Satirical cartoons that sparked deadly riots among Muslims overseas prompted a subtler response at CSU on Wednesday when a professor showed the drawings to his Islamic history class - instead erupting in anger, a man in the class wept.
The three cartoons shown to the about 125-student class included a satirical sketch of the prophet wearing a bomb on top of his head and another that depicted him wielding a sword, surrounded by women. They originated from a Danish newspaper.
Zaki Safar, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said the cartoons make the holy figure out to be a terrorist and a "sex maniac" who oppresses women.
"The one with the bomb on his head was the worst," the Saudi Arabia native said, still teary-eyed just after 2 p.m., when class let out. "I cried with tears in the middle of the class."
Other students chuckled at the cartoons or were puzzled at the reaction, he said.
The professor, James Lindsay, said he presented the cartoons in response to student inquiries; several students told him they did not understand the logic behind the anger over the cartoons.
Normally, he said, he stays away from addressing current events in the history course, but this time he decided to take the opportunity to offer students some context.
He showed the Danish-drawn cartoons lampooning Muslims and Muslim-drawn cartoons satirizing Europeans and Jews, along with historical and modern Islamic texts and art.
Satirical depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad - or a holy figure belonging to any other religion - is considered profane in Islam, said philosophy professor Idris Hamid, who specializes in cosmology.
To Islam, free speech does not include the right to injure what another party holds sacred, Hamid said, citing a passage in the Islamic holy book, the Quran: "Do not abuse or mock those whom they adore and serve besides god. Otherwise they may abuse or curse god without knowledge."
"Satire is a tool by which people are pulled apart," Hamid said. "And witness what happened in light of these cartoons. In the name of freedom of expression, in satire, you pull people apart, whereas the goal of Islam is really to bring them together."
Lindsay also showed Muslim-drawn cartoons deriding Jews, Christians and even Muslims. What's worse is that these and other cartoons widen the gap between Islamic and Western cultures, Safar said, and that's exactly what his student group is trying to combat.
He said freedom of speech should be used responsibly and not give such a powerful voice to the most ignorant in each culture.
"There are morons everywhere, whether Jews or Muslims (or Christians)," Safar said.
Khaleel Alyahya, president of the CSU Muslim Student Association, said that the cartoons violate values commonly held by Muslims.
"Muslims believe your freedom stops where it's going to hurt others," he said.
The polar takes on the cartoons has illustrated a large difference between Islam and the West: Tolerance is an aspect of Western life, but not necessarily a part of Islam, Lindsay said.
The professor used the movie "The Life of Brian" as an example. The film, made by the cult comedy crew Monty Python's Flying Circus, lampooned the story of Jesus by following the life of an average guy who was born in the manger next door to Christ.
"Christians aren't really thrilled with 'The Life of Brian' but they don't go and shoot Terry Jones and Monty Python's Flying Circus," Lindsay said.
These offensive cartoons and others, which have appeared in European newspapers, have recently fueled violent uproar in Islamic countries. Mobs have mounted assaults on European embassies - especially those belonging to Denmark, the origin of the cartoons.
Though an independent Danish newspaper published the artwork, blame and sanctions have been aimed at the country's government. Iran has cut off all trade with Denmark, the Associated Press reported.
The Danish-drawn cartoons were published in an Egyptian newspaper in September, but did not stir the masses until the Imam began his campaign in recent weeks.
However the Danish Imam, or Islamic spiritual leader, created even more horrific anti-Islamic cartoons as well and circulated them to push other Muslims to action, Lindsay said.
One of the photos Lindsay displayed in class showed a dog, considered a filthy beast in Islam, mounting a Muslim woman bent over in prayer.
Another was a photograph of a contestant in a French hog-calling contest who was wearing a fake pig nose. The Danish Imam purported it was a depiction of Muhammad and circulated these pictures and others to create anger, Lindsay said.
Responses have ranged from attacks on embassies to circulations of cartoons poking fun at the Holocaust.
Students interviewed on campus Thursday afternoon generally supported the professor's decision, so long as the presentation was tactful.
"I think it's almost necessary ... in an academic setting, if you're studying it," said international studies senior Jonathan Bishop. "It's especially valuable to see what the controversy is over, not just that there is a controversy."
Another student agreed.
"Everywhere I've heard in the media takes the side of the Muslims," said Bobby Hodge, a liberal arts senior. "Since it's (shown in) a class, it's dealing with current events."
Others said they would have been offended in the class if they were Muslim, but noted that the acceptability of the cartoons hinges on their presentation - whether it was objective and academic, or ethnocentric and ignorant.
But Safar was firm in his belief that the blasphemy should simply not have been shown.
"(Lindsay) made a huge mistake by putting up the cartoons," Safar said. "Not only that, he's making the gap between the three religions bigger and bigger. ... Making chaos between people - I don't think that's the correct way of achieving peace."
The professor, on the other hand, articulated Western societies' own uncompromising take on freedom of expression.
"My job is not to bring people together," Lindsay said. "My job is to teach history. History is not pleasant in many cases, and I made it very clear in class that this is America and you all have the right to offend but you do not have the right to not be offended