Madonna is defending photoshopped images of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela she posted on Instagram ... claiming the pics were never intended to insult anyone.
If you missed it ... Madonna posted a series of pics on her page Friday -- showing the faces of Mandela, MLK and various icons bound with black string -- like the cover of her new album "Rebel Heart."
Following an online backlash -- where some longtime fans swore they were done with -- Madonna took to her Facebook to defend the pics ... saying, "This is neither a crime or an insult or racist."
She adds, "I'm saying they are Rebel Hearts too."
Express explain yourself.