This is not about offending Muslims. It is about showing extremists that they cannot stifle free speech, regardless of their bullying and scare tactics. I respect the right of Muslims to hold whatever beliefs they wish. But I also have my right to speak freely, and to not respect their antiquated, illogical belief system. And as many have said before me, you don't have the right not to be offended. That's what free speech is all about. I don't go around actively trying to offend people, but I don't hold back criticism when I feel it is necessary. And if that offends someone, then too fucking bad. Defend your position. I'm willing to listen to your arguments, and have a discussion about it. And I won't threaten you with violence if you're critical of my beliefs.
What's most frustrating to me is that I have yet to hear from a Muslim who appears more upset by fellow Muslims physically attacking and sending death threats to a cartoonist and than by a stupid drawing. I support the right for Muslims to be offended, to tell the cartoonists they are offended, to boycott newspapers which run cartoons they find offensive. But to suggest that someone deserves to have their house burned down, or to be attacked, even in your own home while watching your granddaughter, for drawing a cartoon is madness.
I'm sure there are some Muslims who don't approve of the violence, and its unfortunate that they may be offended by these drawings. But I view this the same way I view other social protests. In many cases, non-violent protest is an inconvenience to others who are not directly part of the problem. When a group protests for marriage equality outside city hall, it may take some people longer to do what they need to do there. This inconvenience is unfortunate, but its part of what makes the protest effective. People become aware, and if it makes their life harder, and they are a fence-sitter (or just don't care either way), they'll support the change.
Again, this is not about offending anyone. The majority of the images I've seen thus far have been nondescript stick figures with smiley faces. The only reason you would know it's supposed to be Muhammad is because his name is next to the picture. In fact, Muslims have often changed the name (to Muhammad Ali, for example, adding boxing gloves and all). I don't understand how that could possibly make it any better. Does adding "Ali" magically change what the image is supposed to be of? It doesn't change the intent of the original artist. Of course, the intent never mattered in the first place, so I shouldn't be surprised. It suggests that this is just arbitrarily following rules without thinking about them very deeply.
I'll be addressing these problem when I draw my Muhammad tomorrow (I'm no artist, but I'm pretty sure I can do a stick figure). Stay tuned!