Muhammad cartoons can create dialogue

This past week, the world has seen mass uproar and riots from cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s most sacred prophet. While this story may seem like an interesting quick fix of sensational news coverage, there are more important socio-religious underpinnings that haven’t been addressed.

According to The Associated Press, the series of cartoons originally ran in a Danish newspaper in September 2005, but didn’t make headlines until now when newspapers across Europe decided to reprint them. Many Muslims around the world were outraged, and according to The New York Times, staged violent protests. Danish flags and embassies were torched in Lebanon and Syria, and several Muslim countries have called for the boycott of Danish goods.

It is easy to paint this picture as a simple “battle between Islam and the West,” but beyond the protests and riots is the touchy issue of Europe’s lack of religious integration.

In Islam, drawings of Prophet Muhammad are forbidden as a way to prevent Muslims from revering Muhammad as an object of worship.

The cartoons were the author’s interpretations of Prophet Muhammad. What Muslims were offended about was not just the fact that Muhammad was drawn in cartoon form. Obviously, a newspaper that chose to run this cartoon does not understand the impact it has with its Muslim readers. Therefore, it is important that Muslims around the world demand social acceptance and integration into society. This will most effectively teach these newspapers why the cartoons were wrong.

First and foremost, this editorial board condemns the Muslim radicals from this news story who try to speak in the name of Islam. They decided to avoid using this situation as a prime opportunity for dialogue and instead resorted to destructive measures.

Seriously, it’s a cartoon! As disrespectful as the cartoons may have been, the appropriate way to handle the situation was through a more democratic process. Letters to the editor and guest columns are the best way to counter the ignorance from the cartoon. Setting buildings on fire only perpetuates the ignorance further and closes the door of dialogue.

The European press has been almost as irresponsible in this quagmire. Knowing the impact and turmoil this story has created, many European media outlets continue to run the cartoons.

On one hand, this editorial board would always like to defend the interests of an independent press. It was no surprise when the European newspapers used “freedom of speech” as a defense to publish the cartoons.

At the same time, as even the Stater has learned recently, newspapers have a responsibility toward their audiences. These cartoons have proven they have the potential to incite riots. Then why have a hand in continuing the violence further by publishing them? Because everyone else is?

The more important (not to mention more responsible) news hook in this story is the “Islamophobia” trend in Europe. Why are anti-Muslim cartoons socially acceptable? Imagine the same Danish newspaper publishing anti-Semitic cartoons.

European Muslims want to be treated more like Europeans and less like immigrant peons. Understanding this demand is crucial.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.