Today, as protests continue across the Muslim world in reaction to a translated movie trailer posted on YouTube, French magazine Charlie Hebdo announced that it was publishing cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.
As a precautionary measure, the French government deployed riot police to the magazine’s headquarters in Paris and plans to close French embassies in 20 countries this Friday to try and contain any riots that might ensue from the publication of the cartoons.
The BBC reports that 30 people have died in the protests connected to the film “Innocence of Muslims.” The Atlantic Wire reports that groups in Germany, the United States and Canada have expressed interest in hosting screenings of the film.
Here in the United States, controversy is brewing as well. New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority recently lost a court battle to prevent the placement of an inflammatory ad in the subway system. The ad, sponsored by the group the American Freedom Defense Initiative, reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad”
The New York Times interviewed Muneer Awad, executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who had one of the most level-headed reactions to the subway controversy:
Mr. Awad added that the group had not called for the ads’ removal, though it has asked the transportation authority to redirect funds it receives for the ads to the city’s Human Rights Commission.
“It’s perfectly legal to be a bigot and to be a racist,” he said. “We want to make sure there’s a counter-voice.”
Shocking (and perfectly legal) statements in the form of art, ads and political cartoons are nothing new. Here are just a few of the more recent/memorable ones and the counter-voices they inspired.
- 2012: “The Master,” a film loosely based on the early days of Scientology premieres, inciting calls and e-mails of protest from Scientologists.
- 2012: Punk Band Pussy Riot is convicted for preforming a “Punk Prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. They were arrested, and sentenced to do time. Counter-protests in support of the band have occurred all over the world.
- 2006: Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publishes cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The ensuing protests involved embassies in flames and tens of thousands of protesters.
- 2004: Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ premieres, greeted by worldwide protests accusing the film of anti-Semitism.
- 2004: Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh is murdered for making a fictional film about a Muslim woman’s arranged marriage.
- 1988: Author Salman Rushdie publishes The Satanic Verses, and goes into hiding after Iranian clerics issue a fatwa demanding his death.
- 1988: Last Temptation of Christ, a Martin Scoresese picture appears in theatres. Hundreds of protesters appear.
- 1915: The Birth of a Nation, a white supremacist film, opens to protests by the African-American community in Boston.
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