European publications that have stirred controversy over the depiction of the prophet

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Palki SharmaUpdated: Sep 01, 2020, 10:22 PM IST

File Photo: A man lights candles in tribute to the victims of January 7, 2015, Paris attacks. Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Secularism is a very important part of French culture. The constitution requires the government to remain neutral towards religion.

A cartoon of the prophet was created and published by the controversial Charlie Hebdo magazine. 

The religion of Islam prohibits images of Allah, Mohammad and all major prophets. But European publications have often stirred controversy with their depictions of the prophet.

The prophet Mohammad preached that he was simply a man. A messenger for the word of Allah or god. Not to be revered himself as a deity.

Islamic scholars interpret those teachings --- as a complete prohibition on any portrayal of the prophet. Non-muslims may find that strange.

But this is one of the central tenets of Islam, worship god alone idolatry is forbidden.

But many European publications have tested these rules of Islam. Charlie Hebdo has gained worldwide fame for its controversial cartoons of the prophet.

Muslims across the world have protested against their covers. But for the journalists at Charlie Hebdo, the offence is the point. They believe that submitting to the demands of the Muslim community will damage French secularism.

Secularism is a very important part of French culture. The constitution requires the government to remain neutral towards religion.

At the same time --- public displays of religious faith are discouraged.

But Charlie Hebdo's tough stand triggered deep divisions. With members of the Muslim community taking to the streets.

Asking the French magazine to respect their religion. France is not the only European country to witness divisions like these.

This is a tussle between freedom of speech and religion and a cultural conflict playing out across Europe.

i15 years ago, Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten carried controversial depictions of the Mohammad. The newspaper published a series of them.

Some depicted the prophet as a terrorist with a bomb. The cartoons brought worldwide fame for its editor Flemming Rose.

They also earned him enemies. There was a huge outcry in the Islamic world. Danish goods were boycotted in Muslim countries. Denmark's diplomats --- were issued summons in Tehran and Baghdad.

Several European newspapers responded --- by reprinting the controversial cartoons.

Things became much worse for Swedish artist, Lars Vilks. He has been a target of at least two failed assassination attempts. 

Vilks had created controversial cartoons of the prophet for an art exhibition. The Al Qaeda put a 100 thousand dollar bounty on his head. He had to be put under police protection.

In recent times --- the depiction of the prophet has become a political issue.

Two years ago, Dutch politician Geert Wilders announced that he plans to hold a Prophet Mohammad cartoon competition. The event was shelved over fears of a violent backlash.

But last year --- Wilders revived the competition. It lasted only for a few hours. A photograph of a dark man was declared as the winner.

The debate over the depiction of the prophet will perhaps never be resolved.