Religion in general is no stranger to irony, and one of the more ironic things about Islam is its prohibition against drawing Mohammed. Originally inspired by the Qur’an’s teachings against idolatry, this prohibition has itself become idolatrous by making the image of Mohammed as sacred as Allah himself.
Reading some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that poked fun at Mohammed, you might think that Muslims (and particularly Muslim extremists) were provoked by the mockery of their prophet, but the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attacks shows that it’s not just mockery that provokes them, but any depiction of Mohammed. To draw Mohammed is blasphemy, which means a “crime” one allegedly commits against gods. It is no longer Allah alone who is holy and worshipful, but Mohammed is too. Like Allah, he is subject to special, sacred reverence and protection, and even worship (in deed if not in name).
Of course, Islam would hardly be a religion if it did not contradict itself, and so Muslims will tell you that Mohammed is not a deity, and will deny that they worship him. Yet his picture is an idol—an image of a God. To draw Mohammed, even artfully and respectfully, is idolatry. That in itself idolizes Mohammed, and thus the Charlie Hebdo attackers are guilty of the exact same sin they accused the cartoonists of. It’s the flip side of the same coin.