PHILADELPHIA – Protesters with signs that read "Irresponsible Journalism" gathered outside the offices of The Philadelphia Inquirer Saturday to condemn the newspaper's decision to reprint a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad that had angered Muslims worldwide.
Many of the 200 protesters acknowledged that the paper had the right to publish the image but said it still mocked their religion.
"It was done knowing that it was against the wishes of the Muslim people," said 50-year-old Mahmood Siddique. "It was done in bad taste in the name of freedom of speech."
Inquirer editor Amanda Bennett showed up at the demonstration, which she described as "peaceful and respectful." She walked through the crowd and introduced herself, thanking protesters for coming and in some cases defending the paper's decision.
A week earlier, the paper had published the drawing of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb for a turban — one of about a dozen images originally published in Denmark that sparked violent demonstrations throughout Muslim countries.
Many Muslims believe any depiction of Muhammad is sacrilegious, much less a derisive one.
The Inquirer was one of only a few U.S. media outlets to have shown any of the cartoons. Along with the image, the paper ran an explanation of its reason for publishing it and a story about the international controversy.
Bennett and managing editor Anne Gordon released a statement in response to protests last week, saying that "this was a moment for newspaper journalists to do what they are uniquely qualified to do in this country — to lay out all sides of the issue for a well-informed public to debate and discuss."
Bennett said Saturday, editors have met with a Muslim group that included members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Philadelphia. The Inquirer also plans to print opinion pieces from the Muslim community, she said.
Lilly Dzemaili, 53, said the paper's efforts to meet with members of the Muslim community were a step toward making amends.
"Talking with each other — (that's) always good," she said.