a while back, some cartoons of the prophet muhammed were published in denmark and in other european papers, which ended up offending the muslim world. i suppose "offending" is a little soft; more like "outraged," because the response to these cartoons was violent. islamic tradition bans depictions of the prophet, even respectful ones, on grounds that it could promote idolatry.
in recent weeks, publications in france, germany, netherlands, italy and spain have republished these cartoons in support of the danish press and the right to the freedom of the press. and now a canadian news magazine, western standard, has published these cartoons.
ezra levant of the western standard says they published the cartoons because they are "the central fact in the largest news story of the month." he goes on to say that "i'm doing something completely normal. i'm publishing the centre of a controversy. that's what news magazines do."
levant has gone on to criticize media in canada and the united states, saying that news outlets here aren't publishing them not out of respect for islam, but "out of fear." he says that the news outlets here, particularly the cbc, don't respect religion, but rather they're afraid of one religion. he's pointing to the fact that when items are published that offend christians, they resort to writing a letter to the editor; they don't resort to violence.
to be fair, most muslims don't resort to violence, and they don't promote it either. secondly, i must say, that the original publication of these cartoons, really do seem like a provaction, almost as if daring a hostile reaction, because some of them are pretty crude, bordering on vilification. the original publication of these cartoons and their intent could be called into question. that being said, i can see levant's point; the news is there to report, not to be "cowed into fear" as the publisher puts it. if the media didn't report certain things or publish certain items out of respect to the individuals or cultures or peoples involved, then nothing would get published. and from their perspective, out of simple news worthiness, i can understand their stand. there were violent riots because of these cartoons, so that makes the cartoons newsworthy as the source for the reaction.
i personally believe, that when it comes to freedom of the press and freedom of speach, nothing is sacred, and everything is game. that's why when a friend of mine sent me a petition to stop the release / boycott of the film on karla homolka (a serial killer) based on the please of the family, i did not sign it. it's not that i'm not sensitive to their feelings, it's just that i believe in the principles of freedom of speach and freedom of the press. regardless of whether it feels exploitative. it's not necessarily something i personally would write or publish, but i don't believe in banning or censoring anything. ever.
what i think is a major factor in this whole situation, is the fact that the west sees freedom of speach and freedom of the press differently than the islamic world. even the word "freedom" has different meanings within the seperate cultures. there, you can't draw the prophet, and you can't write a book like salman rushdie's satanic verses without retribution. here, you can write about jerry falwell having sex with his mother in an outhouse as larry flynt did in his porno magazine, hustler, and you can write a play about Jesus being a woman or gay or whatever.
i don't really agree with the original motivation for publishing these cartoons, but in the end, i'll defend western standard's right to publish the cartoons as news. i will also say that i do not agree with violence as a response, and while most muslims are just like you and me, these violent riots aren't helping beat down the stereotypes that the west has of islam. riots like these just help strengthen the arguements of those that claim that islam is an inherantly violent and vicious religion. the power really is in the hands of every day muslims to change this perception. while those with any real intelligence can see the peaceful aspects of islam, those that can't are many, and you probably can't ever change their opinions, but resorting to rioting isn't helping anything. i mean, as much of a nut i think jerry falwell is, at least he hasn't burnt down a building because someone made fun of jesus. although, the image of him leading a crusade against the studio that produces southpark is amusing. perhaps mel gibson could behead someone.

link: http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2006/02/13/cartoons060213.html