Published Feb. 16, 2006 in "The Daily Herald".

Newspapers across Europe have reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to show support for a Danish paper whose cartoons have sparked Muslim outrage. The motivation, they claim, is defending freedom of _expression.

Those who have been around Muslims may have noted that a Muslim mentions Prophet Muhammad's name with the suffix �peace be upon him.� The use of this term of respect and endearment extends to other prophets such as Jesus and Moses.

This practice is part of an etiquette that has evolved over centuries and is universally practiced by Muslims. The use of respectful prefixes by Muslims is novel to a non-Muslim audience. Conversely, Muslims are alarmed at those times when Christians, when mentioning Jesus, do not use similar terms of respect.

Muslim distress is understandably greater when Prophet Muhammad is the target of diatribe. Islam cannot be practiced without emulating Prophet Muhammad. The very confession of faith for a Muslim, �I believe in one God (Allah) and Muhammad is his Messenger,� includes belief in Muhammad's prophethood.

Denigrating him is more than disrespecting a distant historical figure; it questions the very foundation of a Muslim's faith. His memory flourishes in the daily lives of Muslims. When Muslims smile in greeting and say �peace upon you,� when they are being hospitable to a guest or visiting the sick or placing a kind hand on an orphan's head, they are emulating Prophet Muhammad.

When they are proactively attempting to stop injustice they are following his advice.

The ignorance of the importance of Prophet Muhammad's persona to Muslims is at the root of the insensitivity shown by the cartoonists. The discourse among faiths and cultures should be about understanding each other and not about offending.

Violent protests are clearly wrong and go against the example of Prophet Muhammad who not only ignored one of his regular bullies but inquired about her health when she did not show up to spread filth in his path.


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