Student editors mull Muhammad depictions

Students at U.S. universities are speaking out through their school newspapers in response to the international uproar over the Danish editorial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, founder of the Islamic religion.

A student editor at Harvard University was suspended from the position after printing the highly disputed cartoons.

The Harvard Salient ran them with an editorial titled, “A pox (err, jihad) on free expression” which clarifies their stance on the cartoons. The commentary stated that, “it is shameful that these cartoons have led to the arson of embassies, death threats, and demands that ‘whoever insults the prophet, ill him.’ ”

The Salient, a conservative paper, also ran two anti-Jewish cartoons to show examples of what have been in the Arab press. Yet these publications were not well received.

Khalid Yasin, president of the Harvard Islamic Society, called the newspaper’s action “inflammatory and offensive.”

Other schools have tried approaching the subject through different editorial cartoons. An editorial cartoon at Virginia’s Radford University is pushing religious boundaries in a different direction. “Christ on Campus,” is drawn by Christian Keesee, who has been drawing depictions of Jesus before the Danish controversy began.

Keesee thought of the idea because “no one ever does a cartoon about Jesus” and wondered if he could push the limits. His cartoons depict Jesus and relate to various political issues regarding religion.

One cartoon shows Jesus trying to ignore a gay couple trying to attract his attention. Another cartoon shows a woman asking Jesus if he has a condom, and God telling him, “Look, I’m sorry I just didn’t think you’d ever need one.”

His cartoons have been met with praise and criticism through students responses to his cartoons. Keesee was asked by university officials to meet with them regarding complaints they have received about the cartoons.

Publication of the controversial cartoons depicting Muhammad also had repercussions for two student editors at the two editors at The Daily Illini, the student paper of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The editors who published the cartoons last month were suspended.

The newspaper’s publisher and general manager said the editors were suspended because they published the cartoon following considerable debate in the newsroom. University newspapers are able to push boundaries that other newspapers cannot.

While newspaper columnists across the country continue to push boundaires that the mainstream media cannot, the reaction among students and officials has shocked some and pleased others.

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