NEWARK, N.J. — While satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist have drawn violent responses overseas leading to rioting and deaths, American Muslims say the more muted response in this country is due to a combination of factors, including greater assimilation and familiarity with western concepts of free speech _ even when it offends.

The drawings, first published in a Danish newspaper in September, included one that depicts the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. Islamic tradition widely holds that representations of the prophet are banned for fear they could lead to idolatry, and disparagement of Mohammed is considered one of the most grave offenses under Islam.

But while many American Muslims share their overseas brethren’s outrage over the drawings, they have not responded with violence.

“After 9/11, we learned in this country that you can’t respond to an insult with an insult,” said Sohail Mohammed, a Clifton immigration lawyer who represented scores of detainees caught up in the government’s dragnet after the attacks. “The best way to combat this is through greater understanding and tolerance.” . . .

Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Indiana-based Islamic Society of North America, said American Muslims are more secure here than elsewhere about their place in society.

“The day I stepped foot in this country and put my citizenship here, my rights are the same as your rights,” he said. “There’s no difference based on who came from where and when. That’s not true in Europe. Marginalization of Muslims in France, Belgium, Denmark and other countries is very pronounced.

“As Americans, we should congratulate ourselves that it was not just an accident that American media did not publish these caricatures,” he said. “The American media has come to terms with pluralism, and doesn’t publish something that is offensive to a large group of people just because they can.” . . .

The controversy is also spurring American Muslims to action. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is to unveil a campaign on Tuesday in which local Islamic congregations will hold events to educate Americans about the life and legacy of Mohammed. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Muslim civil rights group, said such events give U.S. Muslims a constructive outlet for their grievances.


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