Editorial Cartoons

Posted on Sunday 5 February 2006

Editorial cartoons have been in the news quite a bit recently. The main furor is over the Danish newspaper depictions of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, which can be seen here. The reactions of the Islamic fundamentalists has been a bit extreme, but not surprisingly so, given that they are Islamic fundamentalists. What is worrying is the reactions of other, non-Islamic groups, like the Vatican, which has called the cartoons a “unacceptable provocation”; CNN, which has in its cowardice, refused to even show the cartoons in question; and our own government, which has denounced the publication of cartoons that incite religious or ethnic hatred. The Hammer of Truth blog makes these points quite well.

Now, lets take a closer look at the cartoons.

The first one is of a bearded man wielding a knife, with a woman in a burka on either side. His eyes are blocked out so they can not be seen. To me, this is not all that far from the Islamic fundamentalist point of view. They do treat their women as property or worse. How many beheadings have we seen committed by Islamic fundamentalists—too many.

The second is of a “perp walk” type line up, where the person seeing the seven choices, says “hmm. I don’t recognize him.” This is not unreasonable, as many Moslems claim that Islam is a religion of peace…yet how much violence is committed by Islamic fundmentalists. I honestly don’t think that Mohammed would recognize Islam as the religion he founded, if he were to return today.

The third cartoon is of a cartoonist surreptitiously drawing a cartoon of Mohammed. This is not too far from the truth, given the reaction of the Islamic fundamentalists. I don’t doubt that the radical Islamists would open a fatwa against the cartoonists, if they haven’t already.

The fourth cartoon is of a bearded and turbaned man leading a donkey. I personally don’t see anything offensive about this cartoon.

The fifth cartoon is of a several symbols, which contain a Star of David and an Islamic Crescent, but have an offensive caption which says: “Prophet! daft and dumb keeping woman under thumb”. Although I find the caption offensive, I’d have to admit that the Islamic radicals do “keep their women under their thumbs” and essentially treat them as property. While I would have worded and drawn it differently, I think that the cartoon does make a valid point. How civilized can any religion be, if it treats half of its believers as little more than property?

The sixth cartoon is of a turbaned man in robes saying “Stop, we have run out of virgins” to a line of burnt and smoldering suicide bombers. I do find this one somewhat funny. I know that the Koran promises martyrs 70 or 72 virgins. Given how many suicide bombers there have been, and how badly treated the women are under fundamentalist Islam, I think this is probably accurate. Then again, some may not like it because it is so accurate—the truth hurts.

The seventh cartoon is of a turbaned man’s head drawn as a bomb with a lit fuse. Yes, this is a bit offensive, but it is also quite accurate—ever hear of a suicide bomber.

The eighth cartoon is not of Mohammed the prophet, but of Mohammed, a student, writing in Arabic on a blackboard. Given how common the name Mohammed, in its various spellings, is in the Islamic culture, this is not an impossible situation. As I don’t read Arabic, I can’t be sure what the blackboard says. I don’t really see this as offensive, but a lot depends on what the Arabic says.

The ninth cartoon in the series, is of a turbaned man, probably a imam, saying to his sword-wielding, bomb-carrying, and gun-armed followers, that the cartoons are made by a non-believing Dane, and that they should not take it so seriously. This is a very valid point.

The tenth cartoon is a drawing of a turbaned figure with the star and crescent. I don’t really see this as all that offensive either.

The eleventh cartoon is of a turbaned, clearly caucasian man holding a drawing of a turbaned stick figure. The man’s turban has a orange that says “PR Stunt” on it. This drawing I just don’t get.

The last figure is of a turbaned and haloed man. I don’t really see this as all that offensive either.

If someone, preferably a non-fundamentalist Moslem, can tell me why all of these are considered so offensive, I would really like to know.

editorial cartoonA very valid point is made by this cartoon. Islam did not gain the image problems it has today based on a few cartoons by Danish newspapers. The long history of fundamentalism and related terrorism, and the acceptance of the fundamentalists by the mainstream Moslems as a whole goes a long way to explaining the image problems that besiege the Islamic faith. If the mainstream Moslems don’t like it, then they should excise the fundamentalists, as one would excise a cancerous growth. If they do not police themselves, they can not blame others for trying to point out what they are allowing to happen.

Toles editorial cartoonIslam isn’t the only group having cartoonists target them, as seen in this Washington Post article, and this cartoon. The US military didn’t much like the cartoon, but they didn’t threaten to bomb the paper’s headquarters or kill the cartoonist.

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