On Sunday in Garland, Texas, two gunmen opened fire at a “draw the Prophet Muhammad” contest sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, listed as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Police shot and killed the two gunmen. A security guard was injured.
Police said Nadir Soofi was one of the attackers. His father, Azam Soofi, an engineer who lives in Overland Park, declined to talk to The Star about the assault, and he was at a loss to reconcile the boy he knew with the actions on Sunday.
In Rome, Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper this week blasted the cartoons as “blasphemous” and condemned the “mad and bloodthirsty” extremists who opened fire at the Texas event.
The front-page article in L’Osservatore Romano likened the exhibit to pouring “gasoline on the fire” of religious sensitivities.
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And the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was targeted in a deadly attack earlier this year by Islamist gunmen after images of Muhammad were published.
Images of the founder of Islam — even cartoons drawn by amateurs — incite anger in some Muslims. Here are some answers that explain why.
Q: Why does Islam ban images of its founder?
A: The Qur’an does not specifically forbid images of the Prophet, but some point to a verse in which Abraham asks his people, “What are these images to which you cleave?” There are hadith — stories about Muhammad and sayings attributed to him — that forbid visual representations of Allah or the prophets. That includes Abraham, also considered the founder of Judaism, and Jesus, the founder of Christianity. Prohibiting such images is called “aniconism.”
The ban stems from the idea that images of Muhammad, Abraham and Jesus might encourage worship of them instead of Allah. But there are images of Muhammad in 12th- and 13th-century Persian manuscripts currently held by libraries in London, Paris and Edinburgh, Scotland. And in some early Islamic texts, Muhammad’s body is shown, but his head is a flame.
Do other religions ban images of their prophets or of God?
Yes and no. Judaism bans “graven images,” thus the scarcity of human figures represented in synagogues. And some Christians get upset over more extreme representations of Jesus — protests surrounded photographer Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” in the late ’80s.
Why do some Muslims consider this worth killing over?
Because Islam bans such images, it’s considered blasphemous to create them. Plus, the images published by Charlie Hebdo were not complimentary portraits, but satirical criticism of Islam. Still, many Muslims have condemned the attacks. The governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and Qatar all issued harsh statements regarding the attacks.
A French organization of 250 Muslim groups condemned the killings, as did the Muslim Council of Britain. Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford and a progressive Muslim, said on the television program “Democracy Now,” “This is just a pure betrayal of our religion and our principles.”
Is this the first time Western journalists have been targeted for publishing images of Muhammad?
In 2012, at least 50 deaths worldwide were attributed to protests of a trailer of “Innocence of Muslims,” a film that criticized Islam and featured an actor’s portrayal of the prophet.
And Charlie Hebdo had been the target of extremists, getting firebombed in 2011. The newspaper claimed that an issue was “guest-edited” by Muhammad.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.