portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary global

faith & spirituality | human & civil rights

Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons

Back in the late 19th century, the political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, in NYC's "Harper's Weekly," viciously attacked Catholics, the Irish and the Vatican. He crossed the line with those caricatures. The same can be said about the Danish authors of the 12 cartoons vilifying the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the revered founder of Islam. The demonizing was, in effect, an attack on all of the Muslim faithful. The parties responsible should offer an apology.
O Believers!
O Believers!
Shame on the European newspapers for publishing grossly disrespectful cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the founder of Islam. One of the original 12 cartoons, which were all first published in a Danish tabloid, in Sept., 2005, showed him wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse. Some of the offensive cartoons were then reprinted in other newspapers in European countries. (1) How would Christians like it, if someone showed Jesus, the "Prince of Peace," with an H-bomb in one of his hands? Or, how about a cartoon with the Jewish G-d, Yahweh, depicted with Uzi machine guns coming out of his yarmulke? Or, what about the Buddha being displayed in a drawing as sitting on park bench puffing away on a cigar made of anthrax? I don't think those kinds of insulting images would ever see the light of day in any establishment-owned publication in the U.S. - even one controlled by the Evil Media Empire of Rupert Murdock!

Did the Danish and other European newspapers have a "right" to publish/reprint the provocative cartoons in question? Yes, they did. But, it was in the worst kind of taste for them to do so. And, by doing it, they abused their right of free expression. The parties responsible should offer sincere apologies to those, whose feelings they have so cavalierly offended.

What was the point of these galling Muslim-bashing images anyway? I think it was an attempt to demonize all Muslims-to dehumanize them. It was a political statement by the creators/editors of the disputed cartoons. They wanted their viewers to believe that "all" Muslims are violent and that all Muslims are violence prone. The cartoons were an invitation for their readers to hate Muslims! Is that what the owners of those newspapers really wanted? I hope not! It is one thing for a political cartoon to demonize the still missing-in-action Osama bin Laden. (2) He's fair game as are the other al-Qaeda firebrands. It is quite another thing, however, to hold up to ridicule the revered founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The public distortion of his image brings a whole people, one billion faithful followers, into disrepute.

Now, having said all of the above, I also think it's wrong for anyone insulted by the cartoons in controversy, to take revenge, especially on any innocent third party. This would be like a Canadian getting back at an American for something crass that was written by that repulsive Neocon, Jonah Goldberg. It was Goldberg who suggested, in 2002, that the U.S. should "bomb Canada," because it wasn't blood thirsty enough to suit his need for mayhem. Also, in 2003, he called the French "liars." Goldberg's stupid comments were protected by the First Amendment. That didn't mean they were the right things for him to write; nor, did it signal that Americans should be blamed for his ignorance.

I think it's unfair for a cartoonist, or a political pundit, to demonize an entire class, or group, of people. This is going on today with respect to how elements of the U.S. media are negatively portraying the Hamas organization in Israeli-Occupied Palestine. If you don't believe me, just read any of the recent scurrilous editorials from the Murdock-owned NY Post. I can't forget, too, how another Neocon ranter, Mona Charen, viciously labeled those who protested in Washington, D.C., against any war with Iraq as supporting "Islamo fascist and their enablers." (3) As far as I know, Charen has never heard a shot fired in Iraq, nor has she bothered to visit the U.S. wounded at Walter Reed Hospital.

Political cartooning in the U.S. can trace its lineage to colonial days. Rarely, if ever, did a cartoonist dare to go after an organized religion. There were exceptions. One of the favorite targets of the lampooners back then was, naturally, the British tyrant, George III, head of both the Church of England and the State. He took a beating from the patriots of old. The Sons of Liberty had a field day pulverizing the image/icon of the British monarch. On July 6, 1776, they destroyed his statue in NYC. (4)

The man in the U.S., however, who put his name on the craft of political cartooning, as we know it today, was the legendary Thomas Nast-a German by birth. (5) His repeated attacks, in the late 19th century, on NYC's "Boss" William Marcy Tweed, and his Tammany Hall-related rackets, led to the downfall of the once mighty politico. Nast, however, had a darker side. He despised Roman Catholics, particularly the Irish, many of whom were recent immigrants to America. He regularly depicted them as brutal, Simian-like creatures, (6) controlled by their local priests, who in turn were nothing more than puppets for Nast's arch villain - the Rome, Italy-based Vatican. (7) Nast was very good at what he did, but his anti-Catholic, anti-Irish legacy, is hard to overlook or to forgive. He was a demonizer of an entire class of people and that kind of cartooning, thankfully, wouldn't pass muster in today's America. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for what's going on in Denmark, et al.

All of this brings me to the late Herb Block. He was a very talented cartoonist for the "Washington Post" for many years. He took a mostly liberal position on domestic issues, but he had a Global Cop point of view about America in the world. Block's cartoons reveal that he was a crafty warmonger at heart, even before Pearl Harbor. He did everything that he could in the '30s to get the U.S. involved in a European conflict. Americans who wanted to stay out of any such conflict were tagged, "isolationists," by Block in his demeaning cartoons. When the horrific war finally did start on Dec. 7, 1941, he failed to join the military, but waited until 1943, to be drafted in the U.S. Army. Even then, he didn't rush to serve on the front lines against the Fascists in Europe. Instead, he was content to leave the fighting to others, while he produced and edited a "clip sheet" for the Army's newspapers. (8) From time to time, after WWII, Block also used his caustic pen to reduce to a caricature entire ethnic groups, like the Arabs.

Another thing I think is interesting about the body of Block's work, is this: Who he didn't satirize! Where were his cartoons on the excesses of the Zionists? In the Middle East, the late Palestinian chief, Yassar Arafat was one of his favorite targets for abuse, but never an Israeli leader! Block was an expert at his craft, but he was also very selective about whom he lampooned. And, anytime somebody is around in that kind of influential editorializing field for over 50 years, like he was, it means that he or she was sucking up to the wire pullers behind the scene. (9)

For a wider perspective on the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), it is worth knowing that, in the Holy Qur'an, this mystical-oriented man, who was also a teacher, statesman, poet, judge and warrior, honored both Jesus and the Jews, too, because they were a prophetic people. According to the noted scholar, Adolf Von Harnack, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), may have been influenced earlier in his mission by the teachings of Gnostic Judaeo-Christian sects that had flourished in Arabia a century before his birth. In any event, may the day come, when all the great religions of the world, wake up to the deeper meanings that are found in their creeds and to the oneness in spirit of Humankind. Hopefully, that needed awakening will unite us all, before we rip ourselves apart and destroy our planet. (10)

Notes:

1. //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Drawings
2. Osama bin Laden is the mystery man of our times. The CIA operatives knew him intimately. The idea that he is now living in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan and directing a worldwide terrorist network, using the mother of all cell phones, may be part of the growing fake history of recent years, like, e.g., our fearless leader George W. Bush's search for the fanciful WMD in Iraq! Who really knows the truth? (See, "Ghost Wars," by Steve Coll, for more details on the shadowy bin Laden, the CIA, and those foreign spooks, too.)
3. "Baltimore Sun," Feb. 24, 2003.
4. "Liberty and Freedom," by David Hackett Fischer.
5.  http://cartoons.osu.edu/nast/text/bio.htm
6.  http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/ellis-island/rum-day.jpg
7.  http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/ellis-island/nast-anticatholic.jpg
8.  http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/about.html
9. This is sort of ironic. It was Ken Adelman, another "Washington Post" genius, who insisted, on 02/13/02, that any U.S. war in Iraq was going to be "a cakewalk." Naturally, like his fellow Chickenhawks, Goldberg and Charen, he has declined to volunteer to serve in the U.S. military, in Iraq. (See,  link to www.washingtonpost.com).
10. Karen Armstrong's "Islam: A Short History."

William Hughes 2006.

William Hughes is the author of "Saying ''No' to the War Party" (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at  liamhughes@comcast.net.

homepage: homepage: http://home.comcast.net/~liamhughes/

The Enlightenment happened, dude. 04.Feb.2006 20:34

Spastica Rex

I'm about as sympathetic to cry-baby Muslims as I am to cry-baby Christians -- what's the difference, really?

Danish balls are mighty.

"Danish balls are mighty." 04.Feb.2006 21:30

?

the cartoonist who drew the most offensive one has a 50K bounty on his head & 24 hr protection.

50K bounty 04.Feb.2006 21:46

Sean sean.rains@gmail.com

I don't think any amount of balls strength is worth that kind of attention.


ALL organized religions should be fair game for ridicule 04.Feb.2006 22:28

Burro

It is natural for writers and cartoonists to reveal their own biases in their writings and drawings. The solution is not censorship. The solution in this instance is to broaden the scope of caricature to include ALL organized religions.

You have a problem with Thomas Nast who mocked the populace which were "controlled by their local priests, who in turn were nothing more than puppets for Nast's arch villain - the Rome, Italy-based Vatican." I'd say that Nash was right on the money (pun intended).

The Qur'an is believed to be the direct Word of God (like the Bible), and it must be obeyed without question. But look at the Bible and the Qur'an -- and the changes, revisions, and corruptions to them over time. Don't you think that these books reflect the biases of their compilers?

Soon after it was founded, Islam swept across Arabia with most cities voluntarily joining, but a few remained stubborn, and they had to be brought in by force. Then, this religion-inspired conquest of various peoples proceeded into parts of Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia. Are you defending this aggression?

Fundamentalists - Islamic, Christian, Jewish, or whomever - deserve to be caricaturized.

All I have to say is 04.Feb.2006 23:00

Phil

Freedom of speech. Thank god(or allah or who/whatever) we have it. I don't care if it angers people, it is free speech, and that is the most important thing any nation can have.

sharon 05.Feb.2006 00:17

controversy

Don't y'all remember the cartoon Sharon eating a baby or something?

What part of Solomon Rushdie's dillema did they not get? 05.Feb.2006 00:18

Hep

You never hear Muslims bash Jesus, in fact they respect the rehashed Horus sun god deity. I see the propaganda the U.S. perpetrators of 9/11 with their CIA psy-ops having a wet dream with this story.
America's Profit ($)
America's Profit ($)

Syndication 05.Feb.2006 05:22

Todd Beamer

Website for the cartoonist that syndicates U.S. cartoons to that Danish newspaper. (cagle.com/)

The newspaper has run cartoons from this guy in the past. You can interpret his cartoons for yourself, however, if this newspaper cannot get native Danes to produce cartoons on a day by day basis (having to rely on far-right U.S. syndicated cartoons), what is the likelihood that the paper managed to get the Muslim bashing cartoons out all by itself, without 'Alliance' assistance? According to the story the cartoonists are anonymous and 'Danish'. However, what really happened - did the cartoon syndicate supply the goods ready on the desk for the editor, or did the newspaper really run a competition to get 'Danish only' submissions? Hard to prove, and with the $$$ bounty on the head of the cartoonist we will conveniently never be able to know.

Was it last week that this very newswire featured articles on how Pentagon public diplomacy sometimes gets picked up by the domestic market - not the intended audience? Could that be what we have here, the Pentagon placing harmless cartoons and the mainstream media tittering on about it? Would the Pentagon use a 'Danish' paper that supported Hitler for such a psy-op?

It is good to see the independent newswires not taking the bait (or seeing the ruse).

The cartoon story has a great legend, however, can anyone name the nationalities of the eleven ambassadors that originally - and all by themselves - complained to the people from block-o-land?

Maybe need to add? 05.Feb.2006 06:52

Mike stepbystpefarm <a> mtdata.com

There MAY be more going on here than we know now.

I have seen reports (not yet had time to trace them all back to original sources) that there may well be a two way misunderstanding involved << both in the Islamic response AND the European response >>

These reports indicate that the cartoons passed around the Islamic world as having been printed in the Danish paper included other cartoons (from?) which were truly offensive << I have heard of one with the Prophet depicted with the head of a pig, another involving very young girls, etc. >>

Now like I said, this is early days and I haven't yet tracked down original sources. But if true, then there are third parties involved who wanted to stir up trouble for their own purposes.

here 05.Feb.2006 15:52

Clyde

Here are the actual cartoons for reference, as far as I can tell.

 http://www.faithfreedom.org/Gallery/Mo_Cartoons.jpg


And a bit more background:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons


Cartoonists are Danes 06.Feb.2006 08:10

Bright Eyes

The terminology & symbolism ("a Dane from SouthWest Denmark", orange in the turban) are Danish.

Yep, just some Danes drawing some tasteless cartoons. Not some sinister operation behind the scences...

In many cases, a cigar is a cigar...

Muslim Corruption 06.Feb.2006 19:43

Den Mark, Vancouver

My 'net name, Den Mark, is a shortened version of my real name, but also displays my respect for the Danes, even tho i am not Danish. For imbecilic muslim mobs to attack Denmark, which has shown the world what international responsibility & civility are all about, proves the moral corruption of islam as now practiced, corruption which matches christian & jewish corruption perfectly. All major religions are wretched fabrications by inane & insane people. Some muslims would rather foam at the mouth over tiny harmless cartoons than face their own ugly images, images of kidnappers of innocent people, beheaders of people who want to help them, murderers of their own brothers & sisters, genocidal killers of Blacks in muslim Sudan, holders of hundreds of thousands of Black slaves in muslim Mauritania. And on. And on. And on. Islam as once practiced is no more. Of course, i understand that some muslims think they belong to a good & true religion, but so do some christians & jews, but all three groups are wrong & wrong & wrong again, and they don't have the integrity to deal with it. The glory that was Islam is no more. In its place is a counterfeit islam. And it disgusts me.