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Planned Exhibit of Cartoons Protested

The caricatures of Muhammad will be displayed at a UCI student forum. Muslims object, and university officials are wary.

February 25, 2006|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

Plans by a Republican student group at UC Irvine to showcase the controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that led to violent protests around the world are drawing condemnation from Muslim groups and university officials.

The caricatures will be part of a panel discussion sponsored by the campus College Republicans scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in UCI's Crystal Cove Auditorium.

"We are firm believers in the 1st Amendment," said Kristin Lucero, a 21-year-old UCI senior and president of the campus College Republicans. "The public has the right to discuss as well as view the cartoons."

Lucero said the cartoons depicting Muhammad, first published by a Danish newspaper, would be displayed along with what she called anti-Semitic and anti-Western cartoons that have been published in Muslim nations. Depictions of Muhammad are prohibited under Islamic law.

She said the event was originally designed as a discussion about terrorism threats, but that the controversy over the caricatures of Muhammad offered another issue for debate.

Muslim students at UCI see the event as a provocation, said Marya Bangee, 19, a sophomore and member of the Muslim Student Union.

"First of all, unless they are living in a bubble, they have to know what has happened around the world" because of the cartoons, she said. "We don't want to limit anyone's freedom of speech, but with freedom comes responsibility."

The cartoons, which have since been reprinted by other publications, caused riots that claimed dozens of lives in several countries.

Bangee has asked the College Republicans to hold the event without showing the drawings. She said Muslim students fear the cartoons will incite violence locally.

That is the primary concern of university officials as well, said Sally Peterson, UCI's dean of students.

"Our No. 1 priority is going to be to have a safe and secure event," she said. "The students who want to pursue [this event], I am not sure they understand the impact of their actions."

Peterson said she had received letters from people who think showing the drawings will insult Muslims. She said the university can't stop organizers of the event from displaying the cartoons, but she hoped that a compromise could be reached.

"We are trying to get the groups together on both sides," she said. "But we don't have a lot of time."

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