Opinion: "Riots Over Muhammad Cartoons Challenge Freedoms"

February 7, 2006

Source: First Amendment Center Press Release


On February 7, 2006 a First Amendment Center Press Release issued a statement by Gene Policinski, executive director the First Amendment Center, on the controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Policinski writes, "But for the protections of the First Amendment, what is this nation’s 'marketplace of ideas' likely would be a great deal smaller - and a lot less interesting and valuable. Which brings us to a challenge confronting newspaper editors and network news executives in the United States: how they should report the global violent reaction stemming from a Danish newspaper’s publication last October of cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammad - publication done in direct defiance of an Islamic religious tenet that forbids such images in any form, negative or positive... On their own, without government directive, most U.S. newspaper editors have decided that the immediate risks of provoking violence or of being offensive outweigh the need to publish the images. The decision will be ever-more troublesome if this one-time policy decision appears to be solidifying as permanent self-censorship. How far to be bound by the tenets of one faith in a nation that respects all faiths? My colleague and First Amendment Center Founder John Seigenthaler observes that much of the imagery of Muslims and Islam in the United States - by government and as reported by media - is connected to violence and terrorism. If American newspapers cultivate a genuine history of engaging Muslims in America and elsewhere about their concerns, a single controversial decision might be easier to understand and discuss, if not accept."