Page last updated at 09:17 GMT, Monday, 6 February 2006

Are protests over cartoons justified?

Indonesian Muslim protesters burn a Danish flag
Are the protests over the publication in Europe of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad justified?

Fresh demonstrations are being made by Muslims angered by the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September.

The latest protests have seen the Danish embassy in Beirut set on fire, with police firing tear gas to control the crowd.

Should the European press have published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad? What is your reaction to the protests? How do you see the boundaries of freedom of expression versus religious offence? Send us your comments.

We are running this style of debate due to technical problems. We apologise to all our readers and contributors and will return to normal service as soon as possible.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Freedom of speech can be limited by libel laws or national security considerations
John Winn, Cambridge, UK
If I find a publication offensive, I don't buy it. Those insulted by these cartoons are free to ignore them. However, in attempting to restrict the freedom of speech of the Jyllands-Posten, protestors have given these cartoons worldwide coverage. Freedom of speech can be limited by libel laws or national security considerations, but not by hurt feelings.
John Winn, Cambridge, UK

I don't think they should have been published. Freedom of speech is one thing, but offensive material is another. Can anyone answer this question though: if Islam dictates that Muslims do not create images of any living thing, why are there huge paintings of the Supreme Leader of Iran all over Tehran?
Vicky Probyn, Macclesfield, England

Ok, so perhaps Jyllands-Posten should not have published those cartoons. I do not think they realised the scale of offence they could have caused but they have apologised now and I am sure that all religions teach forgiveness. I think these protests are far too extreme for the offence and this has now gone beyond protesting; this is just mindless violence.
Barb, England

This seems to be more like rioting than protesting
David, Austin, USA
This seems to be more like rioting than protesting. How does responding to a depiction of a religion's prophet as inherently violent by using violence make any sense? It really doesn't. Muslims are frustrated, and these events seem to show what a different world I live in as an American and as a westerner. I don't think those protesting can see a distinction between a country's media and its government. The cartoon was insensitive, but so are so many programs and columns in western media. In a democracy, one has a right to show how ignorant they are. Just look at talk radio or editorial columns. Apparently this can't be so in the Muslim world. Please, leave Denmark to be. They are a peaceful and tolerant nation.
David, Austin, USA

I think that the printing of the cartoons was ill advised. However, it does appear that there is an orchestrated campaign by people who seek to create problems where none exist. Christians have long suffered the ridicule that the benefits of "free speech" bring to a free society. We will not allow such people to drag us back from the free and tolerant society that it has taken hundreds of years to reach!
Ray Gore, Saltash, Cornwall

There are no limits to get popularity. Media doesn't respect any values, even religious beliefs. Christians usually pass over offensive publication. I hope Muslim protests against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad make the journalists respect religious values in the future.
Peter, Warsaw, Poland

What do you want to contribute to the well-being of the world in its present state when you invite artists, as the Danish newspaper did, to make cartoons of the prophet Mohammed well knowing that this will upset many Islamic practitioners?
Jakob de Swaan Arons, The Netherlands

29th December 2005 - BBC Online: "A controversy has erupted in Austria over a public arts project depicting Queen Elizabeth II, George W Bush and Jacques Chirac apparently having sex". The artist was asked to remove the image immediately as it had offended many Europeans. My point is that here we are talking about a case of a society where sex is not a taboo, and about those featured in the image: Queen Elizabeth; Chirac; and Bush who are not prophets. How naive are those who are giving a mouth-gapping response about Muhammad's cartoon controversy: "Oops- why such a hue and cry over a cartoon showing the Prophet of Islam as a terrorist?" The point is- some images do provoke for whatever reasons! I appreciate Jack Straw's courage of conviction to call them insensitive and wrong.
Maleeha, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Nobody else claims to be responsible for my actions
Arnr Snr, Reykjavk, Iceland
We humans have a free will. We can choose whether and how to react given a situation. Nobody else claims to be responsible for my actions, and therefore i don't lay the burden of responsibility on anyone else. In the case of these cartoons, some people claim that they have been insulted and they must respond. To claim that is to not be responsible of your own actions. If we let our law's, self determination and freedoms slide because of few deeply religious people we are heading to a theocratic way of life.
Arnr Snr, Reykjavk, Iceland

I do not agree that the Muslim religion should be insulted, my religion is vilified almost daily, but I wouldn't burn down the embassy or homes of the people who insult my religion, tolerance is far better and hurts no-one.
JSB, Derby

People defending the publication of these cartoons keep using the "freedom of expression" argument. But I would like to say, that I am 100% sure that if one day a Muslim or anyone else was to right an Anti-Semitic article and publish it in a newspaper would not all the world criticise and attack the newspaper that published the article? Even though that's freedom of speech. So please stop the hypocrisy, and work harder in building bridges between the Islamic world and the Western society than digging holes!
Ahmed, Dublin, Ireland

Yes, the press worldwide should join the European press in taking a stand for free expression and should reprint the cartoons. The average Muslim is shrugging at the cartoons the same as the average Christian would shrug at someone running a cartoon about Jesus. I'd just like to know who is behind delivering bus loads of "demonstrators" with professionally printed signs to Danish facilities in the Middle East. These are not spontaneous outbreaks of violence; someone is orchestrating it.
John, Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Let's have some common sense; we will have to live even more closely in this global age
Zafer Korkmaz, London
What a great opportunity it has been for those, on both sides, who are watching these scenes with a grim look on their face! These scenes do not represent Muslims on the whole, just like the Danish having nothing to do with the cartoonist's perception of Islam. Calm down people! The point is taken! Leave the ordinary Danes alone. Let's have some common sense; we will have to live even more closely in this global age. Learn more about each other rather than relying on third persons' account or pictures!
Zafer Korkmaz, London

Firstly, it's a very funny thing that most of us talking about what we didn't see. The key myth is how to define the word "insult", both inside Middle East countries and rest of world. Another very important thing is that we begin to realize we have to face whole Muslim world if we are to have some debate in our own country. By the way, the freedom of expression is that you accept something you don't like if it is legal.
Lee, Denmark

Why should the rules against drawing Mohammed apply to people who don't believe in Islam? Because it is apparently highly offensive to those who do believe! We still have our "freedoms" but seem to have totally lost sight of responsible behaviour along the way. By exercising your "rights" you must also accept the "right of response", irrespective of whether or not we find it also offensive. This is democracy, isn't it?
Paintbluecat, UK

The argument that free speech is a black and white issue is faulty
Bobby, Tokyo, Japan
There are limits to free speech. Would we just shrug if Le Monde published a cartoon of the Virgin Mary as a cheap prostitute and child murderer? I personally don't believe the cartoon was so bad but the argument that free speech is a black and white issue is faulty.
Bobby, Tokyo, Japan

This is not freedom of expression but its the freedom of insulting.
Hussein El -Eit, Dubai, UAE

I agree that the cartoons published could cause offence to Muslims throughout the world. However, I am equally outraged at seeing UK Muslims calling for more attacks on Europe, and the police and government just standing by and doing nothing. Was a law not recently introduced to stop this type of hard-line religious action? If these Muslims clearly have these feelings towards Europe and the Western democratic way of life, then why are they here? I am sure they don't mind the financial rewards our stable democratic country brings to them. I have made many friends and enjoyed the company of people from a different ethnic background. But now I feel I am no longer represented by a hypocritical soft government.
Pearson, Yorkshire

If there is a line drawn for freedom of expression, would it still be freedom of expression? This is where ethics and purpose come in, with no courtesy and disregard to Islam were these caricatures published. For what purpose do they serve? What were the publishers thinking they would achieve? Is the controversy and widespread chaos brought because of this worth to what the publishers wanted to portray and achieve? Moreover, idealism was never the great motivator, but money is. The publishers just wanted something to make a quick buck. And look what it escalated into. This isn't a debate on freedom of expression, rather a proof that insensitivities brought by greed can escalate into something really deadly.
Muhammad, Brunei

Respect all religions for their good deeds in society. Let us never ever have a gagged press in this world.
Hargraves R.H.A., Durban, South Africa

The violence the Muslims are causing is not a part of Islam
Aaliyah, London
I would like to say that the violence the Muslims are causing is not a part of Islam, and should be stopped and therefore I apologise on behalf of my faith. Emotions can sometimes be uncontrollable however actions can. The Holy Qur'an teaches tolerance, and if something hurts you, you should deal with it in a peaceful manner. The Danish people are not to blame, so the burning of flags is not the proper way of Islam. The papers that published the pictures of Prophet Muhammad should have also realised that this would have hurt many people's faith and would have definitely caused outrage, regardless of whether they follow Islam or not. Prophet Muhammad was well known for his peaceful behaviour as proved by his biography, but sadly Muslims today have failed to show the rest of the world what Islam really is, and so the wrong impression has been portrayed about our Beloved Prophet. If anything, only the fanaticss should be blamed for the violence but not our Prophet. If only our Prophet was here today, he would have certainly ended all this in the most peaceful manner possible.
Aaliyah, London

The slant I would take is, how many of the protesters world wide have actually seen these drawings, a small percentage no doubt, yet they have allowed themselves to be manipulated into outrage on the word of extremists.
M C Brewer, Rawmarsh, UK

The events of the last few days have opened up the cracks in the social divide between those that are faithful to guided principles and those who believe in uncompromised liberal rights where one can say/do as they please under the umbrella of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech should be exercised so long as it does not offend or hurt any individual or groups in any way, else it would just be pure insult and therefore provoking reaction. Have we forgotten the lessons from history of the Nazi era? If I was to insult ones dead mother by ridicule in a cartoon is that seen as freedom of speech, it would seem yes in this society. Where does the buck stop? I must also point out that the Danish government should not be held to blame for this fiasco, it cannot defend all the magazines and newspapers that publish at will. The magazine in question has as I believe apologised for insulting Muslims in the worse way possible. I hope that my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters will keep our protests peaceful and not resort to any violence, as this is not the way of Islam. As Muslims we cannot tolerate such ridicule of our prophet (pbuh), which is not completely understood by non-Muslims who don't understand what all the fuss is about.
K Rahman, Southampton, UK

I understand they are offended by the cartoons. But this is really going too far now. Setting fire to buildings, making death threats (talking about beheading and another 9/11) is out of order too. I can't see how or why they are all getting away with it. I agree that they should be arrested - the ones setting fire to buildings - arson, and with the placards saying those things about 9/11. Enough!
Joe, Canterbury

It is such actions of the Muslim world that allows the "West" to ridicule our entire people
Saba, Fremont, USA
I have not seen the cartoons but I have read enough to feel that they were in very poor taste. I too believe in the freedom of speech but what good is it when it insults a nation? If other prophets are mocked that is not something to be proud of or use as currency here yet if people believe mocking people, religious beliefs and condemning an entire faith is "freedom of speech" I do not see much point of this freedom of speech. There is talk of how the Muslims need to learn that the West has liberal newspapers... what does that mean? That Muslims of the Western world have no feelings and that its ok to label an entire faith as terrorists? Freedom of speech to polarize people in the present environment cannot be excused. It appears the cartoons were commissioned to ridicule the prophet Muhammad and Muslims. It does not appear to be a freedom of speech issue anymore. If the intent was to show Muslims as terrorists, it would appear that the objective was reached, judging by the given present reaction from some Muslims in some countries. I am a Muslim and I think insulting an entire faith by calling them and their leader a terrorist is uncalled for. I am equally offended by the Muslim reaction to all this. How are Muslims less offensive if they set ablaze buildings and cause riots and send out death threats. It is such actions of the Muslim world that allows the "West" to ridicule our entire people. I have lost faith in the so called liberal view of the Western media as knowing the present climate they chose to print something that may offend some. I have been disappointed once more by the Muslims of this world... how is a Muslim who hurts another any better than those who hurt by printing offensive cartoons? If Muslims are so proud of their faith then show how you can rise above all this... do something such that no Western "liberal" media can use against you....
Saba, Fremont, USA

I don't have a problem at all with criticising or disagreeing with any religion. But no one should have the right to insult people's belief, no matter what faith it is. However, I'm a Muslim and am absolutely disgusted by some of these protesters. It is very upsetting to see the Danish flag being burnt and death threats being made. These protestors should be arrested.
Kamran, London

There's really no hope for peace and mutual understanding is there? It seems to me religious tolerance has been replaced by the need to provoke conflict at any opportunity I wonder how many of these sad protesters have actually read the Koran, not many judging by their reactions. It's a sad world we live in, I wish they were protesting about world famine.
Steve, UK

It hurts, it's really insulting, and it didn't happen for the first time, these pictures were published again and again, it exposes the western mind. Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. They actually don't understand Islam.
Sajid, Lahore, Pakistan

This situation has spiralled ridiculously out of control! On one hand you got a maybe slightly offensive satirical cartoon and on the other you have the burning of flags, nations embassy's being burnt down and banners that can only be described as spreading a message of evil! I think this shows the Muslim community in a very bad light. I don't think anyone can complain about legitimate, peaceful protest but I'm afraid this has gone too far!
Jon, Dover

We all have boundaries of ethics and our rights of the freedom of expression should stop where the rights of others begin
Riaz Bagha, Sudbury, Canada
Please allow me to put this into context. For too many years Islam and Muslims have been demonized, ridiculed and mocked at without regard for the feelings and hurt this causes to law abiding citizens in different societies. This over-reaction, if we call it that, is a result of such actions. Most media coverage hardly mentions the positive contribution that Islam and Muslims have made or are making to the present world we live in. There appears to be a subconscious animosity regarding Muslims pervading most media likened to: "these heathens..." ( with all its negative connotations). I would also like to advise Muslims that the Creator (remember I am a Muslim) created us all and there are very good people in every society and religion. We have to be very careful that we do not trample the rights of the innocent who have nothing to do with this. This reaction in almost all Muslims is a deep sense of love for the prophet of Islam and the reaction is "the straw that broke the camels back". I also view cartoons and jokes on any prophet of God, be it Moses or Jesus Christ (peace be on them all) in poor taste and make a very conscious effort not to read them, however funny they may appear to be. We all have to respect our dead who lived to teach us to do good. We all have boundaries of ethics and our rights of the freedom of expression should stop where the rights of others begin.
Riaz Bagha, Sudbury, Canada

The protests are justified, but that question is an insignificant issue. Those who find the cartoons offensive have every right to protest, boycott, etc, etc. The important issue here is that the published cartoons are being used as an excuse to destroy property and make death threats, which I assume, are against the law in the countries that these activities are taking place. Moreover, leaving the "law" issue aside, is it that if we cannot convince someone of our beliefs that we will beat them until they are convinced? If that is the case, we might as well don loin cloths, grab a hefty club and start marking our territory.
Jay, Greenville, Ms, USA

I, as a Lebanese Christian, strongly object to any insult to any religion whatsoever and vehemently condemn the caricatured drawings in an irresponsible Danish newspaper; however, what happened today in Beirut and the extent of the critical developments goes far beyond a democratic and rightful protest.
Joseph Daniel, Beirut, Lebanon

Playing with religious beliefs is not the way you express your freedom of speech
Sultan Anwar, Sydney, Australia
Violent protest is not the way to protest and send your massage. But a peaceful protest will do nothing to send a storng massage out there. Playing with religious beliefs is not the way you express your freedom of speech, especially when you know what's going on in and around the world.
Sultan Anwar, Sydney, Australia

There is not doubt that the cartoons were in bad taste- however I think the editor did not realise the significance of the error. What is shocking is that some Muslims believe that they need to be violent to protect Mohammad, as if today they are mightier then Mohammad and he needs their protection. Also, just because one Danish reporter, editor of one newspaper makes that statement, that does not make all Danish bad. I know there are many civilised and compassionate Muslims who have true faith and understanding that do not want to be part of this violence - and I exempt them from my comments when I refer to Muslims above.
Kay, USA

I believe the cartoons should not have been published. The reaction of the Muslims, after all that has happened in the past few years, was obvious. Who likes to be portrayed as a killer? However I am not for the protests carried out by the people who call them selves 'Muslims'. As Islam is about peace, it's understandable that they are angry, but what can you do? What's done is done. There is no going back now. Learn from what has happened, so that history does not repeat itself.
Maryam, Leicester

This has gone entirely too far. It's a cartoon, people! There is a tremendous cognitive dissonance in Muslims responding to a cartoon suggesting their prophet is a violent terrorist by committing violent, terrorist acts. I strongly believe in freedom of expression, especially the freedom to express potentially offensive ideas. But right now, watching the Pan-Islamic world explode in violence, I know that reproducing the cartoons for public review would only worsen matters. I have, in effect, had my freedom of expression taken away by this breathtaking overreaction.
Jonathan Lyons, Lewisburg, USA

I wonder what the reaction would be if a Muslim paper published cartoons mocking Jesus Christ or any other aspect of other religions? Yes, violence is not the key to solve the problem because I can say with certainty that the prophet (PBUH) would never have reacted in such a way, however I can understand the offence and outrage caused. The Media should not hide behind the 'freedom of speech' to insult and cause offence.
Amreen, Leicester

Freedom of speech cannot exist without the sense of responsibility, otherwise we might turn this world into a wild jungle.
Fahad Zafar, Pakistan

Reactions have been completely outrageous
Martin Jackson, Bath, UK
The cartoons were clearly insensitive and bound to upset Muslims around the world, who I believe deserved an apology for this. However, reactions have been completely outrageous - the violence is appalling, and the burning of national flags and embassies is far more offensive than any cartoon could ever be. In the West we are trying to keep an objective view of Islam and to realise that violent Muslims are in the minority, but aggressive protests like this make it ever harder to do so.
Martin Jackson, Bath, UK

The Danish and Norwegian governments do not control the media. The opinion of the media doesn't reflect the opinion of the people. If a Muslim does something wrong in Norway should we then punish every Muslim? Should we burn down their houses? You are burning down embassies because of something two persons out of ten million have done.
Norwegian, Norge

I have been living in Denmark for the past couple of months and from what I have seen I do not believe that Danes would do something like this on purpose. For me, that cartoon was a way of saying that violence and non-freedom in the Moslem countries is often referred to as Islam and as a mission from the Lord. The fact that the terrorists are talking about Lord and faith while killing people in the West is ridiculous. For me, this cartoon was a way of asking: is this faith? Is this what Lord wants from us, to bomb and kill in his name? Has the Prophet asked from people to kill when he was setting the religion? I am also a journalist and I do believe that this is the matter of the freedom of speech and that Danes shouldn't withdraw from this. The newspapers have apologised and explained what their purpose was and that should be enough. I am a Catholic and just like one person here said, my religion has been insulted for ages but do we bomb and kill others for doing so? I have seen Brits insulting the Pope many times but have their embassy been bombed because of that? I also don't remember that anyone ever apologised. So, aren't we all the same?
Martina, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The government of Denmark and the people of Denmark should not be held responsible for the actions of a few newspapers. Much the same as Muslims should not be held responsible for the destruction of 9/11.
TC, USA

Fanatics are addicted to hate
Antonella Massari, Bristol, UK
IMHO, the reaction of Islam is justified, but the expression of that outrage was efficiently hijacked by extremist and agitators. It is an engineered, staged outrage, recruiting others to the cult, not of Allah, but of hate! Those protesters who hijacked rallies with hatemongering placards fall into three categories: 1) Those who genuinely want to make capital of this for their own political, extremist ends 2) Those who want to impress their mates and girlfriends by showing off their knitted eyebrows, serious little faces, and loud, gruff voices chanting hyper-pious militancy 3) Those that would follow any crowd waving any placards, just to belong, who'd rather befriend the hyped-up wannabes than be left to their sad, lonely, boring lives! I choose not to judge all Muslims by these pathetic few, perhaps others will choose to do the same. 99.99% of Muslims are wonderful people, irrespective of their Faith. This incident has confirmed my feelings, though: that all religious fundamentalisms are based on hate, despite the pious protestations to the contrary! Fanatics are addicted to hate, they get their kicks out of it and if it weren't Islam, they'd find something else to hate people for. Look at American Christian Fundamentalism, there is so much hate in all that they say...
Antonella Massari, Bristol, UK

It is a little disheartening to see comments justify the cartoons of Muhammad simply because Christianity continues to be faced with the same. Simply put it is not that we do not take offence as may be suggested, it is that we find it more virtuous to forgive. In essence all people should do the same.
Hillary, Winnipeg, Canada

Religion is a means of power directed at the masses wielded by the powerful for their own benefit. How can you justify beheading people over a drawing? Surely the fact that people are prepared to do this in the name of a prophet is, in fact, idolatry the very thing they espouse to reject.
Peter, Bristol

When one plays religious cards, the stakes are high. The Danes are hurt economically and politically all for the freedom of press.
Ng Cheng Cheong, Singapore

How does a threat of revenge help solve the situation?
Ryan, Birmingham, UK
The cartoons are offensive, yes, but how does a threat of revenge help solve the situation? The protestors have shown pure racial hatred, chants of "your 9/11 will come" are pathetic, and as a proud British citizen where all cultures are welcome, racial hatred should not be accepted! If Muslims wish to convince the world they live with a peace loving culture, how does this help? I feel these protestors are very shallow and do not respect any of our freedoms!
Ryan, Birmingham, UK

Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech. However, no one should be allowed to offend ones culture or be a racist. In this incident all those European countries who have published the cartoons have insulted the Islamic culture and in a way it is a racist attack on the Muslims. These people are highly educated and are playing offensive games. The important question we need to ask is who is really behind this? There are a lot of top notches who like to stir trouble.
BT, Essex England

I find the violence shown by the Muslim protestors to be far more offensive than a cartoon could ever be. A cartoon is a drawing on a piece of paper. Slogans demandIing people be beheaded in revenge and setting fire to buildings is outrageous. It seems to me that the Muslim protestors are behaving in a way that was satirised by the cartoon.
Lesley Morgan, Coventry, UK

Freedom of speech cannot be silenced by threats of violence
J Kilgore, KS, USA

I heartily commend those Euro papers that printed the cartoons. What is at stake is clear. Freedom of speech, even offensive, especially offensive, cannot be silenced by threats of violence.
J Kilgore, KS, USA

Despite your exceedingly well balanced explanation for not publishing the cartoons directly, you, along with CNN and the Washington Post have failed a critical test of the free press. You are indeed being spineless in not supporting the publication of a perfectly legitimate political caricature in the face of Moslem threats and consummation of violence. Is the BBC still part of the Western World and Value system? This is not about sensitivity; it is about a fundamental aspect of our civil society.
James Coone, Fairport, N.Y, USA

Firstly we have to ask ourselves, is there a redline that can't be crossed with freedom of expression? If the answer is 'no' then i can deny the holocaust without fear, as this would be my right to free speech. If the answer is 'yes', then surely the sanctity of religion is well beyond that redline. People of all religions have in the past and even now, given their lives for the sake of their religious beliefs. Freedom of speech should end when it intrudes on the freedom of others.
Alexander, Birmingham

I am a Catholic and have seen my religion ridiculed all my life. It is not unusual for the Pope or the clergy to be made fun of, or even Jesus himself. But Christians bear it, ignore it and get on with life. After all, everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion and has a right to express it in whatever way he/she sees fit. Even if I may think it is wrong or blasphemous. I don't go around blowing up embassies. How does this 'protest' solve anything? It only makes matters worse. All this fuss over a CARTOON! Talk about overreaction.
Frances, London

These objections to freedom of speech are irrational and insane. To claim freedoms are conditional is a contradiction in terms.
Hadam Hiram, Los Angeles USA

I believe in today's political climate it was unwise to publish such a cartoon. I also don't see the point of mocking someone else's religion. What if the shoe was on the other foot and a Muslim paper published a cartoon mocking Jesus Christ or some aspect of Christianity? For sure even a greater hell would be raised. I believe the folks who published this want to provoke rage and hatred.
T.A., Virginia, USA

I am deeply saddened by what the Danish press depicted about our Prophet (PBUH) it is most certainly going to offened many Muslims. You are questioning one's religion, but however at the same time you are insulting them, how can you expect people to be understanding in return? However, violence and threats are not the way forward, so far they've achieved nothing have they? Pictures of the holocaust will most certainly offend the Jewish population, as it is a sensitive subject to so many people. So why be so insensitive in this case?
Kash, Windsor

The press must use their own intelligence and be responsible
Donf, Frankfurt, Germany
As usual, the press do as they please, whether it be publishing unsubstantiated lies about whoever they choose, or this kind of irresponsible stupidity. What the hell has this achieved? The press must use their own intelligence and be responsible for their actions. Well done all of you newspapers who have reprinted the caricatures - brilliant contribution to people understanding and tolerating each other.
Donf, Frankfurt, Germany

Freedom of speech is just used as a scapegoat to dignify things that are undignified and to spread hatred. Western media has always tried to seek drawbacks in Islam and Muslims and now the BELOVED PROPHET(PBUH).
Ather, Toronto, Canada

The notices on the banners in last week's march were violent and offensive to all British people, these marchers should be brought to justice for racial and religious hatred.
Carl, Newcastle

The problem here is not one of freedom of speech versus religious sensitivity, it is one of intolerance. Most muslims live in societies where religious beliefs are extremely homogenous and therefore they simply don't have to deal with differing ideology on a daily basis. In the west we encounter different ideologies all the time, some of which are insulting to our own beliefs.

A lot of British Muslims have been incensed at the cartoons and see them as insulting to their religion and have decided to protest in order to show how angry and upset they are with our "Western values". Do they not understand that it is exactly these same values that give them the freedom to express this anger in this way?
Paul Cartwright, Doncaster, England

I cherish my freedom of speech and will not be intimidated
Anthopny, Amsterdam
I am sick and tired of people on this forum stating that "freedom of speech does not mean freedom to insult" That is EXACTLY what it means!!! We are in the enlightened west and the majority of people have learned to question religion to a point where it has been made redundant due to its ridiculousness. I cherish my freedom of speech and will not be intimidated or dictated to.
Anthopny, Amsterdam

As a trainee Religious Education teacher, I am saddened by recent events. Of course these cartoons should not have been printed. This is a multi-faith society, and because of this we have to respect other people's faiths. Depicting Muhammad is against the Islamic religion. It would be one matter if it was a normal drawing, but it was not, it was a drawing of The Islamic Prophet as a terrorist!! And we wonder why there is so much hate in the world today.
Adele, Liverpool, UK

Most Muslims wouldn't of minded if they just drew normal pictures of Mohammed but the cartoons showed him to be a blood sucking terrorist, which is insultive as that means they see all muslims as terrorists and totally untrue.
Ibrahim Rfidah, Broadstairs

While there is no excuse for us Muslims to expect a government to apologize for an independent newspaper, the newspaper also should not hide behind the "freedom of speech" to insult and provoke.
Peshtaz, Hampshire

How dare they! Freedom of speech must not be compromised and no apologies are in order. I hope the cartoon is published in the newspapers in America and every other country that values free speech. I was very disappointed today when I looked at my local paper and saw there was not even a story in the paper about this event.
Bill May, Saint Louis USA

An insult is an insult. That is why we protest
Ahmed Omar, Malaysia
You insulted our prophet, full stop. An insult is an insult. That is why we protest.
Ahmed Omar, Malaysia

Here we go again... this time a batch of offensive cartoons attack a fundamenal tenet of Islam have served to bring about another wave of Islamophobia due to people's lack of understanding. The minority who march the streets in London with alarming placards again get their misrepresentative voices heard by the press playing into the hands of those on the right wing.
Omar, London

There was a time when things like this started wars. A flag is a representation of a nation of people, burning a flag is the same as setting fire the people and their ideals. What would happen if I burned a Syrian or Palastinian flag?
Jon, London, UK

Perhaps those incensed to violence should review in the scriptures how Jesus responded in love to those who ridiculed him. I believe that Jesus is respected as a prophet in the Islamic faith as well as the centre of the Christian faith.
Andrew, Banbury

Actions speak louder than words. If Muslims want non-Muslims to believe their religion is about peace and tolerance, then they need to act in a peaceful and tolerant way.
Jim, USA

People of all religions and cultures need to stand firm against those who will use violence to suppress free speech.
Trevor, London

I know that most people - non-muslims as well as muslims, are civil people who understand that we should be sensitive to what others hold dear to them. I feel proud to live in a society where I will not be insulted on the basis of my colour, race or creed. Freedom of speech does not permit people to be uncivil and to insult and ridicule others. Those that do are immature, cowards who know no other way of using their intellects to express and engage themselves in civil discourse.
Muslima, Coventry

This represents a low point in social cohesion, here and across Europe
Andy Bywater, Worcester, UK
Although this represents a low point in social cohesion, here and across Europe, for me the real tragedy is the complete failure of credibility of British law. Less than a week after legislation banning acts inciting religious hatred, we see the police protecting those committing this act, whilst completely ignoring the offence caused to others. A sad day for rule of law.
Andy Bywater, Worcester, UKk

BBC, please stop referring to what happened in Lebanon and Syria as protests. And stop calling those people protestors. They are criminals and hooligans engaged in mob violence.
Garth Olcese, Warsaw, Poland

I feel very let down by these cartoon images revealed of our beloved prophet (peace be upon him). These images should not have been published, we don't know how our prophet looks like and we take respect of that. As a matter of fact this had let down the muslim communities and we feel that this should not happen ever again. There should be an apology made by the Danish press who published these images.
Raakesh Bhatti, Middlesex

If we are so bad in the west why do many muslims want to move here???
Brigitta, Copenhagen,Denmark

I simply think this issue has become far too politicised, and blown greatly out of proportion. Yes, there should have been apologies where there weren't, I agree, but the cartoons certainly do not justify the violent demonstrations and burning down of embassies. There are people out there serving their own agendas, and the western media (bent on the notion of freedom of expression) are simply playing into their hands.
Asma Qasim, Karachi, Pakistan

Those who cannot understand why Muslims are so outraged should sit back and think of those values which if ridiculed would cause them the same outrage, i.e. expression of freedom! Many Agnostics state that they can not see why Muslims are offended by a cartoon. There should be certain conventions for expression even in most liberal societies. For e.g. no proponent of "freedom of expression" would consider acceptable or funny the cartoon of a holocaust victim cheering and saying we are going to the state of Israel! We are outraged, because our countries, political leaders and cultures can be freely debated without blaspheming the founder of our religion.
Khalil Nasri, Sydney, Australia

Fine - we will change our laws and customs to ensure we don't offend Muslims, as long as they change those of their laws and customs that we find offensive. Islamic countries have every right to ban publication of cartoons they find offensive, but they have no right whatsoever to demand other countries do likewise.
David Bell, York, UK

I just can't believe that adults are behaving like this. If these were children on the street or in a playground, pleading that they're pet subject had been insulted, they'd be told to grow up. So please...Muslims, Christian...whatever your pet subject is....grow up before more people get hurt!
Steve, Smallfield, England

Yes, In the spirit of free speech they should be published. In the spirit of tolerance we should move on.
Graham, Oxford, England

I heard some British MP said that muslim demonstrators should be dealt with firmly by police and arrested for carrying placards. What happened to freedom of speech? Isn't it the right of an individual to express their thoughts, as long as they aren't carrying out violence? Since when can a sign kill someone? Thanks BBC for covering this issue extensively.
Mohamed, Australia

The Danish people and Denmark are not to blame
Anders Lund Madsen, Denmark

The Danish people and Denmark are not to blame in this matter. We are peaceful, friendly people. We go to work, we pay our taxes - and part of these we spend on the World's 3rd biggest third world aid programme. Amongst other things we use a lot of money and manpower to help restore decent life conditions for the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza. I'm NOT expecting thanks or anything like that. Just some mutual respect. I'm so damn tired of seeing someone burn my flags and my embassies. Please find someone else to shout at.
Anders Lund Madsen, Denmark

I am sure there are many, many believers in Islam who are not affected, nor surprised by the cartoons. These will be the true believers whose core beliefs are not weakened by what others say or do. Many of the people that are protesting most vigorously appear to base their beliefs more on what others think of them than their personal faith.
David S Maxwell, Aberdour, Scotland

Let's not delude ourselves into thinking that these demonstrations are any sort of expression of faith and devotion by the Muslim faith. What we are witnessing are the puppets of a few extremist clerics who are exploiting their position and the ignorance of their followers in order to create an atmosphere of religious hatred and intolerance.
David Hatch, UK

We live in a nanny state were we suffer excessive political correctness. The state tells us to be tolerant of other beliefs. Its a two way progression, we are told to respect their beliefs - what about respecting ours? We have our freedom of speech - our ancestors fought for that, we have lost so much in the past few years at least allow us to keep that.
Simon, London

Just because some cartoons expressing some people's views on Mohammed have been published in Denmark does NOT mean Denmark should be held to blame. In the row that has followed, there will be many people eager to see the cartoons that created this trouble, and newspapers/other news sources would not be fulfilling their job if they fail to show people the images that sparked this trouble. If newspapers fear to show these images, it only shows that Freedom of Speech can be prevented by a show of strength, which is disastrous for a free democratic country.
Mark, Croydon

Can anybody tell me why the rules against drawing Mohammed should apply to people who dont believe in islam?
A. Hansen, Copenhagen, Denmark

I think immigrants should assimilate our core values, not the other way round.
John Bailey, Darwen, England
Of course they should be published. This is the West, not an Islamic State. These are the values that make Britain GREAT. I think immigrants (illegal or not) should assimilate our core values, not the other way round. My ancestors who fought for a "Free" country must be turning in their graves.
John Bailey, Darwen, England

Religion and political expression are inextricably linked. The freedom to worship in our own way was a cornerstone in the development of Western democracy. The strict tenents of Islam create a culture which accepts authoritarian government. The two philosophies are incompatble. Why do we try and pretend otherwise?
Margaret Morgan, Berkhamsted

It's a sad fact that some Muslim people do nothing to help their cause. Do they honestly think that parading murderous banners and burning down foreign embassies and burning the flags where Muslim people live, helps them in their quest for acceptance in the West? I think not!
Ade, Chesterfield, UK

Why has it taken this long for the Muslims to protest? They should accept that if you live in this country we have freedom in the press and they must live by our rules. Also why have there been no arrests for the Muslims inciting racial hatred. A lot of the relatives of people who died in the 7/7 bombings were deeply hurt by they comments. There is one rule for them and another for us.
Susan Way, Maldon, Essex

These people resorting to violence just undermine their faith
Dan, London, UK

Yes they should have been published. These people resorting to violence just undermine there faith and demonstrate their lack of emotional intellgience, as do their governments letting them use mindless violence. Violence should be punished but Mr Cameron the right to protest should not.
Dan, London, UK

I for one believe that if the west gives ground on this issue we will be giving ground on many more, the goal should be co-existence of both, not submission of one.
j mitchell, stoke newington, london

I feel it's foolish for the newspapers involved to print the cartoons. However the reaction by some muslims around the world has been even more foolish. Images of themselves setting fire to an embassy, cheering whilst burning flags etc bring far deeper shame upon Islam than the insensitive and ignorant doodles of a newspaper cartoonist.
Brian Jones, Liverpool, UK

I haven't seen the pictures so I cannot comment either way. However death threats and destruction carried out by protesters will achieve nothing and send out the wrong message i.e we are a hateful and spiteful peoples!
Paul Humphreys, Essex

How does the publication of cartoons justify arson?
Laura, Zurich, Switzerland
How does the publication of cartoons justify arson?
Laura, Zurich, Switzerland

You either have free speech you you do not, no half way houses, no grey areas it is black and white!
Maurice, Newcastle

The whole point of freedom of speech is to mock and insult. It is not there so we can all be friendly and agree with each other, this is ridiculous. FREE SPEECH = FREEDOM TO INSULT. That is the entire point of it.
Damien, UK

Why are Muslim protesters permitted to carry placards inciting murder and violence on Britains Streets? If this had come from the BNP or any other organisation the Police would have been sent in.
Mark B, Lincolnshire

As a Muslim (and not having seen said cartoons) I do find it in poor taste to mock a religion but then I am against this whatever religion might be affected. However I do agree that those so called muslims who protest and rasie banners to insight violence should have been arrested by the police. I also do find it a little hypocritcal. When the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks occurred the whole muslim worls stood up and said not to judge the whole religion based on a few terrorists. Now we have one newspaper who printed cartoons and the muslim world is making all Danish people responsible. The Muslim world deplores violence and teaches Islam is a peaceful religion but here we are watching a Danish Embassy burn and images of people asking for the people behind the cartoon to be beheaded. I say "Wake up" and think before acting.
Ateek, Leeds, UK

The London protesters calling for death and destruction of the West are a disgrace. If it was the BNP marching with such banners they would be arrested. Why are the Moslem protesters treated so leniently and allowed to fuel the growing angusih and distrust of all Moslems in the UK?
Omar, France

The situation is now clearly out of proportion
G Home, Ripon
In these columns I see the words "must" and "respect" in juxtaposition. Respect can never be demanded, neither can free speech be condemned except in a totalitarian state. A sense of proportion should be used and the situation is now clearly out of proportion.
G Home, Ripon

Cartoons of this nature shouldn't be given a second thought and certainly not attract the publicity they have. Most people would not have seen them but for Muslim reactions to them. So muslims themselves have served to give them noteriety and a world platform. They're just tasteless get over it.
M Allen, Beaconsfield Australia

Boycott companies, torch embassies and cut off diplomatic ties all because an extreme minority (11 people) publish one cartoon that this is occurring. Boycotts such as that on Danish companies like Arla Foods and the actions in Beirut. These actions hurt others in a chain effect. Basically, some people in the Islamic World are punishing others for the actions of an extreme minority. This is a giant ode to hypocrisy that a majority is punished for the actions of a small minority, yet when anyone generalizes suicide bombers with other Muslims they cry foul.
Robert Langdon, Melbourne, Australia

If only it were possible to go planet hopping and maybe find one with no religion, anything to get away from all this mad hysteria
Charles kane, kirkcaldy,scotland

Irish/Scots/Coloured people,creeds and so on have been the butt of comic hall jokes for generations without causing people to go on the streets causing mayhem and incitement. It is time that the Muslim community got rid of this chip on their shoulders and got on with modern life. Thank you.Paul G.
Paul Grant, Edinburgh/Scotland

However offensive the cartoons may have been, the posters and comments from the defenders of Islam have been far, far more offensive. Chop off heads because of a cartoon? No wonder there is anti-Islam feelings harboured in our society. They have done themselves no favours over this incident.
Angela, Cambridge, UK

If all the people in the world believed in One God, then the world will find peace. Make that a policy to establish, not much to ask for; and it is only the truth, so what are we afraid of?
Kashif, Bradford

Everyone has a right to free speech.They [muslims] used it on Friday in London and were protected by the police, depite provocative placards - also allowed to be used by the police. One wonders what the reaction would be if it were, say, the far right with similar placards. I am not defending the far right, just their rights to have their say, as is everyone in a "free democratic society"
Tony Grove, Pinner, London

I didn't see the cartoons, but from the description of them, I can see the ignorance and arrogance of some people in Denmark to Islam and/or Middle East. It's about respecting others' religions and cultures, not a freedom-of-speech issue. We have shed enough blood already, too much indeed. What we can do is to educate ourselves and our next generation....
SM Cheung, Hong Kong

To the "offended" I can only say: You see the splinter in your fellow man's eye, but not the beam in your own.
Martkus Opel, Grants Pass, OR, USA

The Muslim world needs to understand that the newspapers in the western Europe can publish whatever they want all under they umbrella of freedom of speech. Their governments have no control over that, nor should they otherwise it would not be freedom of speech. Asking a national government to apologize for something that they dont have control over is unrealistic, and the government should never give in to such a demand.
Don't think for split moment that the Muslim world has the support of the UK and USA in this issue, they are in my opinion just protecting their troops in the unjust war in Iraq.
Im upset because Muslim governments, and Islamic radicals, are attempting to dictate what I can, and cannot, read in my newspaper. Never!!
Erik den Hartog, Arnhem, The Netherlands

What a sad state of affairs. People are using the disguise of "freedom of expression" when really there is something much deeper on the agenda. This is an attack on Muslims. One might recalll the uproar caused by Prince Harry dressed in a Nazi uniform. There was a huge outcry.
Jokes are made about Christainity by so-called Christians. The reason why no one criticises this is because there is barely a Christian religion in the West. How many actually go to church to pray? Compare this with devoted Muslims going to the mosque day in day out, then question the comparable faiths.
Casper, Sheffield

Simply exercise your freedom to not read the papers that have published them
Martin Devlin, London, England
So much disagreement about such a simple principle: we in the West do not have, and will never accept, religious censorship. It's as simple as that. If you find these cartoons offensive or, like me, think they are merely in poor taste, simply exercise your freedom to not read the papers that have published them; you are free to practice your faith and nobody is forcing you to agree with, or even see, these silly cartoons. Problem solved! Can we all just get on with our lives now?
Martin Devlin, London, England

I have Muslim friends and they consider emotional or non-tangible attacks more damaging than physical, because such attacks, as they have explained to me, strike at the essence of a people. The West has not only attacked the Muslims but has done so by the worst possible means.
Grechen Bell, Detroit, USA

As a non-Muslim I think it is offensive that these cartoons were published. Many British Muslims sincerely hold and are entitled to their beliefs. These must be respected by the rest of us as we would expect them to respect us. Not to do so is wrong.
Birthwaite, Cumbria

I believe in freedom of speech but I think that people's religious beliefs should not be mocked. However I must ask, would there have been so much fuss if it had been an insult to the Christian faith?
Peter Whitehead, Carlisle, England

Until balance is restored the only result will be more tension and hatred
Rich Harper, Cardiff, Wales
If the Muslims in Europe were offended by these cartoons, then they have a right to protest. However, seeing images of Muslims in this country holding banners which suggest those against Islam should be beheaded or massacred is an insult to the majority of law abiding citizens of this country, yet a threat was made to arrest a non protester who stood up to these people. It seems freedom of speech works only one way, and until balance is restored the only result will be more tension and hatred.
Rich Harper, Cardiff, Wales

I'm a Muslim living in the US and I believe that the protesters have made their point and should stop protesting.
Farshid, USA

It is a mistake of both sides. The press should have learned from pass experiences that Muslims are intolerant towards blasphemy of their religion. On the other hand the Muslims are blowing things out of proportion. Nobody can insult you unless you allow them to. Wouldn't it have be easier to let the issue go?
Alan

Muslims respect ALL prophets, and find that making jokes about Jesus Christ in the western world is crazy when he is their saviour. Sadly, the cartoons expressed ignorance of the ones who made them! Muslims' reactions stems from a combination of feeling humiliated as well as feeling that the western world is not backing them in their political struggle!
Ameera, Newcastle

I am in no way in favour of censorship. However, just because we have freedom of speech, it does not give us the freedom to provoke and insult. I believe that every freedom we are given in the west comes with a responsibility. With a lack of respect and understanding to other cultures, of course people will protest. I find it shocking and indeed saddening that the cartoons depicted the prophet as a terrorist. There is already enough controversy surrounding Islam without provocations like these. It is uncalled for, and disrespectful.
Ala, Liverpool, UK

I am concerned about this online debate about cartoons that nobody is showing us online. Too many are commenting about something they have not even seen yet. Where can we see the cartoons?
Marcos, Miami, USA

No; the press should not have published the cartoons. People want free speech. Fine. But it's obvious if you do something as stupid as showing the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist it will create some upset. In other words, you can only take the excuse of free speech so far.
Anna, Boston

Plain and simple - this is about free speech. The cartoons were offensive, but so what? The Western media have a duty to reprint the cartoons to show solidarity in the face of censorship.
Toby O'Brian, Dublin

There shouldn't be a debate about what you can say, over wise its limited-speech, not free speech.
Adam, London

If people insist in the right to free speech as they call it, then they shouldn't be surprised when they get hit when they offend someone. Personally I have nothing but admiration for the Muslims in the way they support their religion. Its a shame the west doesn't support its religions to the same degree.
Paul, Wales

I find interesting that the Muslim community is up in arms about this, while at the same time they burn Western flags and burn Western leaders in effigy. I am sorry, but in a free society, nothing, and I mean nothing, is safe from satire.
Salim Shah, Seattle, USA

Another example of freedom of speech being used for other questionable agendas
Mustufa, Preston
This is yet another example of freedom of speech being used for other questionable agendas. I think all people around the world appreciate freedom of speech, including Muslims, however when it comes to insulting faiths and personalities such as Mohammad (PBUH) and Jesus (PBUH) and in such a degrading manner is crossing the line. These personalities are loved and respected all around the world by millions of people and it is these personalities that have time and time again been considered the greatest people ever to have walked the earth, what gives anyone the right to insult such personalities on a mass scale? I am a Muslim and although there has been an upsurge of media degradation of Islam and its personalities in recent years, it is equally disheartening to see other faiths and their personalities being mocked and insulted in the press. It is faith and personalities such as these that gives millions of people hope for peace in a world torn by war and corruption.
Mustufa, Preston

The reaction is not unexpected. It is inevitable. I have studied Arabic and Islam for four years so I understand the insult and injury of the cartoons. However I firmly believe that if civilisation is to go forward, it needs to get away from the thought that certain aspects of religion are untouchable and sacred. Criticism is an opportunity to respond or to change. It should not be censored.
Wilmer Newland, Brussels




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