"If one must ask the West to avoid all forms of offence to religious feeling, one must also ask those who call themselves 'peaceful' and 'moderate' Muslims ... to oppose all forms of extremism which can cause division between Muslims and the West," said an editorial in the Jesuit bi-monthly Civilta Cattolica, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP) Thursday, March 2.
The cartoons, one of them showing the Prophet with a bomb-shaped turban, were first published in Denmark and later reprinted by newspapers in many countries on the ground of freedom of expression. That argument has been rejected by Muslims who believe it should not be used as a pretext to insult their religion or stereotype them as "terrorists".
The magazine acknowledged that the caricatures "offend the religious feeling of Islamic people". Late February, Pope Benedict XVI of the Vatican condemned the Prophet cartoons. The cartoons, considered blasphemous under Islam, have triggered massive and sometimes violent demonstrations across the Muslim world.
The magazine, however, called on the West to firmly defend its principles following the cartoon dispute. "It is not acceptable to take a few cartoons as a pretext for triggering a violent dispute against the West," said the magazine, which is under the control of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
It added that "the West must also have greater confidence in the well-founded nature of its own principles and show more firmness against all attacks on its principles. "It certainly wasn't expected that the West defend Christians as such, but it was its duty to defend the principle of freedom of conscience and of religion."
The magazine claimed that a lack of firmness by Europe in the cartoon dispute benefits what it said "radical Islamic extremists" and European anti-Muslims who feel encouraged in opposing the Islamic world. On February 27, the European Union pledged to promote dialogue with the Muslim world.
The issue of promoting West-Islam dialogue has gained more urgency in view of the controversy triggered by the blasphemous drawings. A majority of people who voted in a poll organized by IslamOnline.net on the best solution to address mounting anti-Muslim discrimination see dialogue as the best answer.
Prominent Muslim preacher Amr Khaled unveiled February 17 an initiative to engage in dialogue with Danish youth and intellectuals to build bridges, a call welcomed and supported by the Danish government. World dignitaries attending the second conference of the UN-sponsored Alliance of Civilizations in Doha February 26, urged action not talk to bridge the yawning gap between the Muslim world and the West.