Nadia Maiwandi, a staff writer for the North County Times (San Diego), wrote an intelligent and thought-provoking piece about this issue. Nothing justifies the deaths and rioting that the reaction to these cartoons has brought about, but this controversy shows once again that making fun of somone else's deeply held beliefs is disrespectful at best, and most likely deeply offensive.
An excerpt from Ms. Maiwandi's article:
"Since the publication of the cartoons and the subsequent protests, I've heard non-Muslims ask why it's OK to ridicule Christianity and Judaism but not Islam. Simply put, it's not. Mocking monotheism isn't an Eastern value, period, whether it's Islam, Christianity or Judaism on the receiving end. People who ridicule those two religions in the West are far more likely to be adherents of those religions than Muslims."