What our columnists think

By Daily Illini Columnists

Some Daily Illini columnists sound off on the decision to publish controversial cartoons that have sparked protests and violence overseas.

Editor’s note: All of these columnists may be reached at [email protected].

Continuing coverage of the decision to run the controversial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed will be featured throughout the week in order to maximize the results of the social dialogue that has ensued. We thank you for your participation and patience as we attempt to facilitate this important discussion.

What good (social or intellectual) comes from running cartoons whose political message is as sophisticated as the average episode of Spongebob Squarepants? At this point, those who want to see them already have or easily can. The Daily Illini’s decision to run the cartoons in the manner it did amounts to a meritless exercise in provoking a reaction for the sake of provoking a reaction. It was entirely possible to have a meaningful discussion about the comics without running them. If the Daily Illini truly cared about the free press, its energies would be better spent on how the White House undermines it by stifling dissent, bribery and propaganda.

-Eric Naing

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As journalists, we should be in the business of telling stories. The cartoons as they were published in the Daily Illini didn’t include the story and as such, left a bad impression that the cartoons were being run for the sake of running the cartoons. Moreover, as journalists, we should tackle the tough stories from an independent point of view. The question isn’t why the Daily Illini ran the cartoons; it is why every major newspaper has avoided them. As a Catholic, I’m faced with provocations such as the “Piss Christ” (a notorious “artwork” of a crucifix in a jar of urine) every day. The conversation on what free speech is, what are the limits, and what should be done about bad speech, is long overdue. Because of editor in chief Acton Gorton, we’re having that discussion, and for that at least, he should be commended.

-John Bambenek

I support the publication of the cartoons, as I feel the reader has the right to know the full details of any news story. When I read about an issue that has led to riots, deaths and diplomatic crisis, I expect to be able to see the cause to judge the situation for myself. These cartoons are not racist – Islam is a belief system, not an ethnicity – nor do they incite violence against Muslims. Journalism should not be held ransom because a particular community chooses to be offended more easily than most, or be held responsible for the subsequent choice of action by extremists.

-Tim McEvoy

While I stand by the Daily Illini’s decision to run the cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, the ultimate reasoning behind my editors’ decision to publish them is flawed. People are quite capable of finding the cartoons online if they so choose to inform themselves. The best justification for publishing the cartoons is in showing solidarity in support of European democracies for printing what is fair criticism of the hypocritical nature of Muslim extremists. And Muslims around the world that fail to protest peacefully don’t seem to get that their violence is living proof of the irony in their actions.

-Brian Mellen

While there’s no question that the Daily Illini had the right to publish the cartoons, no right ever comes without responsibilities and obligations to exercise that right correctly.

The publication, despite the purported intent of initiating meaningful debate, simply deepened the chasm of misunderstandings without a good-faith effort to provide any new information or insightful commentary. This decision was callous, inflammatory and served no purpose but to generate undesirable and unwanted attention to the Daily Illini and its staff.

This scribe apologizes to the readers for this paper’s failure to live up to journalistic standards that they rightly deserve.

-Se Young Lee