University of Illinois student newspaper runs six Prophet Mohammed cartoons

Saturday, February 11, 2006

University of Illinois Urbana campus.

University of Illinois student newspaper The Daily Illini has republished six of the Prophet Mohammed cartoons from the Jyllands-Posten in an editorial published on February 9, 2006.

Opinions Page editor for the Daily Illini, Chuck Prochaska said, "we felt this would be a perfect opportunity for us to have a free-speech debate about a clash of worlds we've had ever since 9/11. It just seemed people didn't have a grasp about why this controversy was going on. Everyone knew there were cartoons and that they were allegedly offensive, but they were very difficult to find (on the Internet) if you don't speak Danish."

The decision to run the cartoon was reached after Prochaska and editor Acton Gorton discussed the controversy surrounding the cartoon in different humanities classes in the past few days.

Reactions to the cartoon were strong, Prochaska said; however, the controversy did not create any riots or produce any threats. He also stated that several Muslims called the paper's office to complain about the cartoon, but they were not threatening. "It's almost a split. A lot of people are saying 'Congratulations for having the guts to do this and defend the First Amendment.' Others are saying 'Just because you have the right to do this doesn't mean you should.'"

Some Muslim students voiced concern saying, "We don't understand why people have to see the images to understand (their offense)."

However, other Muslim students were not angry with the decision of the paper to print the cartoons. Bilal Aziz, a Muslim student at the university said, "I can see the images opening up further discussion on the Muslim religion."

In a letter to the editor published February 10, Urbana-Champaign campus Chancellor Richard Herman noted his disappointment in the decision to publish the cartoons but encouraged students and the local community to exercise their rights to freedom of expression.

Some letters to the editor from Muslim students expressed their disappointment and outrage at the newspaper's decision. Other letters, including those from alumni, voiced their approval at the editors' courage to run the controversial cartoons.

So far, many national newspapers have declined to run the cartoons, and at the moment, only one other student newspaper in the whole country has run the cartoons in their paper.