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Online Reactions to the Muhammad Cartoons: YouTube and the Virtual Ummah

TitleOnline Reactions to the Muhammad Cartoons: YouTube and the Virtual Ummah
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsAl-Rawi, A
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion

The publication of 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad by the Danish newspaper Jyllands‐Posten on September 30, 2005, created a great deal of controversy over self‐censorship, freedom of speech, and accusations of religious incitement. Muslim activists organized protests, and later hundreds of people were killed and hundreds of others were injured due to violent reactions to the cartoons. This article focuses on how people used YouTube to react to these cartoons by analyzing 261 video clips and 4,153 comments. Results show that the majority of the video clips and comments were moderate and positive in tone toward Islam and Muhammad; however, a small percentage either called for jihad against the West or made lethal threats against the artist. Other comments carried curses or insults against Denmark, while a few others were anti‐Islamic. The fact that these online reactions were highly varied in tone suggests that the online public sphere is very much divided.