Freedom of expression is freedom FROM insult, Each faith community feels a deep-rooted emotional attachment to the symbols and personalities it reveres. Muslims are no different.
Insulting The Prophet, The value system of Islam is underpinned by respect and reverence – reverence for the Almighty, for all the Messengers of the Almighty – including the Prophets Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all), the angels, the holy scriptures, the holy cities, religious symbols and places of worship, and respect for elders, teachers, leaders, religious scholars, parents, the elderly, etc.
Depicting images of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is strictly forbidden in Islam. The rationale for the prohibition, inter alia, of depicting the Prophet (peace be upon him) is that he was too sublime to be truly portrayed. Furthermore, attempts at portraying him could result in his image being distorted. There are therefore no records of any authentic image or portrait of him anywhere in the world, from any period of Islamic history, which is a significant point of note.
Any attempt to depict the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in illustration is an attempt to depict the sacrosanct, which is not allowed. The nature of cartoons is to satirise and trivialise. This is clearly not acceptable in the case of a personality who is held in the highest esteem by almost 2 billion people globally.
Irrespective of what the motive is for the repeated publishing and displaying of these blasphemous cartoons – whether for cheap publicity, political gains, deliberate provocation, or due to sheer ignorance – it is grossly offensive and highly insensitive and will always be rejected by all people of morality with the contempt it deserves!
Muslims accept the principle of constructive freedom of expression, but not the freedom to wantonly insult, which is sometimes deviously and deceptively masqueraded as freedom of expression. True freedom of expression is freedom FROM insult, not freedom TO insult! Freedom to insult has ultimately resulted in hatred, bigotry and even destruction. Humour that is disrespectful, insensitive and offensive, is not humour, but is in fact hubris.
But when Muslims object, the stock response is that they do not appreciate freedom of expression. The media and others view this as an infringement of the right of freedom of speech. However, one aspect that is often overlooked is that no right is absolute; there are inherent limitations. Every right is counterbalanced against other rights. Every right has to be exercised with utmost responsibility.
The blatant hypocrisy of certain leaders in the application of freedom of speech is glaringly visible for the world to see! Whilst they harp on the promotion of freedom of speech, they are intolerant of any criticism of themselves or things that are dear to them. So much for freedom of speech!
Muslim leaders and masses would be justifiably outraged and enraged by this act of profanity. This could even precipitate protests and boycotts. The worldwide anger and outpouring of objections have made it amply clear that Muslims will never accept disrespect to the Prophet (peace be upon him) or whatever else is deemed sacred to them. Despite this open provocation, Muslims are urged to follow the noble example of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him) in the kind, tolerant and forgiving manner he dealt with his enemies and continued to invite them to the Path of Guidance.
There is no doubt that blasphemy is the direst and most abominable verbal nullifier of faith. If disparagement of Allah entails de-Islamization, whether the disparager accepts to be de-Islamized or not, it is more logical that cursing Allah also de-Islamizes.
Ibn Rahubah maintained, “Muslims agree unanimously that whoever blasphemes against Allah or His Messenger (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) is deemed a disbeliever due to this blasphemy, even if he recognizes what has been revealed by Allah”.