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To what extent can religious motives be, used in cartoons and motion pictures without offending various religious groups?

One predicament of the modern times is that the more the world connects through the globalization processes, the more alienated the people seem to get from one another, in terms of interests, identity and worldviews. This paradox when people get closer and move farther from one another indicates the growing religious, cultural, and social anomalies in the globalised world. In one way, the cartoon and motion pictures crisis in the modern world is a symptom of a religious, cultural and social malady (Hentoff, 2006). This paper details facts behind the existent cartoon controversy as well as how they represent religious groups in all avenues. The paper looks into how the cartoons could represent religious motives without having to infringe or offend the respective religious groups.

In the Muslim societies, anything is done according to the Sharia Law and following the Quran as the holy book. In fact, anything going against the two is warranted absolutely in the Muslim communities. For instance, insulting Muhammad is one of the gravest crime any person whether Muslim of not would do to the Muslim society (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). The Muslim society has respect for their prophet Mohammed and would do anything to protest his reputation no matter the extra mile they have to go in punishing and revenging those who offend him or misrepresent the values on the same. Some Sharia interpreters argue that insulting Muhammad warrants instant death and this does not have any excuse (1). Therefore, anything insulting the prophet is totally a misplaced value and should be banned instantaneously (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999).

One thing in common among Christians and Muslims is that they honor their religion. This therefore calls for any abolishment of any form of picture, image or sculpture compromising the routine worship of the deity in both religions. The Quran condemns totally any practice of idolatry, and pictorial forms seen as allegedly close to idol worship meaning that they are against the values of the group (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). These are writings in Ahadith with reports from Allah’s Messenger saying “Those people painting pictures and publishing wrong messages against Sharia would be punished fully on the Day of Resurrection; it would then be said by Allah: Breathe soul precisely into your own creations.” This fact sets out that under no circumstances can any cartoon or image feature the divine values of the religion wrongly because it will be punishable in the judgment day.

The Christians too hold a similar belief and are against any misrepresentation of their values. They Christians have a belief that on the judgment day, every man shall hold account of his deeds and meaning that it is very sure that even the actions man does on earth will be judged in heaven why everybody should be careful. Christianity therefore gives account of the way the believers should behave criticizing any event of going against the values of the church.

In addition, the Christians also have great respect for God the Father, the son and lastly the Holy Spirit. It therefore means that any cartoon or imagery misrepresenting the three in one provokes the Christians faith because they condemn the act. The Ten Commandments are the guide for all Christians in a way that going against any practice of one religion is a religious misconception and they denounce the practice terming it as an evil. From their Holy Book The Bible, exodus 20: 2-7 commandments says, “ I am the Lord your sole God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the great house of slavery; 3 Do not in anyway or time have any other gods apart from me. 4 You shall not whatsoever make for yourself an idol of worship, whether in the precise form of anything heaven above, on the earth I created beneath, or that is in the vast waters under the earth. 5 You shall not whatsoever bow down to them or even worship them; for I the Lord God am a very jealous God, punishing children for their parent’s iniquity, to the third and extending to the fourth generation of the people who reject me.  6. I show steadfast love and bless the thousandth generation of the people who love me as well as keep my commandments to the letter. 7 you shall not whatsoever make wrongful use of my name the Lord your God, for always the Lord will not acquit everyone who misuses his exalted name.” All this is a clear representation that the Christians are totally against anything-misrepresenting God and the values of the religion.

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Owing to the aniconism traditions in Islam, the majority of art and sculpture on Muhammad has always been calligraphic in nature (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). Within Muslim communities, perceptions have varied with regard to pictorial representations. Shi'a Islam has generally been tolerant of pictorial representations precisely of human figures with some including Muhammad (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). On the other hand, Sunni Islam another Islamic group forbids generally any pictorial representation featuring Muhammad because to them it is against the law of the religion.

However, in some periods, they allow depictions of Muhammad's face particularly those that represent him covered with a veil or those showing as a featureless void, which emanates light (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). The Islamic Circle of the Northern part of America (ICNA) has condemned totally the depiction of a Muslim prophet, right from Adam to the latest Moses and Mohammed. A few current interpretations of Islam, for instance some adherents of Salafism and Wahhabism, are entirely being aniconistic and they condemn fully any pictorial representations of their religious values and beliefs (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). The Taliban, lately while in power of the Afghanistan territory, banned photographs, images, television (2), and other media forms and destroyed all paintings, which included frescoes in the broad vicinity of the Bamyan and Buddhas showing how disgusted they were with the imagery and video representation of the prophets and sticking faithful to their religion.

First, it is relevant to clarify that for Muslims, it is not the case that the depiction of the prophet is forbidden universally therefore considered as blasphemy; literally, any image representing the prophet is an offense against the law. There is unswerving proscription against depictions of the prophet actually in the Quran (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). In fact, the total and strict prohibition has come right from within various traditions and haddiths of Islam that vary among varying sects.

The cartoonist rely on freedom of expression as a justification to their act and one to give them the green light in representing the religion as they wish but what they fail to realize is that the religions hold a strong part of the culture and have been there for quite a long period since the existence of man. About the rights of man, they are a latest invention in the field and compromises many religions therefore ending up severely limited.

The Muhammad cartoons (3) Jyllands-Posten controversy is a good example of exactly how the cartoons offend religions. It began after 12 cartoons editorial in nature were released (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). Most of these cartoons depicted Prophet Muhammad a prophet among Muslims with various imageries and representation. These cartoons were published actually in the Danish newspaper named Jyllands-Posten in 2005 on 30 September. The newspaper announced actually that this publication was an effort to contribute heavily to the debate, which regarded criticism of Islam as well as the concept of self-censorship. Little did the publishers know; that they had stepped on the wrong foot by trying to represent Prophet Mohammed in an image and publishing (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002).

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Freedom of speech in the Danish press was acceptable by them. It was a guarantee as per the Danish Constitution established in 1849. To date the constitution still holds the freedom and has always enacted the rights of the press as per the revised version late in the Constitutional Act of Denmark in 1953 on 5 June (4).  The act defended vigorously these rights of journalists although was suspended early during the German Denmark occupation in World War II (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). Freedom of expression also gains protection by the Human Rights European Convention and the Civil and Political Rights International Covenant. However, neither of these justifications of the freedom of expression would justify the offense, which the newspaper did in publishing the images of Prophet Mohammed and nothing would stop the Muslims from protesting and banning the newspaper from supply within the region (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002).

The Danish newspapers actually are privately owned and very independent from the statues of the government, and freedom of expression is far-reaching, even for Western European standards (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). Earlier, this provoked official protests actually from Germany for Denmark, having allowed the printing of forbidden neo-Nazi propaganda, this also would not withstand justifying that the press had the freedom to print any imagery of Prophet Mohamed because it was against the Sharia Law.

Religion is portrayed often in ways that some societies consider illegal blasphemy. While Jyllands-Posten case published mere satirical cartoons, which depicted Christian figures, it also did reject unsolicited surreal cartoons early in 2003 depicting Jesus, and referred it as double standards. In February 2006, the same Jyllands-Posten refused to publish eventually Holocaust denial cartoons from an Iranian newspaper (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). This was the begging of the whole concept and the controversy behind the release of Prophet Mohamed images. In March 2008, Fitna a Dutch film by Geert Wilders a politician was, released. The Muhammad cartoons with a bomb in his turban showed during the film's opening as well as the closing scenes. This was totally a provoking element for the Muslims who literally had a strong belief against the misrepresentation of the Superior Prophet (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). The Union of Journalists in Denmark described the cartoon use in the film as a “serious violation of Kurt’s author's right". The Union of Journalists in Denmark sued Wilders, and late in September 2008, finally Wilders agreed to pay Kurt 7500 Euros for the use of the cartoon literally without permission. This was just the start of the dilemma and it was to worsen the situation when religious groups were involved.

Danish Muslim organizations objecting the depictions of the Prophet in the cartoons responded instantly. They held public protests, which attempted to raise awareness of offensive Jyllands-Posten's publication (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). More cartoon examples were, reprinted soon in newspapers spreading them to over 50 other countries, to deepen the controversy further and provoke people to an action in protecting the name of the superior and honored Prophet.

This led to massive protests across the Muslim world and affected every region. Some escalated into severe violence with police having to fire on the crowds (that resulted in more than 100 deaths regionally) (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). There eventualities of set fires within the Danish Embassies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, and storming buildings of the Europeans and desecrating the Dutch, German, Norwegian, Danish, French flags in Gaza and across the globe. Various groups in the Western world drastically responded through the endorsement of the Danish policies, which included "Buy Danish" campaigns as well as other displays of support. As per the Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen description, this controversy was the Denmark's worst crisis internationally since World War II (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). It therefore ignited a huge and disastrous controversy that nobody would have ever imagined to happen just from a simple cartoon representation of Prophet Mohammed.

Critics of the published cartoons described them as actually Islam phobic or racist, arguing that they were blasphemous in nature especially to people who were faithful to the Muslim faith (5). They also said that these images intended to humiliate totally a Danish minority who were the Muslims, or were a manifestation precisely of ignorance about the recalled history of Western imperialism (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). On the other hand, supporters said that the published cartoons illustrated relevant issues in an Islamic terrorism period and that the publication was legitimate as an exercise, which portrayed the right of speech for everyone, explicitly tied to the global issue of self-censorship. The same claimed that Muslims were not exactly the target in a discriminatory way because the unflattering cartoons of other religions were also frequently printed (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002). They question whether the riots were legitimate remains a dilemma and whether Muhammad images in the publications per se are offensive to the Islam religion since thousands of image illustrations of Muhammad appear in other books for Muslims (Cohen, 2010; Appignanesi 2005; Curry, 1991; Devlin 1965; Fenwick 2006; Julius 2002).

However, trying to conceptualize the whole idea or the concept of legitimacy is not the issue in the cartoon and motion pictures representation of the religious faiths. What is of relevance is to have a better way to determine the extent that religious motives be, used in cartoons and motion pictures without offending various religious groups (Starr 2004; Gant 2007; Brian 2008). This is subject to many issues; however, they should deeply concentrate on religions as a whole. It is also wise to look deep into both religions and their faith in making any publications of the cartoons or motion pictures depicting a figure in their faith.

For Christians, the modern world is making many changes and the church has split in the contemporary world. The solidarity that was there some few decades ago is slowly diminishing and faiths of a different kind have come up and with diverse beliefs and values. For instance, the Catholics do not condemn consumption of alcohol while the Protestants are totally against the practice. It therefore means that offending the various faiths would be very different depending on the values of the pertinent group. For instance, a cartoon of a priest with a bottle of liquor would not cause tension or greatly offend the catholic faith but a pastor with a bottle of liquor depicted on a cartoon would cause tension because it would offend the Protestants (MacKinnon 1989; MacLean, 2007; Post 1998; Robertson 1979). Knowing the virtues and the limits of respective groups of faith is the secret behind cartoon publications to mind any issues, which would provoke protests.

Over all, there are many cartoons depicting some Christians figures more that the Islam figures (6). This is because Christians have compromised their faith, the ancient staunch Christians generation is past now, and many of the Christians now are compromising their faith with the real world. There are more acceptances of the worldly things in the church nowadays meaning that they can compromise and give a blind eye to a cartoon depicting a figure of the Christians. The Muslims remain strict and hold their values more strictly in their practice. They thrive in protesting Allah and Mohammed, the two strong holds of their faith. It would therefore be a greater revolt causing action when publishing more cartoons depicting Islam religion that for the Christians either way.

The Muslims are vigilant and can do anything all because they feel that they have been provoked to protect Allah (Jackson 1995, 68–9; Makdisi 1985, 97–112; Gamal 1978, 187–198; Noel 1964; Weiss 2002; Jan 2008; Nathan 1999; Adel 1999). In fact, their belief that when one dies in service of Allah, he has a privilege of special treatments when he meets Allah makes it even more evident that publishing anything controversial would be disastrous. A recent case in the cartoon publication highlights some of the possible reactions of Muslims in case they feel offended in their religious practice (Starr 2004; Gant 2007; Brian 2008). Last year but one, a bomb blast outside the Pakistan Danish embassy and killed eight people. Afterwards, the Al Qaeda was quoted claiming that it was revenge directly for the "insulting drawings." Therefore, it is comprehensible that any decision to try to reprint the same cartoons literally would be a very difficult one.

That is why even Yale University Press lately decided to ask a forum of two dozen experts, who were of the Islam (Starr 2004; Gant 2007; Brian 2008) religion, diplomacy and terrorism whether they could include the cartoons depicting the religion in a forthcoming book on the 2006 crisis, "The Cartoons Shocking the World," by Klausen (7). The answer the Yale University received was vehement and unanimous: do not dare print the cartoons. Additionally, the experts warned against any publication of any image of Prophet Muhammad whether in the context of the cartoons or any other context. Yale University ended up pulling out a few images, which they had set as to be included in the book. In this case, consultations would be great because they would be a guideline in what is acceptable. At times, many people do not have any grass root knowledge on a particular religion therefore could be doing some practices innocently without knowing how much offense they inflict on others (Starr 2004; Gant 2007; Brian 2008). That is why consultations would be great when holding religious motives to print a particular image or release motion pictures depicting an element of a particular religion.

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With respect to devotion Christians are down compared to Muslims and how willing the can act on behalf of protecting their religion attributes. Most of the Christians nowadays are more concerned with individual business than coming together with one voice. Cross checking cartoons on the figures in Christianity, the figure of Jesus has been mutilated by many presentations in cartoons and motion pictures. Taking for instance the Da Vinci code, the Christians criticized the movie only for a short times but nothing strong or aggressive came to be following the revolts, which were against the movie and novel release  (White 2006; Rolph 2008; Greenslade 2004; Lessig 2004; Stone 2008). The Da Vinci Code is a mystery-detective 2003 fiction novel by Dan Brown an American author. It follows symbol gist Robert and Sophie as they investigate a particular murder in the Museum of Paris's Louvre and discovers a strong battle between the Priory of Opus Dei and Sion over the possibility of Jesus as having been engaged in a marriage to Mary Magdalene.

Conversely, this was a true misconception and a misrepresentation of what the Christians believe that Jesus was the son of Mary and not a husband. In reality, such a movie was to provoke the Christian faith a great deal and involve contradictions, which would later result to a war or protesting condemning the movie (MacKinnon 1989; MacLean, 2007; Post 1998; Robertson 1979; Robertson and Andrew 2008; Sutherland, 1982; Tim, 2009; Travis and Gold 2000). What happened is that there was nothing outrageous or very volatile on the movie and it still runs as one of the biggest volume selling movies in the history of movie production. Without a doubt, if such a movie was to be released about the Islamic faith, you bet what would ultimately happen. It would cause a heavy blow and protests across borders and ultimately, you can be sure that the movie would be banned completely from many parts of the world. In other words, Christians are more accommodating when it comes to cartoons and motion pictures representing their faith (Ray, 2000; Cline, 2004; Associated Press, 2006; Illuminati Archives, 2008).  They do not mainly revolt and try to understand and give room to freedoms including freedom of expression and freedom of  self to do one’s own will.

In a way, the cartoon and motion pictures crisis in the modern world is a symptom of a religious, cultural and social malady (Ray, 2000; Cline, 2004; Associated Press, 2006; Illuminati Archives, 2008). In the Muslim societies, anything is done according to the Sharia Law and following the Quran as the holy book. In fact, anything going against the two is warranted absolutely in the Muslim communities. For instance, insulting Muhammad is one of the gravest crime any person whether Muslim of not would do to the Muslim society. One thing in common among Christians and Muslims is that they honor their religion. This therefore calls for any abolishment of any form of picture, image or sculpture compromising the routine worship of the deity in both religions. The Quran condemns totally any practice of idolatry, and pictorial forms seen as allegedly close to idol worship meaning that they are against the values of the group. The Christians too hold a similar belief and are against any misrepresentation of their values. They Christians have a belief that on the judgment day, every man shall hold account of his deeds and meaning that it is very sure that even the actions man does on earth will be judged in heaven why everybody should be careful.

Christianity therefore gives account of the way the believers should behave criticizing any event of going against the values of the church. Ten Commandments are the guide for all Christians in a way that going against any practice of one religion is a religious misconception and they denounce the practice terming it as an evil. Over all, there are many cartoons depicting some Christians figures more that the Islam figures. This is because Christians have compromised their faith, the ancient staunch Christians generation is past now, and many of the Christians now are compromising their faith with the real world (MacKinnon 1989; MacLean, 2007; Post 1998; Robertson 1979; Robertson and Andrew 2008; Sutherland, 1982; Tim, 2009; Travis and Gold 2000). The Muslims are vigilant and can do anything all because they feel that they have been provoked to protect Allah. In fact, their belief that when one dies in service of Allah, he has a privilege of special treatments when he meets Allah makes it even more evident that publishing anything controversial would be disastrous. Christians therefore are more accommodating when it comes to cartoons and motion pictures representing their faith (MacKinnon 1989; MacLean, 2007; Post 1998; Robertson 1979; Robertson and Andrew 2008; Sutherland, 1982; Tim, 2009; Travis and Gold 2000).  They do not mainly revolt and try to understand and give room to freedoms including freedom of expression and freedom of  self to do one’s own will. However, this does not justify that the Christian faith ought to be depicted recklessly in cartoons and motion pictures (Starr 2004; Gant 2007; Brian 2008), what is required in an overall regulations to the same to avoid offending any faith and giving the respective religions at most respect as they deserve.

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