BUFFALO, N.Y. — A magazine published by the science and reason-driven Center for Inquiry will publish some of the cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that have provoked deadly protests among Muslims worldwide.
Free Inquiry‘s April-May issue, to be released March 15, will include four of the drawings which originally appeared in a Danish newspaper in September, the magazine’s editors said Wednesday.
Editor Tom Flynn said the magazine was acting in solidarity with several European newspapers which have reprinted the drawings, demonstrating a commitment to free expression and a free press.
Also driving the decision was the Center for Inquiry’s mission to promote freedom of inquiry “in all areas of human endeavor.”
“No religious teaching, community, or institution should be held immune from criticism simply because of its religious nature,” Flynn said.
Tens of thousands of people have massed in protest of the cartoons as recently as this past weekend. About 50,000 people, many chanting “Hang those who insulted the prophet,” rallied in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Sunday. In Turkey, about 20,000 protesters chanted anti-Danish slogans in the city of Erzurum, reports said.
Islamic tradition bars depiction of Muhammad to prevent idol worship, which is strictly prohibited.
Free Inquiry will publish with the cartoons three articles: one by Flynn tracing the controversy and explaining the decision; a commentary by R. Joseph Hoffmann, director of the Council for Secular Humanism’s Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, and a historic look at representations of the prophet.
Among the four caricatures to appear is one depicting Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse and one showing horns coming out of the prophet’s turban. Another cartoon, showing a Muslim male face with Islam’s star and crescent “is included as an example of how the collection’s less sharply focused entries fell flat,” Flynn wrote.
“As cartoons go, there’s certainly an enormous disconnect between their relative blandness and the furious response they have engendered across the Muslim world,” he wrote.
The decision to publish the drawings was met with “sorrow” in the local Muslim community, said Arif Desai, imam of the Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier in Amherst, where the Center for Inquiry also is headquartered.
“We feel sorrow, we feel hurt and insulted as these are very disturbing, insulting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad,” Desai said. “Obviously, we know and believe in freedom of speech, but along with freedom of speech comes responsibility.”
He said he did not anticipate any violent reaction, saying most Muslims, by now, have come to terms with the existence of the drawings.
Dr. Khalid Qazi, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, declined to comment on Free Inquiry’s decision without seeing what the magazine had planned.
However, Qazi on Feb. 28, issued a letter in response to publication of at least one of the cartoons by a weekly alternative newspaper in Buffalo earlier last month.
“Freedom of expression is an integral part of Islam as well as the other Monotheistic Abrahamic Faiths (Judaism and Christianity). The question is where the freedom of expression ends and media responsibility begins,” he wrote.
“We need to realize that the global village is like a packed theatre,” Qazi said. “Good judgment is required before one yells `fire’ even in the name of the freedom of speech.”
Paul Kurtz, editor-in-chief at Free Inquiry, said the cartoons raised important questions about the limits that can be placed on freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression is a precious liberty basic to our democracy, the protection of which, we believe, far outweighs the possible consequences from those who might be offended,” Kurtz said.
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