I can only imagine the week that UPEI’s publicist is having: here is The Globe and Mail’s article, which is on their roster of “breaking national news” today:

Controversial cartoons published in PEI

SCOTT DEVEAU

Globe and Mail Update

A small university newspaper on Prince Edward Island became the first known Canadian paper to publish the controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.

The Cadre, a student paper at the University of Prince Eward Island, published the images Wednesday and even before the papers hit the street the mainstream media was knocking on the door, according the paper’s editor Ray Keating.

“The motivation really was, in essence, to share the information,” he told globeandmail.com. “It wasn’t to be offensive or to be agitators.”

Local media was tipped off when the paper was published on-line at midnight, well before the paper was distributed. In all, only a couple hundred of the papers were actually given out before University administrators threatened to remove them from all of the university’s buildings. Mr. Keating said there are now nearly two thousand papers with the cartoons in the newsroom.

“We’re sitting on them and deciding where we will distribute them,” he said. “Honestly I couldn’t be truthful if I said I didn’t think it would generate some degree of controversy, potentially on campus. Frankly, I certainly never expected the attention it got.”

Mr. Keating said he has been fielding media calls all day over the publication.

The images — one showing the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb — were first printed in a Danish newspaper in September and have since been reprinted in various European papers.

The drawings have touched off riots around the world. The rioters contend that any image of the Mohammed are sacred and have interpreted the caricatures as slight against their religion.

The controversy has pitted the right to free speech against the sanctity of religion. All the major media organizations in Canada have refused to reprint the images, many arguing that to reprint them is to add insult to injury. Canada has yet to see any violent protests within its Muslim community over the drawings, though there was a protest in Halifax on Saturday and one is planned for this Saturday Montreal. Organizers of the Montreal protest planned for this weekend say Muslims need a outlet for their frustration.

Mr. Keating argues that because the images have yet to shown in the press, many people have yet even see the root of all the controversy, even though the images are posted on several Internet blogs.

“I think the mainstream media has been reporting this to death,” he said. “But no one in Canada knows exactly what it is all about.”

The PEI Muslim Association reportedly had little concern about the images being printed, and Mr. Keating said one Muslim student approached him today to say he wasn’t concerned about the cartoons in the paper.

Mr. Keating said being a student paper has afforded him the liberty to publish the images because he doesn’t have to worry about offending advertisers nor is he worried about the repercussions from extremist groups.

“The last time I checked, this was free country,” he said.

The cause was also taken up by an outspoken East Coast professor who was forced to remove the incendiary cartoons from his office door.

Peter March, who teaches at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, says he should be allowed to display the images for his students.

“I probably will take them into the classroom tomorrow morning,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

“There’s a clash between (the university’s) perception of protecting health and safety and my perception of what my job is. My job is, I think, to take risks.”

A university spokesman said while Mr. March is free to discuss the drawings in class, displaying them is another matter.

“It would be up to the professor to decide whether that would be appropriate and necessary,” said Chuck Bridges, the university’s vice-president of external affairs. “I can’t speculate on that. We have to wait and see what would happen if it happens.”

Mr. March said he plans to launch a union grievance against the university, which ordered him to remove the drawings from his door Tuesday.

“There’s a great deal in my collective agreement that says that what I am doing, which is engaging public discussion using my skills as a philosopher, is part of my job description,” he said.

Mr. Bridges said the administration told March to take down the cartoons because the space outside his door is considered a public place and caricatures are considered very disrespectful by many members of the Muslim community.

In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said the cartoons caused offence in Canada and around the world, but there’s no justification for the violent response.

“Freedom of expression is a legally enshrined principle in Canada, but it must be exercised responsibly,” MacKay said in a news release Wednesday. “We commend those Canadians who have acted appropriately.

The Muslim Canadian Congress has denounced the violence in the Middle East and the Toronto-based Council on American-Islamic Relations urged Canadians to use the controversy as a means to begin a dialogue about the issues.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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