The expression “I do not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it” seems to have no equivalent in Islam.
The famous quote, based on the words of Voltaire, is admittedly extreme, but so are the acts of those individuals still rampaging through many countries to protest an offensive cartoon.
Not only is it considered blasphemous to depict Mohammad in any manner (the opposite of Catholicism, which has mad iconography skills), the cartoon in question also shows him wearing a bomb-shaped turban. It was a double-whammy of destructive proportions.
By carrying out or calling for violence (including more beheadings and 9/11's) in retaliation for a cartoon, those radical elements are actually justifying the stereotype that the bomb image was suggesting. And the perception of Muslims as dangerous fanatics will not change as long as demonstrations like this are associated with them.
Their anger is certainly not something many Westerners can understand, graven image notwithstanding. It's acceptable to be offended when your beliefs are trounced upon, but not homicidal.
Imagine if every political cartoon or caricature, which appear daily in some newspapers, sparked a riot in the West. There wouldn’t be enough teargas or rubber bullets in the world to disburse the angry crowds.
Moderate Muslims of the world, where art thou? It’s time for you to speak out loudly against the violence. It’s time to stand up for freedom of expression and tolerance of contrary views.
Turkey, this could be your chance to win that coveted spot in the European Union you’ve been seeking. Step up and make yourselves heard!