Pictures of Mohammad


According to a report in The New York Times, there's yet another visual-representations-of-Mohammad flap a-brewin'. This time around activists are targeting Wikipedia, whose entry on the Muslim prophet contains two images from medieval Persian manuscripts:

In addition to numerous e-mail messages sent to, an online petition cites a prohibition in Islam on images of people. The petition has more than 80,000 "signatures," though many who submitted them, remained anonymous.

"We have been noticing a lot more similar sounding, similar looking e-mails beginning mid-January," said Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco, which administers the various online encyclopedias in more than 250 languages. A Frequently Asked Questions page explains the site's polite but firm refusal to remove the images: "Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with the goal of representing all topics from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group."

The notes left on the petition site come from all over the world. "It's totally unacceptable to print the Prophet's picture," Saadia Bukhari from Pakistan wrote in a message. "It shows insensitivity towards Muslim feelings and should be removed immediately."

The site considered but rejected a compromise that would allow visitors to choose whether to view the page with images.

The Wiki entry is here (it's locked to further editing) and it now contains the following warning to readers of delicate disposition: "This article includes two images of artworks created by Persian Muslim artists which depict the uncovered face of Muhammad. The images are used respectfully in a historical context to illustrate two episodes from the life of Muhammad."

Katherine Mangu-Ward's profile of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is here. My interview with Flemming Rose, publisher of those infamous Mohammad cartoons, is here.