Further to last night's post, I should add that Asad and Mahmood do not seem to be suggesting that the considerations they raise provide a basis for censorship of blasphemous speech, including images such as the Danish cartoons. They seem more concerned to foster understanding of the Muslim point of view, and perhaps to create a more sympathetic response from non-Muslims in Western societies. Nonetheless, it is worth considering whether the issues they discuss should affect the policies of the secular state. In that respect, there's is a clear danger if the state acts on the basis of Asad's description of Muslim attitudes. What I call the Lockean model for relations between religion and state power does not propose that the various religions cease teaching their ideas, and arguing for them, merely that they cease jockeying for state power to impose doctrines and practices by fire and sword. This is completely inconsistent with a model that forbids one religion from "seducing" the adherents of another, or forbids opponents of religion from "seducing" the minds of religious believers generally.
Locke, of course, adduced secular reasons for prohibiting certain viewpoints, including those of Roman Catholicism, Islam, and atheism, but his reasons now appear weak. It is possible for conflicting viewpoints to co-exist in the one society, and pressing social problems don't usually arise from the presence of individuals with supposed extraterritorial loyalties, such as Catholics' loyalty to the Vatican or the Holy See (I say "usually" because there may be problems in some cases, as when crimes in one jurisdiction ar abetted in another). Nor, contrary to Locke's fears, does the presence of atheists destroy social bonds, or the efficacy of contracts and the judicial system. The tendency has been to allow a wide range of viewpoints and not to silence them - they may compete in a marketplace of ideas.
While some Muslims may find this alien to their tradition, much the same could have been said of Christians not that long ago. It seems reasonable to hope that Islam can adapt to a social environment in which it is open to criticism, and in which it is relatively routine for individual citizens to change religious faiths or lose religious faith altogether.
What about Mahmood's suggestion that Muslims experience attacks on the Prophet in a uniquely painful and personal way? Again, note the dangers if this is pressed too far. I have no way of assessing the accuracy of Mahmood's claim, though it seems plausible that pious religious adherents would feel something of the pain she describes when attacks are made on iconic figures. Perhaps this is especially so where the religious adherent is Muslim and the figure concerned is Muhammad, but it is easy enough to imagine the pain that might be suffered by pious Jews or Christians in analogous circumstances (ridicule of Moses, perhaps, or of Jesus or the Virgin Mary).
An explanation such as Mahmood's may help non-Muslims to understand what is at stake, emotionally, when satirical attacks are made on Islam, and especially on the person Prophet. Perhaps something similar explains the passionate responses of others, such as devout Catholics, to what they see as sacrileges (e.g. Andres Serrano's photograph, Piss Christ, which portrays a small crucifix submerged in the photographer's urine). All this is consistent with the militancy and litigiousness of some Catholic organizations.
Perhaps, then, we need to absorb the lesson that certain images, and perhaps mere words in come cases, can have a very high emotional impact not only for Muslims but also for adherents of other religions. That hardly excuses violent retaliation, such as occurred in following publication of the Danish cartoons, but high-impact offence can play a limited role in public policy. If it's correct that high-impact offence shades into harm, then the state has a legitimate role in protecting citizens from exposure to images and smells (for example) that produce, say, physical nausea. However, there's a catch here. There would be very few situations where exposure of others to nauseating smells has any communicative value. The situation is rather different with movies, artistic photographs, satirical cartoons, and philosophical novels! These can be avoided (even a newspaper can be closed) and they are protected by well-known free speech values.
The Danish cartoons, for example, caused offence to many people, but the immediate impact could be shut off by turning the page. A ban on such images would effectively mean that Islam was placed beyond satirical comment, as the images were not extreme as satirical cartoons go - no more so than run-of-the-mill cartoons that are published every day making fun of political proposals and events. What seems to have been most offensive about the cartoons was their ideas, for example of a linkage between Muhammad and modern-day Islamist terrorism. This, I submit, cannot be a ground for censoring newspapers.