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Commentary :: Human Rights
Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
04 Feb 2006
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.
Click on image for a larger version

O Believers.jpg
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, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1996-2002Feb12?language=printe).
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 (at) comcast.net.

Copyright by the author. All rights reserved.
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Comments

Move to an Unfree Country!
04 Feb 2006
Here in America we do not apologize for publishing cartoons. Nor do we speak of the pagan deities of foreign tribal peoples with honorifics. If you think Thomas Nast, one of America's greatest and most insightful political cartoonists has no right to free press, then move to a Siberia where you can have all the rights worthy of backward citizen.
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
04 Feb 2006
"12 cartoons vilifying the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the revered founder of Islam."

PBUH measn Piss Be Upon Him...the old pedophile...if he were alive today he'd be arrested for murder, theft and rape...
Good article, William
04 Feb 2006
Thanks for a good article. I agree.
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
04 Feb 2006
Numbers chapter 31. What would Moses be charged with? And Joshua under Moses' instructions?

Moses is a self admitted devil worshipper.

The God of the prophets constantly contradicted the false god of Moses. Where ever you see "I never told you" this or that, you can find in Moses' Satanic ranting the oposite. Jesus was also good at trashing the crap that came out of Moses' mouth.
Jesus "walking" on water.
04 Feb 2006
christ372.jpg
What's good for the goose...
See also:
http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/arts/2005/03/23/christ372.jpg
Pot smoking Jesus
04 Feb 2006
Gerhard-Haderer.jpg
Getting high is the next best thing to heaven...
Jesus vs. Bush
04 Feb 2006
WWJDT-Shirt.gif
Do unto others...
Court Is In Session
04 Feb 2006
court_in_sessionb.gif
Jihad me, for this:
William Hughes' Effectual Censorship
05 Feb 2006
You wasted a lot of letters, essentially for the propagation of censoring others, which I feel is the only real evil among political beings.
Can You Spot the Difference Between Hitler and Jihad?
05 Feb 2006
nazi moslems.gif
IF you consider this gif an insult, consider how much deadlier denial is.
See also:
http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/51508/index.php
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
05 Feb 2006
Is that 'zero' believers stand out firmly fo justice...? Makes sense...
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
05 Feb 2006
What ever happened to free speech?
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
05 Feb 2006
Free speech apparently exists only for those who wish to denounce the United States. At least here in the US we don't riot over cartoons.
Oh and Another Thing
05 Feb 2006
I find it very amusing that many of the same people on this site who bash catholics and the pope and the Jews are the same people who wailing and gnashing their teeth that Mohammed is being portrayed in the stereotype that his own followers have, by their actions, been responsible for casting him. Great job boys and girls.
And One More Thing
05 Feb 2006
This is regarding the post by @ with the picture of Jesus surfing. I agree. As one who has caught many a wave, I find surfing to be a truly religious experience. I don't remember any Christians rioting over the portrayal of Jesus on South Park. Most of us just laughged...especially when he kicked the shit out of Santa Claus.
oy veh
06 Feb 2006
okay, so... ummm...

1. jesus is not analagous to muhammad (muhammad is not 'the muslim god' and that's kind of the point of not wanting icons)
2. the bible is not equivalent to the quran (as differentiated from the bible which is published in numerous versions and which has been the subject of all manner of slander, artistic defamation, etc, each copy of the quran is identical in text and considered by observant muslims to be the literal word of god. this is why religious art in islam is so focused on recreating passages from the book, as opposed to depicting characters from the narrative. whatever one might feel about this, it explains the strength of the insult when someone steps on it or urinates on it or even suggests doing anything remotely similar).
3. islam respects christians and jews as 'people of the book,' monotheists (look up the concept of tawhid)
4. 'allah' is the arabic word for 'god' - even christians in the arab world use the word 'allah' to refer to god.
5. there are some good christians/muslims/jews in the world and generalizing makes the generalizer look silly.

you know, having to do such elementary education at this stage in the us's confrontation with the arab/muslim world, on imc nonetheless, doesn't inspire much confidence in this society's ability to fix things in the world anytime soon. maybe we should give up our activist pretentions until we have worked on trying to fix ourselves a bit more.
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
06 Feb 2006
stoner jesus, that's funny...
hah!
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
06 Feb 2006
Christians are pretty tolerant of making fun of Jesus, because Jesus taught people to turn the other cheek.

That said, extremists of all faiths do all kinds of crazy things when they perceive a threat to their spiritual beliefs, however absurd, such as thinking God promised them a modern nation-state in the location of their choice.

Why, some of these fanatics will even assassinate their own political leaders when they seem to veer from God's promise!

Is it me, or is hypocrisy running amok in this world?

Obviously there is a consp-- er, PR campaign afoot that aims to demonize muslims and paint Jews as innocent victims, when everyone knows that it is the bloodthirsty militants on all sides, and their "respectable" apologists and enablers (many on this list) who are to blame for the escalating cycle of violence.

Desperate peoples of all faiths do desperate things, and it is up to the intelligent and good-hearted to sort out the murderous liars from those who truly want peace.

Focusing on the crimes of the followers of just ONE of the Abrahamic faiths is racist and will only serve to further inflame and escalate hatred, which is excatly what the powers that be want to happen.

That is why the U.S. does nothing to stop "al Qaeda" because it is just the instrument whereby the powers that be aim to manipulate world public opinion.

This is obvious to most people now, so stop making fools out of yourselves and start working on whittling down the BEAM in your eye that blinds you to YOUR people's failings, not just those of others.
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
08 Feb 2006
"Or, how about a cartoon with the Jewish G-d, Yahweh, depicted with Uzi machine guns coming out of his yarmulke?" they have been printing deragortory cartoon of jews and the their relgion for years you dummies - do so research befopre you start stating non-facts - you go on to say: "I think it's unfair for a cartoonist, or a political pundit, to demonize an entire class, or group, of people." well what about the arab/middle eastern countries demonize that faith - not only are you are hypocrites but dumb hypocrites
Re: Muslim-Bashing and the Power of Cartoons
08 Feb 2006
Death and destruction over a cartoon is insane. Its a cartoon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!