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By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics
Former Instructor St. John's University, New York City

Mohamed Cartoons, Blasphemy or Sacrilege?

When cartoonists or anyone draws a picture of Mohamed the media says that Muslims consider this blasphemy. Also, when someone insults Mohamed this is also called blasphemy. Sacrilege would be a better term, because blasphemy narrowly defined means claiming to be God or insulting God. To claim that insulting Mohamed or drawing his picture is blasphemy could imply that the Muslims think Mohamed is God, which is contrary to one of the most important teachings of Islam. Claiming Mohamed was God would actually be an act of blasphemy.

I know that there are broader definitions of blasphemy that can include sacrilege, so it could be argued that the cartoon of Mohamed and insults against Mohamed are blasphemy, but sacrilege is the more accurate term, and avoids the possible implication that Mohamed is God.

Note what is at issue here is English and the way words are understood in a Western, Judeo-Christian context. I do not know Arabic, Turkish, or any of the other languages that are mostly spoken by Muslims. So I am not making a comment on what the proper word might be in those languages. But I do speak English, and it strikes me that the word sacrilege discribes the issue better than blasphemy.

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Last updated July 11, 2020

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