In September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a deliberate attempt to assert the right to freedom of expression and to criticize aspects of Islam that Westerners find objectionable amidst calls from Muslim groups for publications to censor themselves for the sake of cultural sensitivity regarding speech that Muslims may find insulting. Some of the cartoons were basic sketches of Muhammad (depictions of Muhammad, any other prophet, and God are prohibited in Islam as idolatry), some lampooned the perceived overreaction of Muslims to such depictions, and some satirized controversial aspects of present-day Islam, such as the role of women in Islamic societies and the tradition’s perceived permissiveness toward terrorism. Muslims in Denmark initially sought government intervention on the issue, but when this failed, Danish imams traveled to the Middle East to make more sympathetic media outlets, religious leaders, and local populations aware of the situation. Protests against the cartoons sprung up in countries around the world in late January and February 2006; some protests became violent, resulting in over 200 deaths. Western embassies in various countries were damaged in the demonstrations, along with Christian churches in some places. The cartoonists went into hiding after receiving threats against their lives, with the most controversial cartoonist—who depicted Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban—still living under police protection. The 2008 bombing of the Danish embassy in Pakistan was in retaliation against the cartoons, and a thwarted 2010 terror plot in Copenhagen was intended to be as well.
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