The man, who is ranked number one in Michael Hart’s “100 Most Influential People,” is perhaps the most misunderstood figure in the world. Muhammad was a man known for his success on both religious and secular fronts, his tolerance and diplomacy. This is why it’s particularly ironic that instead of dealing with the caricature incident in a more diplomatic manner, some Muslims find it necessary to take the path of violence, making the situation an example of legitimate dissent gone mad.
The caricature exceeded what can arguably be defined as acceptable. Freedom of press exists within the boundaries of respect, and in this case, not perpetuating stereotypes. Sensitive issues are often dealt with delicately or avoided if they fail to contribute to debate. In the same manner, a caricature that tastelessly delves into a very taboo and hypersensitive aspect of Islam, a religion that includes 1.3 billion of the global audience, is out of place.
It’s hard for many to understand such commotion over an image. To put it simply, Islam exists on the monotheistic premise of a belief in one God. People already ignorantly label Muslims as Mohammedans, a description that is entirely false. Muslims do not have images of Muhammad, so that the character of the man is remembered, instead of his indexical remains worshipped.
While the juxtaposition of the bomb on the head of Muhammad was provoking enough, the cartoonist crossed many lines when the image of Muhammad was sketched. Cartoonists have freedom in poking at all groups, including Muslims. However, it behooves artists to know their audience and not mock inappropriately. Had the cartoonist clarified the cartoon, the controversy might have been avoided. Had the image been one of the leaders of the Muslim world instead of Muhammad himself, there would be no issue. Having said that, the Muslim world is in desperate need of strong leaders, perhaps those whose character and actions resemble that of Muhammad. In the same respect, the media must give equal attention to the more ambassadorial Muslim leaders as it does the unpleasant ones; biased representation has resulted in the misunderstanding of Muhammad and Islam itself.