ADL is opposed to religious, racial and ethnic stereotyping in the media. We found some of the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten troubling, particularly the direct linkage of Mohammad and violence.
At the same time, we are gravely concerned by the extreme violent reaction these cartoons have generated in Muslim communities in Europe, and particularly in the Middle East. It is certainly the right of individuals and governments to express their disagreement with these depictions. However, the use of violence, threats, boycotts and other extreme reactions are highly inappropriate and bode ill for future debates involving Islam, democracy and free speech.
What has been overlooked in the controversy is the fact that despicable anti-Jewish caricatures appear daily in newspapers across the Arab and Muslim world. While invoking the supposed "freedom of the press" in their countries, Arab and Muslim leaders have refused to take any action to stem the drumbeat of anti-Semitism in widely circulated newspapers, many state-sponsored. Indeed, leaders of regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have virtually ignored appeals from the United States and Jewish organizations to put an end to incitement in their media, excusing it in the name of "freedom of the press." One would hope that leaders of Arab and Muslim countries would turn all of the anger being aimed at the European press into a larger lesson for their own people about the power of images.
ADL is strongly committed to free speech and freedom of the press – principles we consider the cornerstones of democracy. In a democratic society, newspapers need to be free to publish controversial content without fear of censorship or intimidation of their writers and editors. At the same time, newspapers and all media outlets should to take into account the sensitivities of racial, ethnic and religious groups.