By Eric Klotz
The controversy over cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed has hit Canadian shores. A student paper in P.E.I. is being censored by its university administration , while a local magazine has drawn the ire of the Muslim community for publishing the cartoons.
The Western Standard, a Calgary based news magazine, published eight of the 12 sensitive cartoons in its Feb. 13, 2006 edition.
In response, Air Canada and two major book sellers are refusing to carry the upcoming edition of the magazine. The Western Standard circulates close to 40,000 copies bi-weekly.
“That is their freedom of association and we’re not mad at them or anything, but the vast majority [of the magazines] will be shipped and the buzz may bring more people to buy it,” said Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant.
The Cadre, the student run newspaper at the University of P.E.I also chose to run these infamous cartoons. It has been pulled from news stands.
“The UPEI administration has ordered copies of the student newspaper The Cadre, containing the controversial cartoons originally printed in Danish newspapers in September, removed from circulation on campus,” according to the UPEI web page. “The administration has taken this action on grounds that publication of the caricatures represents a reckless invitation to public disorder and humiliation.”
In response to the actions of the UPEI administration The Cadre released a statement on their web page claiming their impetus was dialogue rather than offending the Muslim community.
“Our intention from day one was to promote an effective intelligent discourse within the university community, and provide fair and accurate news in full context,” said Cadre staff in the statement.
President of the University of Calgary Muslim Students’ Association Muhammad Al-Murayr felt the UPEI administration made a wise decision to promote and sustain harmony.
“We are all disturbed by the publication of the cartoons, and this sentiment is shared throughout the entire Muslim community,” said Al-Murayr. “They [publishers of the cartoons] are scratching at an already deep wound.”
“These publications are at odds with Canadian claims of freedom of values and expression,” said Al-Murayr. “We Muslims believe in freedom of speech, we have stood in solidarity behind these principles, but we want to make it clear that we are against the negative depiction of any prophet, not only the Prophet Mohammad.”
“Two of the great things about Canada is freedom of speech and the concept of diversity,” he said. “In Canada we don’t have to be afraid of physical violence. This is good news, and we proved it.”
Levant said the decision was more than just a publicity stunt.
“The Canadian way of thinking is not that we can’t express opinions, we have freedom of the press so that we don’t ignore differences of opinion, we explore them, we discuss them peacefully,” said Levant. “We are a secular magazine. We don’t have to apply the laws of religion, the limit of muslim law is they cannot enforce those laws on other Canadians.”
The depiction of Mohammad is forbidden under Muslim law in order to prevent idolatry.