Westerners should be careful about publishing offensive material, even if it is in the spirit of free expression, so as not to provoke “insane” people who are particularly sensitive to having their faith attacked, a Toronto imam told CP24 Thursday.

Muhammad Afzal Mirza, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a branch of the Islamic faith, told CP24 that local Muslims of all denominations are condemning Wednesday’s terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo, a Paris newspaper that is known for publishing provocative cartoons mocking several religions, including Islam.

“It’s horrific, nobody’s proud of it,” Mirza said. “I couldn’t sleep last night when I was thinking of those innocent people who were just killed because they made a cartoon or they wrote something against the prophet of Islam Muhammad, peace be upon him.”

The Paris shooting claimed 12 lives – eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor. One of three suspects has turned himself in to police and a massive manhunt is underway for two gunmen.

Mirza said he hopes the incident will not reflect badly on all Muslims, but that he will not be surprised if there is a backlash against the Muslim community. There were reports of grenades being thrown into the courtyard of a mosque in France following the massacre at Charlie Hebdo.

Mirza, who has lived in the west for 40 years, told CP24 that he strongly supports freedom of speech, but questioned what would be accomplished by uttering controversial and offensive comments.

“[If it is] just for your satisfaction or you want to prove that you are free in this part of the world, that’s okay, but how about the other people who are sensitive to these things?” Mirza asked. “I am all for freedom of speech… but at the same time, if somebody is insane and he’s sensitive about one thing, I think it would be better not to just do it. What do we accomplish by doing so?”

“I think the wise thing would be not to provoke them,” Mirza added. “We’re no longer isolated people. So, I think we should be careful while we are exercising our freedom of rights.”

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