In September, a Danish newspaper published a dozen cartoons of the most revered figure in Islam, breaking a prohibition for Muslims against creating a representation of the founder of the religion and sparking clashes around the world that by Tuesday had left 29 people dead in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.In January and February, newspapers in a half-dozen European nations republished the cartoons, instigating the latest wave of violence.Dr. Ghassan Elcheikhali, who is from Lebanon, told the audience of Muslim students Feb. 15 at the Razi Islamic School located at 55-11 Queens Blvd., that the drawings were offensive but that did not justify the violent reactions."When it comes to religion," he said, "the press has to respect the freedom of religion and at the same time not undermine that freedom of religion." But he said he believed some were taking advantage of the anger over the images."Some Muslims use Islam for their personal agenda. They use violence in the name of religion," he said.The meeting at the Woodside school was the second in an occasional series arranged by a new interfaith organization from Corona called Religions in Dialogue that was formed last year to bring people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths together. Boris Pincus, a co-founder of the organization, said as a Jew from the Muslim majority state Uzbekistan he was confident different religions could survive side by side."I am confident Islam is the most peaceful religion in the world," he said. "They started working on interfaith a long time ago."Father Tomas del Valle-Reyes of Holy Cross Church in Manhattan and Father Will Tyrrell, the director of Interfaith activities at Manhattanville College in Westchester were invited to speak to the 200 students assembled.Tyrrell said the publication of the cartoons showed a lack of respect for the Muslim faith but still did not warrant a destructive outburst. "One wrong, one evil does not deserve another evil," he said. "We are opposed to burning building and embassies. In Lebanon rioters went out and burned Christian buildings. We do not agree with that," he said.The cartoons represented Muhammed in a variety of attitudes, including with a bomb as a turban and greeting suicide bombers with: "Enough. We've run out of virgins."Several students echoed the speakers' themes, saying that portraying Muhammad was disrespectful but should not have spawned the riots."It was terribly offensive," 14-year-old Omid Adabi said after the discussion. "But it is not something where we should resort to violence. We should show our views but not in violence."Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@times
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