The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade. Both Arabic and Persian literature, the two great literatures of Islam, are full of examples of "laughing at religion," at times to the point of irreverence.
So, in refusing to publish the cartoons at issue, the American media are simply following the line not of Islam but of radical Islamists, who engineered this outbreak of violence in the first place. Of course, even if the images violated a religious taboo, that's no reason not to print them. What journalists print should be designed to provide news and data for readers, not to assuage extremist religious sensibilities. Would the NYT refuse to depict a Terence McNally play because of fierce opposition by Christianists? Of couse not. So why the double standard? Or is one of the criteria for journalism now not relevance to a global story but conformance to religious sensibility?