Six local Islamic figures gathered Saturday for a panel to address the recent controversy over the Danish cartoons that negatively depict the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sponsored the event, which took place in Houston Hall.
The discussion -- held in a town-hall style and followed by an audience Q & A -- covered a variety of topics, focusing largely on the alleged marginalization of minorities in Western media and culture.
"We need to analyze what democracy means and to recognize and represent not just the majorities but the growing minorities as well," Philadelphia CAIR vice-chairman Sofia Memon said. "In view of this, we need to ask how to broaden our democracy instead of narrow it."
During their introductory speeches, several panelists denounced the cartoons as slanderous while discussing limitations on free speech.
"People have every right to give an opinion on something," Rachel Lawton, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, said. "You cross the line when you threaten, intimidate or harass, and that is when free speech is limited."
CAIR board member Mazhar Rishi agreed.
"The right to free speech is not absolute," Rishi said. "It does not give a right to defame Prophet Muhammad or any other" religious figure.
Audience members praised the panel as productive and important.