Muslim MK Ibrahim Sarsour (Ra’am-Ta’al) has reintroduced legislation that would lower the threshold for what is considered a racist offense and would ban the publication of materials that disparage the prophet Muhammad through a “cartoon, defamation and insult,” the Yisrael Hayom newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Sarsour is one of three sponsors of the bill, all of whom are from Arab parties, the report noted.
Under Israeli law, a person whose actions are “crudely offensive” towards a religion and its believers is liable to one-year prison sentence. The new bill, which is an amendment to the Israeli penal code, would make the law less open to interpretation by omitting the word “crudely” and specifying some of the instances where the stipulated punishment would be applicable, such as the drawing of the prophet Muhammad.
The language of the bill, which is the latest iteration of a bill first drafted in 2008, also makes it illegal to denigrate Moses, Jesus and various religious scriptures, according to Yisrael Hayom.
“The publication of a cartoon that depicts the prophet Muhammad is highly insulting towards Muslim believers as Islamic law forbids any attempt to draw the prophet or try to portray the image of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,” writes Sarsour in the preamble to his bill.
“There has recently been a noticeable increase in the attempts to hurt members of various faiths, whether directly or indirectly, including Muslims,” he explains, noting that the attacks have been in the form of direct slurs and other “acts that cast a negative light on Islamic symbols.”
Sarsour says his bill would improve interfaith relations and address the need to “preserve the foundations of our religions and keep the honor of all faiths and cultures.”
In September, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons caricaturing the Muslim prophet. One of the cartoons showed an Orthodox Jew pushing the prophet, while in another cartoon Mohammed is shown in the nude, with his back side aimed at a film director.
The cartoons added fuel to the fire after the “Innocence of Muslims” film depicted the prophet as a buffoon and pedophile, and sparked a wave of angry anti-American protests across the Middle East in which more than 30 people were killed.
In 2011, the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine were firebombed after it released an edition that mocked radical Islam.
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