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Charlie Hebdo: Does Islam forbid images of the Prophet?

Charlie Hebdo was attacked for depicting Muhammad but drawing the Prophet has a long tradition in Islam

By Sameer Rahim  

Since the appalling attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday, I’ve heard many people—Muslim and non-Muslim—confidently assert that depicting the Prophet in Islam is strictly forbidden. Although it’s true there is a strong iconoclastic streak in the religion, there is also a significant alternative tradition of representing the Prophet in Islamic history books and devotional manuals—a tradition not especially well known in the West because Muslim clergy have often condemned or tried to suppress it.

Nothing in the Koran forbids image-making but it does worry about idol-worshipping. A century after the Prophet died in 632, around the time his…

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