OTTAWA — The massacre at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, France sparked debate over the publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Imtiaz Ahmed, an Imam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ottawa told 1310News he believes publishing religious satirical cartoons should be banned by law.
“In my opinion it should be illegal,” said Ahmed, “To portray any holy figure in an offensive manner should be illegal.”
At the same time he defended freedom of speech, saying it is based on two pillars.
“It was intended to lead to truth and morality,” said Ahmed, “These cartoons and offensive movies to mock religious leaders achieve neither.”
“They are based on lies on the first hand, and then they create hatred amongst the people,” said Ahmed. “Freedom of speech always conflicts with other values in society — you have to understand that — such as peaceful co-existence, and it must be balanced.”
Ahmed told 1310News the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed are offensive to Muslims.
“I have seen them in the past, of course those cartoons falsely represent the holy prophet Mohammed. We revere him as a prophet of God and one of the best prophets of all time,” said Ahmed, “They are very provocative. It would hurt any Muslim when they would look at those cartoons.”
“Any Muslim would not want to see his prophet or her prophet in this shape of cartoon.”
He said satirical publications should stay away from all religious figures.
“We at the Ahmadiyya Muslim believe that any kind of vulgar expression about any sacred person of any religion does not constitute the freedom (of speech) in any way at all. There are a million of other things to make fun at, but this is not one.”
Ahmed was critical of any organization planning to publish cartoons depicting the prophet in light of the Paris attacks.
“It would hurt many Muslims living in Canada and across the world who don’t believe in terrorist ideology,” said Ahmed, “It’s going to hurt many Muslims who are peaceful and law abiding citizens.”
He condemned the attack at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine which killed 12 people saying it did not depict true Islamic beliefs.
“We can’t remain silent, and sit in our homes, and say that everything is okay when my religion is being hijacked by these terrorist ideologies,” said Ahmed, “This is not what Islam is, this is not the real teachings of Islam.”