Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American Islamic Relations (Cair), said American newspapers have not printed the cartoons as in Europe, perhaps because they feel secure in their constitutional free press protections.

 

He said: "They don't feel the need to go out and be gratuitously insulting just to prove that they can do it, which is what the European media seem to be doing in almost a childish overreaction."

 

American newspapers gave extensive coverage to the hurt and anger that the cartoons provoked across the world but took a hands-off approach to reprinting them themselves.

 

John Diaz, editorial page editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, said: "I don't see it as a necessity to run them.

 

"There's a lot of ways that we can gratuitously offend our readers. We want to avoid that."

 

Blasphemy

 

Islam forbids images of any of the prophets and so Muslims consider the cartoons printed in Europe as blasphemous.

 

One of the cartoons depicted Muhammad with a turban resembling a bomb.

 

"There's a lot of ways that we can gratuitously offend our readers. We want to avoid that"

John Diaz,
San Francisco Chronicle editor

Leonard Downie Jr, the Washington Post's executive editor, said the paper is covering the controversy over the cartoons but not reprinting them because "the very nature of depicting Muhammad editorially is not an ambiguous question".

 

"Either you do it or you don't," he said. "It's never a concern over reactions. It's a concern over what the Washington Post decides to publish. We're maintaining our standards."

 

Newspapers in the United States and Canada have described the cartoons and carried pictures of readers in Europe looking at them in publications there.

 

The images were first published in September in a Danish newspaper, and reprinted by a Norwegian magazine on 10 January.

 

Giles Gherson, the Toronto Star's editor-in-chief, said it was unlikely that the paper would run an editorial cartoon that was "gratuitously offensive" to a segment of the population.

 

Preferred approach

 

Once that cartoon becomes global news, however, the question arises as to whether it needs to be reprinted so that readers can understand what is going on, he said in an article carried in the newspaper.

 

"We're going to describe in text the cartoons. We're going to see if we can explain to our readers what the issues are, what happened, what is portrayed in the cartoons, without actually showing the cartoons if they are inherently deeply offensive to a segment of our society. That would be our preferred approach."

 

US Muslim response

 

The controversy has also produced a muted response generally among US Muslims, who make up less than 2% of the population by most estimates, and there have been no demonstrations.

 

Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organisations of Greater Chicago, said: "Some people are feeling hurt but they also see it as part of the overall Islamaphobia in the media.

 

"Islamaphobia … is hurting us as a society. We are becoming less open to listen to the voices of dissent and voices which are different"

Abdul Malik Mujahid,
Chairman for the Council of Islamic Organisations of Greater Chicago

"Islamaphobia … is hurting us as a society. We are becoming less open to listen to the voices of dissent and voices which are different."

 

Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said US Muslims, are unlikely to take to the streets in outrage.

 

"We admonish against that because we don't find it helpful to our situation in America," he said.