Moussa Elbayoumy thinks the violence and protests in recent weeks in the Muslim world about a political cartoon initially published in a Danish newspaper have overshadowed the peaceful tactics first used.
"They were blocked every step of the way," Elbayoumy said of Muslims in Denmark who protested and attempted to boycott products after publication of the image in September that portrayed the Prophet Muhammad.
Elbayoumy, director of the Islamic Society of Lawrence, spoke about the cartoon and the issues surrounding it with four other panelists Thursday afternoon at Kansas University's Burge Union.
The panelists also answered questions from audience members and covered topics such as freedom of expression, religion and the history of political cartoons.
"We need to admit that people have different levels of attachment to their religion," Elbayoumy said.
Tim Miller, a KU professor and chairman of the religious studies department, showed examples of cartoons that insulted Christianity and Judaism.
"It's nothing new, and it's a very regrettable part of our human history," Miller said.
KU journalism professor Ted Frederickson, a former Washington Post reporter who teaches a class on the First Amendment, said the media needed to cover religion because of its prominence.
"I wonder if (the cartoon) really is (a negative portrayal) or if the cartoon is about idolatry itself," Frederickson said.
He said the political cartoon was meant to provide commentary on a faction of Islam that had hijacked the religion and used it for political power.
Frederickson also worried that the violence may have suppressed the speech of Islamic moderates.
"I'm one of those people that think more speech is needed than less speech," Frederickson said.
Dennis Anderson, managing editor of the Journal-World, talked about the paper's decision not to publish the political cartoon during the controversy.
He said the staff decided to use restraint partially because political cartoons and other images generally create stronger emotions from readers than words.
"We keep readers informed, but we don't have to offend people while we are doing it," Anderson said.
KU law professor and former dean Mike Hoeflich, who is also a Journal-World columnist, said the focus should be about stopping the violence.
"Kids are dying, but folks, it's not like we don't have violent protests in the U.S.," he said. "We are not the peace-abiding folks either when it comes to our values being challenged."
He said the focus should be on joining with the Islamic world and trying to figure out why many younger people were willing to die "because of some cartoons printed in Copenhagen, (Denmark)."
Elbayoumy said he likened some of the commentary about the Muslim world today to the tone of earlier negative cartoons about Jews or Catholics that were presented during Thursday's forum.
"Do we need to wait until we have another Holocaust - this time for Muslims? We as a human family need to stop it," he said.