Wikipedia besieged by Muhammad image protest

Angry Muslim surfers are demanding that Wikipedia remove images of the prophet Muhammad from his page on the online encyclopedia - but thus far the website is standing firm.

Depictions of Muhammad have been prohibited under almost all forms of Islam since the Middle Ages in order to prevent the rise of idolatry, and thousands of Muslim Wikipedia users claim it is sinful for the website (which has four pictures of Muhammad at this page, of which only two have the face blanked out, or 'veiled') to break this rule.

The discussion of the subject, as you might expect, has become both heated and repetitive. "Why are wikipedia admins insisting on inflicting pain and hatred upon muslims?" asks one complainant. "We don't have to censor ourselves to show any 'respect'," comes the response. It's the same as discussing the holocaust, say one side. It's the same as asking a Muslim website to put up pictures of Muhammad, say the other.

Thank goodness technology has advanced to the point where we can rehearse millenia-old vendettas with bores on the other side of the globe.

Clearly Wikipedia is right to hold firm - it's one thing to be expected to respect another religion's traditions, it's quite another to be required to obey its laws - but the debate seems to have skirted round a somewhat thorny issue that can frustrate those of us who don't live in the US. Wikipedia is meant to be international, but it's run by America, and obeys American laws. And in that respect it's kind of symptomatic of the internet as a whole.

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