By Samuel Burke
Is shouting fire in a crowded theater free speech?
That debate has been sparked once again by a series of cartoons published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, some of which depict the Prophet Mohammed in obscene poses.
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed a cartoonist from the magazine, who is known as Luz. He said, “Everyone can have his own interpretation,” that the drawings were not made to shock people.
As for the violence that could come as a result of the cartoons, Luz said he would not accept any blame.
“Who is responsible for killing? It is the killer,” Luz said. “It’s quite unfair to say we are responsible for this. It’s fear that is responsible.”
The French government has stationed police outside of the magazine's headquarters in Paris and ordered the immediate closure of the French embassy in Tunisia. It also plans to close French embassies and schools throughout the Arab world on Friday – the Muslim day of prayer.
Marwan Muhammed, spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, calls for a respectful disagreement over what he deems an “awful piece of journalism.”
“Of course the freedom of expression has to be accepted and respected in our countries,” Muhammed told Amanpour, “but we cannot say that we hid behind the freedom of expression to use it as a means of insulting a whole community.”
French writer and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy disagrees. While he doesn’t like the cartoons, they are a part of a democracy, he said.
“The right to blasphemy is a core, key point of freedom,” he said.
Lévy also said he doesn’t believe the cartoons, clashes and ongoing protests are part of a cultural war between the rest and the Muslim world – citing western support of Libya to “free itself” as an example of the two groups working together.
“The real war is not between the West and ‘the rest.’ It is inside the rest– inside Islam,” Levy said.
“The real clash is between the moderates and the fanatics.”
CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.