Methodist Statement on Cartoon Controversy

|TOP|The Methodist Church released a statement yesterday regarding the recent controversy over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad and the ensuing protests throughout Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

The controversy began when Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a manner which linked him to terrorism. The cartoons were then printed in a number of other leading European Newspapers.

The Methodist Secretary for Inter-Faith Relations, Dr Elizabeth Harris delivered the statement of the Methodist Church in which she mentioned the right of free speech, but also the responsibility to “draw back from causing deliberate provocation or offence".

The statement recognised that the cartoons had been deeply offensive to Muslim opinion, however the statement also expressed the Methodist Church's sadness at the “violence in word and deed” that a minority of Muslims had used. This the Church claimed had damaged the name of Islam and would help only those who wanted to portray Islam as a violent religion.

|QUOTE|A number of violent attacks on Danish and other European embassies have occurred and have witnessed the use of firebombs and stone throwing. A number of deaths have also occurred during the protests. Five protestors were killed in Afghanistan when violence erupted, according to the New York Times, and a number of other violent incidents such as the shooting of a Roman Catholic Priest in Turkey may have been linked to the protests.

The Methodist statement emphasised the need for “dialogue and respectful debate” to move forward, and “restraint and dignity” on the part of both Christians and Muslims.

The full statement can be read below:

“In the light of the current controversy over the publication of cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the Methodist Church affirms that freedom of speech and responsibility depend on one another in a democratic society. The right to speak freely cannot be separated from the responsibility to draw back from causing deliberate provocation or offence.

“The Methodist Church recognizes that immense hurt has been caused to Muslims throughout the world through the publication of the cartoons. It is saddened, however, that a minority of Muslims have responded with violence in word and deed. This harms the good name of Islam and plays into the hands of those who want to portray Islam as inherently violent.

|AD|“We affirm that dialogue and respectful debate are the best way forward. We would call for restraint and dignity on the part of both Muslims and Christians. The silent vigil that took place outside the Stratford Street Mosque in Beeston, Leeds, yesterday, is an example of what will diffuse the tension created by this situation.

"A hundred members of the local faith communities in Beeston gathered before the afternoon prayers to demonstrate their unity and solidarity, especially with members of the Muslim community. We would encourage similar acts of solidarity in other regions.”