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'100 lashes if you don't die laughing' and 3 other Muhammad controversies

The offices of a French satirical magazine were bombed early today, after the periodical published an issue about the Arab Spring with a caricature of the prophet Muhammad. The magazine featured the Muslim prophet as a “guest editor” for the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, threatening “100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!”

Images of the prophet Muhammad are forbidden in Islam and have proved a source of controversy in recent years. Most disputes have stemmed from Western publications operating in countries with free speech and large Muslim immigrant populations.

While Muslims contend that such images are deeply offensive and must not be published, free speech advocates have countered that the rules of an open society should not place prohibitions on religious drawings. And though not all incidents have resulted in violence, a number of have drawn widespread protest and unrest around the globe. Here are three that caught attention worldwide:

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard speaks at a news conference in Potsdam, eastern Germany, September 8, 2010.
Odd Andersen/Reuters
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1. Danish cartoon

In September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of cartoons that depicted the prophet Muhammad. One of the most famous featured the Muslim prophet wearing a turban with a bomb inside.

The incident sparked global Muslim outrage, with many countries boycotting Danish products. Both the newspaper and the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard would be the subject of death threats for years after the cartoon appeared

In 2008 the controversy was reignited with the republishing of one of the cartoons in Danish and Dutch newspapers, stirring talk of everything from boycotts to severing of diplomatic ties.

Most recently, a man of Somali descent broke into Mr. Westergaard’s home in January 2010 and attempted to kill the cartoonist with an axe. The attacker was shot and killed by police.

In an article explaining Muslim outrage over the cartoon, the BBC wrote that the cartoons fueled the “widespread perception among Muslims across the world that many in the West harbour a hostility towards – or fear of – Islam and Muslims.”

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