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RUTGERS JOURNAL OF LAW AND RELIGION
VOLUME 8 FALL 2006

YOU DROPPED A BOMB ON ME, DENMARK—A LEGAL EXAMINATION OF THE CARTOON CONTROVERSY AND RESPONSE AS IT RELATES TO THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD AND ISLAMIC LAW
RACHEL SALOOM∗ I. INTRODUCTION [1] The publication of twelve cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in late 2005 was

only the beginning of a series of events in a cartoon controversy that hastaken the lives of many people and injured others. Muslims believe that these cartoons are prohibited under Shari’a, or Islamic law. These cartoons were protested against, however, not only because of their depiction of the Prophet Muhammad but the manner in which he was depicted. [2] This Article argues that while these cartoons do violate Shari’a, the violent

response in protest onlyperpetuates negative stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs. Moreover, this Article explains why the cartoons violate Shari’a. Part II of this Article outlines the cartoon controversy by both examining the content of the cartoons and the timeline of events. Part III examines the response to the publication of the cartoons. Part III discusses both the violent and nonviolent responses to the publication of thecartoons. Part IV of this article provides an in-depth explanation of Shari’a and the sources of Islamic law, including a discussion of the importance of the Prophet Muhammad to



J.D. University of Georgia School of Law, 2006; M.A., Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago, 2003; B.A., Political Science, University of West Georgia, 2000. Ms. Saloom is currently an associate at an Atlantalaw firm.

Islam. Part V explains the response to the cartoon controversy by analyzing two different arguments. The first argument is that the cartoons are absolutely prohibited under

Shari’a. Drawing on the main sources of Shari’a—the Qur’an and the Sunna—the prohibition of the cartoons is explained. The second argument is that the cartoons are

based on negative stereotypes of Muslims andIslam. Part VI concludes by arguing that violent responses to the cartoons are not justified even if the cartoons violate Shari’a. II. THE CARTOONS [3] The Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten first published twelve cartoons of

Muhammad on September 30, 2005.1 The reasoning behind publishing the cartoons was based upon an “experiment to overcome what the editors perceived as self-censorshipreflected in the reluctance of illustrators to depict the Prophet.”2 The twelve cartoons pictured Muhammad in a variety of ways. The cartoon that has received the most attention is a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb as his turban.3 On his

See Souad Mekhennet, Muslims Express Anger and Hope at Danish Conference, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 11, 2006, at A6; Molly Moore, Offending Cartoons Reprinted;European Dallies Defend Right to Publish Prophet Caricatures, WASH. POST, Feb. 2, 2006, at A17, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2006/02/01/AR2006020102234.html; Sebastian Rotella, Anger over Cartoons of Muhammad Escalates, L.A. TIMES, Feb. 3, 2006, at A1; Human Rights Watch, Questions and Answers on the Danish Cartoons and Freedom of Expression: When Speech Offends,Feb. 15, 2006, available at http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/02/15/denmar12676.htm [hereinafter HRW, Questions and Answers].
2

1

HRW, Questions and Answers, supra note 1.

The Cartoon Bomb, THE NATION, Feb. 8, 2006, available at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060227/editors; Stefanie Sy, Bomb-Shaped Turban Cartoons Upset Muslims, ABC NEWS, Feb. 2, 2006, available athttp://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=1570095&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312. For information on the cartoons, see David Crumm, Holy Images Enflame and Enlighten; The Muhammad Episode Offers Opportunity For Faiths to Connect, DETROIT FREE

3

turban is the shahada, symbolizing that there is no god but Allah; Muhammad is his Prophet.4 Various groups including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)...
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