Cartoon published in the Strand newspaper.

A university newspaper in Canada is defending its publishing of a cartoon showing Jesus and Muhammad kissing, saying it’s not “an act of hate.”

The Strand, the student paper of Victoria University, which is part of the University of Toronto, printed the controversial cartoon Wednesday. It shows the two revered religious figures kissing in the “Tunnel of Tolerance,” with Jesus removing Muhammad’s robe.

Nick Ragaz, managing editor for the Strand, wrote an editorial accompanying the image addressing the ongoing rage in the Muslim world over several cartoons depicting Muhammad that were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Nearly 50 people have died in Muslim nations as a result of riots protesting the cartoons.

One of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons.

Despite the Strand’s decision to run the kissing image and complaints it has received since then, the publication has refused to run the 12 Muhammad cartoons that were first published in Europe.

“Publishing these cartoons seems to do little more than fan the flames of already-existing controversy,” opined Aine O’Hare of the Strand.

In a online message, Ragaz said the cartoon was intended to provoke debate, dialogue and thought, and should not be understood to promote violence or hate, reported newssite ekkelsia.

“The cartoon is a sort of Canadian statement on religious tolerance,” said Ragaz.

“This is not an act of hate,” he said. “It’s controversial, yes, but it’s no attack.”

Continued Ragaz: “We will not be pulling the issues from the stands or withdrawing the cartoon from our website.

“We hope, and this is our intention in publishing the cartoon, to provoke reasoned considerate debate and dialogue about these issues both on campus and, I guess now, off campus.”

The president of the university and the student council have supported the paper’s decision to stand firm against complaints about the cartoon.

“The editorial in this issue of the Strand provokes and invites discussion, not intolerance,” Paul Gooch, president of Victoria University, said in a statement Saturday.

“The decision to print the cartoon was carefully considered in an effort to advocate tolerance,” Brian Clow, president of the Victoria University Students’ Association said.

But Paul Bretscher, president of the Students’ Administrative Council, opposes the paper’s decision.

“The Strand has abdicated its ethical responsibility in purposely ridiculing both Muslims and Christians on campus,” wrote Bretscher, according to the Toronto Star.

The Muslim Students’ Association also opposes the cartoon, calling it “gravely offensive.”

“Apart from the same-sex thing, it’s the encouragement of portraying the prophet in a demeaning way,” said Walied Khogali, 22, a member of the Muslim group.

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