Why Depicting Prophet Muhammad Angers Many Muslims: Lack Of Respect
10 January 2015
By Ali Khalil
Depictions of Prophet Muhammad (peace
be upon him) such as the cartoons published by the
French satirical magazine reeling from a deadly attack
are banned in Islam and mocking him angers many
Although images poking fun at the
Prophet have repeatedly infuriated the Islamic world,
Arab and Muslim leaders and clerics were quick to
condemn the attack. Sunni Islam's most prestigious
center of learning Al-Azhar said "Islam denounces any
The two masked gunmen who killed 12
people at the
Charlie Hebdo weekly on Wednesday
claimed to be on a mission to "avenge" its cartoons of
of the prophet.
It follows years of controversy over
such caricatures."This is a prophet that is revered by
some two billion people... Is it moral to mock him?"
prominent Iraqi preacher Ahmed Al-Kubaisi told AFP,
explaining the violent reaction of Muslims to cartoons
of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
"France is the mother of all freedoms,
yet no one said this (depiction) is shameful," he
Former Malaysian Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad said Charlie Hebdo had shown
disrespect toward Islam on numerous occasions.
"Is there a need for them to ridicule
Prophet Muhammad knowing that they are offending
Muslims?" state news agency Bernama quoted him as
"We respect their religion and they
must respect our religion," he added.
Violent protests broke out in the
Muslim world after Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper
published 12 caricatures of Mohammed in 2005.
Charlie Hebdo and other European
publications reproduced the cartoons the following
year, including one which showed the Prophet wearing a
turban shaped like a bomb, making them a target of
The French magazine's offices were
fire-bombed in November 2011 following the publication
of an edition renamed "Charia Hebdo," (Sharia Hebdo),
with a caricature of the Prophet on the front page.
Lack of respect
At the core of the problem is the "lack
of respect for others' right to freedom of expression"
in Arab and Muslim countries, according to Hassan
Barari, professor of international relations at Qatar
Some people "do not understand the
Western context of free speech, where you can easily
make a movie that is critical of Jesus (peace be upon
Mathieu Guidere, who teaches Islamic
studies at France's University of Toulouse, said that
the "culture of tolerance, and acceptance of different
opinion is almost non-existent in the Arab and Islamic
He attributed violence to a feeling
harbored by "almost every Muslim who believes that he
is the defender of the Prophet and of Islam."
Barari pointed to a history of
"animosity between the West and Muslims."
"We cannot deny that anti-Western
feeling in the region is related to the West's
policies. This is related to past colonialism, policy
on Israel, and support to dictatorships," he said.
Ban on depictions
The majority of Islamic scholars ban
drawings of all prophets revered by Islam, and reject
the depiction of the companions of Prophet Muhammad,
even when it shows them in a positive light.
"We should not open the door to people
to draw the Prophet in different forms that could
affect his status in the hearts of his people," said
Kubaisi, the Iraqi preacher who is based in Dubai.
There is no text from the Qur'an or the
tradition of the Prophet that clearly forbids such
depictions, and the ban is "out of homage and respect"
to the Prophets, he added.
The ban also applies to depictions of Prophets and
companions of Prophet Muhammad in movies and
When a trailer for anti-Muslim movie
"Innocence of Muslims" appeared on YouTube in 2012,
protesters took to the streets in several countries.
Four people, including US Ambassador
Chris Stevens, were killed in Libya when extremists
used protests against the film to attack US interests
on September 11, 2012.
In recent weeks, a number of Muslim countries banned
Ridley Scott's "Exodus: Gods and Kings" for its
depiction of Moses.
Even the 1970s epic "The Message,"
which chronicled the life of Prophet Muhammad and
starred Anthony Quinn, did not impersonate the
"Depicting the Prophets of Allah would
cast doubts about their status and might include lies,
because actors could never match the characters of the
Prophets," said a fatwa, or edict, by the Islamic Fiqh
Council in Makkah.