In the aftermath of Paris, we’re hearing a lot of talk about whether or not Islam truly prohibits images of the Prophet, but that is an entirely wrong-headed question for the broad public debate.
Sure, that particular question is important to practitioners of Islam, and if they believe it is so, they should be (and so far as I know, are) free to not create such images, not display such images in their homes, their mosques, etc., and to not purchase materials which contain such images.
But their freedom to practice their religion cannot be allowed to create a constraint on the equal religious freedom of others. I am not a Muslim, and I do not accept that their religious teachings have any bearing on whether I wish to draw, sell or view images of the man they call The Prophet. To accept or legislate that would be an abridgement of my freedom of religion.
If you are offended by Charlie Hebdo, don’t buy it! If you are offended by even seeing it for sale, stay away from places that sell it – or better yet, take control of your emotions, and walk on by. Any human being can be (and probably is) exposed on a daily basis to appearances or behaviors they do not like, or by which they feel offended, but your feeling offended is not sufficient reason to curtail anyone else’s freedom.
Which exposes the true breadth of the issue at hand; that if criminality or prohibition of any behavior is determined on the basis of whether or not someone is offended or their feelings hurt by it, then all semblance of rationality, consistency or proportionality is lost, because persons can choose to be offended by anything. That is neither freedom nor justice.
Yet our institutions seem determined to carve out special privileges for Muslims at the expense of everyone else. To even refer to Mohammad as “the Prophet” as the media and politicians do seems to be a form of advocacy. It’s good to see you defending free expression here, and practicing it too.