wish to live peacefully. The western response will be overwheling as witnessed in Iraq.

I will request my Muslim brothers to cool down. This kind of blasphemy cannot damage the great religion of Islam. Anyone who tries to spit on the sun gets it back on the face. Just don't overreact and give them the the excuse that we are intolerant.

People say Muslims are intolerant and violent, but they cannot see the majority of Muslims. The basis of Islam is tolerance. They should ask why Muslims react so. If one reacts like this, it means there exists an action for this reaction. To understand is not so difficult when you read some history and you can see whole picture. But they look just to one side. Of course, some Muslims have made some mistakes but how about other people's mistakes? Freedom of speech is not for people that just hurt other people. We have respect to Ph. Jesus and Ph. Moses also. It would be a problem for us if there was also a cartoon like this for Ph. Jesus and Ph. Moses. It hurts us; how can one show a person, Ph. Mohammed, who is a peace loving, tolerant person with a bomb?

Matean A. - Pittsburgh, PA
This cartoon has become a famous example of how impossible it is to force western 'freedom' onto anyone. Our advanced level of free speech is totally foreign to extremeists who will use these images as ammunition to recruit more hopeless suicide attackers. I have been raised to understand that free speech is the rock on which this country was built, and I also understand that this was printed to drive a wedge between the east and west. For whatever reason, this editor took the cheapest shot possible in order to enrage those who aren't comfortable seeing the greatest example of a Muslim as a free speech punching bag. Also, we westerners think that these ferverent protesters are the ignorant ones, but some of the responses on this site have shown that there are ignorant people everywhere. Muslims are iconoclasts in general, and if it would have been any other image of the prophet it would have been just as offensive. Don't get too wraped up in the bomb/turban interpretations.

Anders - Copenhagen, Denmark
When I switched on the television and saw Muslims burning my flag, I went into a hysterical laughter. Funniest thing I've seen in weeks.

Jakarta, Indonesia
We all know that humans make mistakes, so please for all Muslims all over the world stay cool and don't let this piece of garbage disturb you. Just go on with your best devotion to Allah and may Muhammad forgive this man who made this article public. Peace be with us all.

Ottawa, Ontario
If nothing else, this cartoon and article highlights an age old issue. Maybe religion, which "appears" to tolerate fanatiscm by its lack of dealing with it, is no longer a solution for learning how to live as brothers and sisters on this tiny planet. We can do better than this; even if it means we agree to disagree - just so long as we keep thinking, talking and doing the basics. I may not appreciate what you say or what you do but so long as you don't rob, murder, rape, pillage or make me live in fear, I will respect your difference. I don't think we're going to get very far by blowing ourselves up and poisoning our world.
I won't comment on if the cartoon was in good taste or bad taste because whatever the reaction, it acheived it's goal. We're thinking and talking and in a different way, trying to find a way to deal with society's number one enemy: fearIf nothing else, this cartoon and article highlights an age old issue. Maybe religion, which "appears" to tolerate fanatics by its lack of dealing with it, is no longer a solution for learning how to live as brothers and sisters on this tiny planet. We can do better than this; even if it means we agree to disagree - just so long as we keep thinking, talking and doing the basics. I may not appreciate what you say or what you do but so long as you don't rob, murder, rape, pillage or make me live in fear, I will respect your difference. I don't think we're going to get very far by blowing ourselves up and poisoning our world.I won't comment on if the cartoon was in good taste or bad taste because whatever the reaction, it achieved it's goal. We're thinking and talking and in a different way, trying to find a way to deal with society's number one enemy: fear.

Naeem Majid - London, England
This cartoon shows how ignorant and racists the publishers are of Islam, especially in Denmark. If they took the trouble to read the Koran they will see that Islam forbids suicidal killing.

Visby, Sweden
There is a difference between the vision of a religion and the way it is practiced and interpreted. What we see today is mostly a very warped way of seeking power in the name of religion. We should independently look for the truth, instead of being led by bad interpreters.

What about Month Python? Do you see nations of Christians screaming?

Peter K. - Nairobi, Kenya
Freedom of expression cannot possibly mean disrespect for other people based on religion, gender, race or otherwise. Publicity,even bad publicity, is good for the media so why shouldn't the media be penalised for their mischief by protests if need be? Media is the only industry that I know where their opinion is unquestionable and the editors are unaccountable high priests.

The Muslim reaction to this shows truth in the sentiments portrayed by the cartoon. Truly a case of life imitating art.

Corporate media plays a big role in propaganda. My message as a brother in humanity is please read up on Islam, it is great. Why are so many people regardless of color converting to Islam everyday? Please see for yourself. Peace.

San Diego, California
If you claim your religion is for peace then your action says otherwise. If your religion is so great, this little cartoon shouldn't affect you. You are better than that. Prove it by responding in a nonviolent way, otherwise you are agreeing with the cartoon.

Tim B - Vancouver, Canada, B.C.
I think we all need to grow some thicker skin. Everyone cool off and get along.

Barbara F. - Oakland, CA
There is no way I would ever have seen this cartoon, much less search for it on the web, if it had not been for the protests. Religious icons are blasphemed every day. The power this image has does not come from those who see it and may or may not "enjoy" it. Its power was bestowed by the angry Muslims who need to get some perspective and get a grip.

John D - Allentown, PA
If I was a Muslim and saw this I would think to myself, "Hey - is this how the world sees us?" Before you say it's only a few extremists and not representative of the whole religion, then why don't the non-extremists condemn it and why don't you see this in other religions?

Muslims' general reactions to these cartoons have been one of intolerance and violence. They are showing us that there is no room for a peaceful, democratic debate within their religion.

- Newburgh, New York
The Muslims' reaction is obviously political and hypocritical. They have opened the door to themselves for such attitude when they blew up two giant statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan in front cameras and showed the event all over the Muslim world. At least the Danish didn't destroy 1600 year old art when making their statement.

Matt Taylor - Concord, NH
The ridiculous reaction in the Islamic World to a cartoon does reinforce the point that the artist originally made -- that many Muslims have become intolerant and violent. History has taught us that extremism should be confronted rather than appeased. No apology is necessary.

Mohsin Sheikh - London, UK
So I've seen the cartoon now. What next? Why don't we have a cartoon showing a Rabbi blessing a leg-of-pork before it is served at the Sabbath dinner? I believe in freedom of speech, the press etc, etc.

Marco Antonio Rosas - Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico
I think that the Danish cartoonist went a bit too far, but still I support freedom of speech and think that Islam is an intolerant religion. Muslims can build Mosques in Paris, London and New York. Christians cannot build a shrine in Saudi Arabia. Muslims can protest in the streets of London, but Christians are not allowed to protest in Riyad or Lybia, who is more intolerant? I also think that Jesus, Moses or Mohamed must have had some sense of humour and if they saw their cartoons they would roll over laughing!!!

This event only shows us how far we have to travel yet to learn the lessons the founders of all the worlds religions tried to teach us. All the profits are up in heaven looking down at this foolishness and shaking their heads saying "Forgive them for they know not what they do." This does not demonstrate the lessons they wished to impart to us. This is just more of the unconsciousness and insanity of the human ego. Before you judge another look into a mirror and see where that judgment really impacts the most. Why do so many misguided souls try to give embodiment to these mass illusions of the egos righteousness? All the founding fathers taught Forgiveness as the door opener. Forgiveness is not needed for the supposed wrong doer but for ourselves where the illusion of wrong doing is held in our hearts. We do damage to ourselves whenever we harbor ill intent. What would Mohamed do? He would have us demonstrate love.

Brooklyn, NY
As someone has already noted above, to even depict Mohammed at all is considered an egregious blasphemy. Conversely, Christianity inundates those who observe it with all manner of Jesus schlock: at church, in the movies, on fiber-optic wall hangings, and so on. I agree with Mr. Pederson's statement that to compare Christianity in the West to Islam in the Middle East is to take an incredibly provincial stance on the matter, and to invoke freedom of expression as a cover for a plain lack of sensitivity is just embarrassing and culturally chauvinist.

My first reaction was, "Is this all that this furor is about?" We see images like this on every topic under the sun in newspapers in the west. It sums up opinion in a nutshell. The truth obviously hurts.

Janet Morgan - Oxford, UK
Christianity was at one time a very powerful and intolerant religion. People could be put to death for blasphemy and heresy. We are very glad in the West that we now have freedom of speech and we can even have a sense of humor about religion which is a very balancing thing. The West now sees Islam as being just as extreme and intolerant as Christianity once was and we do not want to experience this medieval fear in society again.

Robert Christian - Red Bank, NJ
I for one will buy EVERY DANISH PRODUCT I CAN FIND! Everybody: If you like the cartoons, BUY DANISH!

Mohamed Salem Soudani - Marrakech, Morocco
Freedom means responsibility. I spent my life as a teacher trying to bring Western and Muslim cultures together. Irresponsible people like those who published the cartoons -- people who can't even do the merest effort to understand the other are my worst challenge.

Well, if publishing offensive material is freedom of expression why does most of Europe and the US have 'anti Semite' laws, where even graffiti on French tombs is considered anti-Semitism and punishable by law!? If Muslims boycott Danish goods they are only exercising their right to eat cheese. Why the furor from the EU commissioner? The answer is that for a 'secular' society, money is GOD.

We should respect all religions no matter what. Islam extremely condemns any malice act against humanity. God will punish those who draw and publish those cartoons. Inshallah.

Emily Patch - Portland, OR
Cartoons are cartoonists and should be accepted as such. Regardless of fanatics on any front. Draw on! I personally adored the cartoons of the Holy Family as three very cute dogs. Muslims, welcome to this century. This religion should be no more or less sacrosanct than any other. Once more start laughing at themselves, perhaps there might be a return to the greatness of Medina Azahara.

Alex - Vancouver, Canada
No one has asked the question: What makes Muslims laugh? Jews have a sense of humor because it is the only way to survive when you are the chosen people... Christians have developed a sense of humor because it was the only way to bridge sin and salvation ... But what, I pray, makes Muslims laugh?

Mark Petit - Cleveland, OH
I think it is really important to make an educated judgment. I don't see any point to publish such cartoons. To receive respect we must show respect to others!

Muslims need to take responsibility for the radicals within their ranks and until they do, they have little room to complain. Islamic terrorism is inherently Islamic in nature, even if it is representative of a small number of Muslims. Muslims want it both ways -- to travel freely to democratic countries and retain their religious and cultural heritage. No one in the West begrudges that. Part of living in a democracy means a free exchange of ideas. I cheer the Muslims who exercise civil disobedience and political pressure. But the fatwahs are another matter.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Being a Hindu, I believe that Prophets and God are no ones' property. There have been hundreds of instances where Muslims have made similar cartoons of Hindu deities particularly of India. Hinduism ignores criticism of its Lords and Gods. Muslims must learn to do so. If God feels insulted He will take His own revenge on such men. Who are we to take revenge on behalf of God?

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
For Muslims this offends their deeply held belief that the prophets should never be depicted. We can respect that whilst still championing freedom of expression, but do we need to multiply the offence by using the same image to imply that Islam equals terrorism?

It always surprises me when members of a particular religion feel so sensitive about any perceived "attack." Surely their religion is strong enough to take criticism? Often the criticism is not of the belief, but the believer.

Raven Black - New York City, NY
If you don't like a God being portrayed in a certain manner ... don't buy that newspaper.The fact is we as Westerners have the right to do that, and to speak our mind. It's called a secular society ... one not to be dominated by religious dogma. All I can say is "Kudos" to the publishers of Jyllands-Posten. The following excerpt from FRANCE SOIR sums up my feelings: "There is nothing in these incriminated cartoons that intends to be racist or denigrate any community as such. Some are funny, others less so. That's it. That is why we have decided to publish them," he added. "No, we will never apologise for being free to speak, to think and to believe."

A Abdalla - Denver, C0
Any Christian or Jew who enjoys the insult of Ph.Mohamed (Pboh) has no regard for either Jesus or Moses. We Muslims love them all and defend them all.

Shawn Bozarth - Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
Doesn't this prove the point that the newspaper sought to prove? Modern Islam is an intolerant religion, which has never had a reformation or an enlightment. As long as something as small as a cartoon is seen as a critical threat to the existence of the religion, Islam will never develop the tolerance of different opinions necessary to support democracy and economic progress.

Laurie - New York City, New York
Mohamed Arafa, when it comes to art, indecency is in the eye of the beholder. I do not find that cartoon indecent, and if you do, so what? You have the right to turn the page.
Or even better, draw one of your own. There must be some Muslim cartoonist that can turn this cartoon on its head. Stop protesting, start drawing.

Joerg Schumacher - London, UK
My reaction to Jyllands-Posten publishing the cartoons was a halfhearted laugh. The aggressive Muslim reaction to Jyllands-Posten publishing the cartoons made me fall over with laughter. Reality is even more hilarious than fiction.

If one Muslim showed any sarcasm for Christ or any prophet what would the reaction be? Muslims would probably suffer big time for it. Is there no respect?

Freedom of speech doesn't mean that you have the right to hurt others. Denmark will pay the price as its products will be boycotted all over the world. I will not to use Danish products ever in my life.

Top article - as regards the first comment - Muhammed was peace loving and it is the juxtaposition of his values, which should lie at the heart of Islam, and those of many modern Muslims that gives the cartoon a point.

Warren S - San Francisco, CA
It seems that the golden rule is rather limited; "doing onto others as you would have them do onto you" only works when those "others" are like you. Being different is not wrong. The sign of a great people is one that respects the differences of those "others" among us.

Great piece. Religion is a very personal thing. I think people should understand the core values within a religion before challenging norms. Prophet Muhammmed was one of the most peace loving people who advocated the need for peaceful resolutions, which in fact is the soul of Islam.

Mohamed Arafa - Cairo, Egypt
There should be a more decent way to express your emotions and feelings.

Great article. Very informative.

Loved this piece. Great writing, great insight.