02/08/2008, 00.00
ISLAM
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Islamic petition to cleanse Wikipedia of representations of Muhammad

Petition seeks to get the free online encyclopaedia to remove representations deemed offensive to religion. Wikipedia rejects the request on the grounds that it is neutral and cannot be censored for the benefit of any particular group.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Visual representations of Muhammad dating back to the Middle Ages should be removed from Wikipedia, this according to an online petition. As late as this morning 112,390 people have signed the petition that calls on the free encyclopaedia to “respect other people’s religion” and rid itself of images deemed offensive to Islam, including those where Muhammad’s face is veiled or white washed.

“I request all brothers and sisters to sign this petitions so we can tell Wikipedia to respect the religion and remove the illustrations,” wrote the sponsor of the petition.

The controversy does not surround only the images deemed “offensive to Muslims” because of Islam’s ban on representing living creatures (including Muhammad himself) but also, according to Islamonline, a website said to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood, those “which are believed to be drawn in the 12th century, [which] are not merely illustrative, but offensive. One of them portrayed the Prophet as an idol to whom Muslims prayed for aid in battle. Another represents the Prophet as a monk and cardinal.”

The petition, which is hosted by ThePetitionSite.com, a website specialised on organising petitions, has failed so far to convince Wikipedia to remove the pictures.

“Since Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia with the goal of representing all topics from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group,” it said in motivating its refusal.

Islamonline said that in the past the reproduction of images of Muhammad provoked angry responses among Muslims. It cited the case of the Muhammad cartons published in September 2005 by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. On that occasions there were several violent incidents in Muslim countries with many people killed or wounded.

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