Feb 282006
Authors: Skylar Rick

After the publication of a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a derogatory manner caused a firestorm reaction across the globe, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) will sponsor a lecture Thursday to explain why the images were so upsetting.

The lecture, which will take place at 6 p.m. in the Lory Student Center, is meant to help people understand the meaning these cartoons hold for Muslims.

"Some students were discussing (the cartoons) in class, asking why the Muslim people were so upset," said Zaki Safar, MSA vice president and coordinator of the event. "We're going to try to explain why it is such a big deal for Muslims."

To clarify this, three main points will be addressed in the lecture.

First, MSA believes one of the biggest keys to understanding is learning why Muhammad is sacred to the Muslim people.

"We're going to help them understand what the prophet means to us, why he is the most influential man (in our religion)," Safar said. "As well as why there are 1.3 billion that follow him."

Safar hopes understanding the prophet's importance will lead to a better understanding of why the cartoons are not acceptable in Muslim culture.

"This idea applies to all prophets, even Jesus," said Khaleel Alyaha, MSA president. "No one can offend, draw or put the prophets in a bad image."

Within this idea of what is or isn't acceptable, the concept of freedom of expression will be introduced. Although it is a common assumption that Muslims don't understand this freedom, the lecture will explain that isn't necessarily the case.

"Freedom of expression stops when it hurts someone," Safar said.

Alyaha believes this stereotype comes from the differences in the severity of their beliefs.

In the United States and other countries, religion isn't as connected to everyday life as it is in Muslim cultures.

"The United States and Europe are not as in touch with their religions," Alyaha said. "If they were to go to other places (around the world) they would find people so touched by their religion.

This intensity of religion leads to another stereotype to be addressed at the lecture – the idea that all Muslims are terrorists.

"We are totally, completely against what (the Muslims in Denmark) did," Safar said. "It would have never been approved by the prophet."

Although it is important to express their feelings about the situation, reacting with violence will just add to the hostility already felt by the Muslims from the rest of the world, Alyaha said.

"I don't believe that by doing irresponsible actions like firing on the embassy was the right thing to do," Alyaha said. "It's going to make stereotyping worse where people think of Muslims as violent."

The MSA wants people to walk away with a better education and understanding of not only the cartoon controversy, but of the Muslim culture as a whole.

It's this education that is important not only to those in the Muslim religion, but also to those unfamiliar with it as well.

"As Americans, we were created on the idea of freedom to express religion without judgment," said Stephanie Dudley, freshman interior design major. "We need to learn as much as we can about each other and their beliefs to better understand their actions."

Skylar Rick can be reached at campus@collegian.com.

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