- Deseret News - Thursday, January 8, 2015

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack at headquarters of France’s satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, religious leaders from around the world shared their prayers and reflections.

“Regardless of motive or rationalization or evidence or excuse, killing 12 innocent people to avenge Prophet Muhammed has no justification and must be condemned without citing any victimhood,” wrote members of the Muslim Advisory Council to the NYPD in The Huffington Post.

Pope Francis tweeted, “#PrayersforParis.”

The small group of religious leaders who mixed their offer of sympathy with a condemnation of the magazine’s penchant for upsetting Muslims expressed concerns that Charlie Hebdo had not taken Islam’s teachings about blasphemy seriously.

For example, Anjem Choudary, a London-based radical Muslim cleric, wrote a column for USA Today condemning the French government for not reigning in the the magazine.

“Why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?” he wrote.

Self-described on his Twitter page as a “Muslim who believes that Islam is something we must believe in, live by and struggle and sacrifice for,” Mr. Choudary has often been at the center of controversy. USA Today was widely criticized for publishing his remarks, and the reader poll attached to the column showed that 91 percent of people “strongly disagreed” with Mr. Choudary’s views.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, also drew ire for a post on his organization’s website that criticized Stephane Charbonnier, editor of “Charlie Hebdo” and one of the shooting victims, for failing to acknowledge that he was asking for death.

“Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive,” Mr. Donohue wrote.

Ishaan Tharoor, a foreign affairs writer for The Washington Post, called the piece “one of the more offensive and insensitive comments” published in the aftermath of the tragedy, noting that Donohue’s “pins the fault of the terror attack on its victims.”

According to Messrs. Donohue and Choudary, Islam’s strict guidelines about the depiction of Mohammed, the religion’s prophet, should serve as fair warning to members of the media about how to engage with members of the faith, regardless of broader freedom of expression laws.

However, in a column for The New York Times, Ross Douthat called that line of thinking “backward,” sharing his sense that a free society is one that can hold religious beliefs and governance philosophies in tension, allowing for disagreement without turning to violence.

“Liberty requires accepting the freedom to offend, yes, but it also allows people, institutions and communities to both call for and exercise restraint,” Douthat wrote.

CNN Belief published an extensive look at Islams’s blasphemy laws in the wake of the attack noting that, while “the prohibition against illustrating the Prophet Muhammed began as an attempt to ward off idol worship … in recent years, that prohibition has taken on a deadly edge.”

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