How an accidentally distorted drawing of the Prophet led to a riot in 19th-century Mumbai

On a Friday towards the end of 1851, an unidentified person pasted a copy of a Gujarati article on the wall of the Jama Masjid in southern Mumbai. People leaving the mosque after namaz, saw it and were enraged.

That day, Mumbai’s second major riot began. (The first, by Parsis, was a protest in 1832 against dogs being killed by city officials.)

The article in question came from the September 23 edition of a Gujarati magazine called Chitra Dynana Darpan. The magazine, edited by Byramji Cursetji, a Parsi, ran a profile of Prophet Mohammed as one of its regular accounts of eminent personalities of the world, who included people such as Plato, Confucius, George Washington and Jamshetji Jeejeebhoy.

The profile itself was an unobjectionable retelling of the events of his life, apart from one sniping line at the beginning which reads: “No other person has so much altered the affairs of the world, or destroyed the lives and property, and led them to believe as Mahomed has done.”

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