FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Cartoonist and the Pastor

“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.”

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 there is mention of the phoenix and its timeless cycle of life, fiery death, and rebirth. The book insinuates the phoenix has something in common with our humanity, which consistently repeats mistakes only to resurrect itself from the ashes. A central character in the novel ponders the construction of a “factory of mirrors” so that all of humanity can take a good look at itself. As citizens we all play our individual roles in the rebirth of “thought” that must prevail if the world is to go on. The political motives behind the German Chancellor Angela Merkel presenting a Press Freedom award to Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist whose drawing of the Prophet Mohammed ignited violence around the world are confusing. The graphic depiction of the Prophet in Westergaard’s cartoon has never bothered me – I shrug simply because it is a bad drawing. The global coverage this cartoon received was blown grossly out of proportion given the actual value of the news story. It was, however, enough of an accelerant giving Islamists the necessary fire for their jihadi-mindsets.

Before it was vogue, I drew a cartoon of a Muslim-cleric as an ape attempting to read an upside-down Koran. I never landed an interview with CNN nor did I win any international accolades for the cartoon. I did however receive the requisite threats from numerous jihadists promising earthly retribution for drawing a hairy simian turning the pages of the Koran. The message in my cartoon is unequivocal — there is nothing wrong with individual faith, but there is a problem with clerics who aggrandize themselves as Islam’s gatekeepers.

In the land-of-confusion the devil is king. The media, inadvertently, has helped the Islamist cause. Islamists, historically, have used out-of-context Koranic verses to their advantage. In our present information-age, Islamists have adapted, wielding news-bytes like a salafi sword. They have managed to channel a flood of disparate and confusing stories into a narrative of hate and violence. For instance, in a speech given in Potsdam by the German Chancellor, Merkel says, “It is irrelevant whether Westergaard’s caricatures are tasteless or not, whether he thinks they are necessary or helpful, or not. Is he allowed to do that? Yes, he can.” She also criticizes pastor Terry Jones’ plans, marking the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks by burning Korans, as “abhorrent”.

This prompted a response, thousands of kilometers away, by a professor at the Al-Azhar Seminary in Cairo. The Egyptian professor tells a newspaper daily that Merkel reflects a “two-faced” European approach to Muslims — condemning the burning of Korans on one hand, but praising the cartoonist with the other.

A day later, Reuters announces that Danish police have arrested a Somalian man in connection to an accidental explosion at a Copenhagen hotel. The perpetrator, allegedly, was preparing an attack on the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, which had originally published the controversial Prophet cartoons.

Finally, just days ago, Muhammad Mukhtar, a candidate for the Afghan parliament, rants, “It is the duty of Muslims to react…I think the first and foremost reaction should be that wherever Americans are seen, they be killed. No matter where they will be in the world they will be killed.”

Muslims must not forget that the same constitutional rights that allow a mosque to be built steps from ground zero in Manhattan also allow Westergaard to draw his cartoons and pastor Terry Jones to burn copies of the Koran. The U.S. Supreme Court is unmistakable when it says that the government cannot suppress speech deemed offensive even to a majority of the people.

The silent Muslim majority wants peace but it is incumbent on them to confront the hijackers of their faith. This silent majority needs to marginalize and eradicate Islamists who propagate hate. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said last week, “It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world’s attention.” She may well be speaking to the silent Muslim majority — switching the words “pastor” to imam, and “church” with mosque.

What will it take to motivate Islam’s deeply disconnected masses to take on the Islamists? Perhaps a “Factory of Mirrors” — ensuring that all Muslims take a good, long look at themselves? Only then will the doodles of a third-rate Danish cartoonist and the antics of a pistol-toting pastor be made irrelevant. Picture the day when none of this makes the news merely because it warrants no reaction from the greater Muslim community.

SHAHID MAHMOOD grew up in Pakistan. He was the editorial cartoonist for the national newspaper in Pakistan, Dawn. His work has appeared in numerous International publications including the Guardian, Huffington Post and Courrier International. Shahid’s work was viewed by world leaders at the 1997 APEC Conference, enjoyed by John F. Kennedy Jr., and managed to continuously enrage Benazir Bhutto. Shahid is internationally syndicated with the New York Times Press Syndicate; has work archived at the Museum of Contemporary History in Paris; and has been “Designated High-Profile” on the US government’s No-fly List.

More articles by:

March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
Renee Parsons
The Supreme Court and Dual Citizenship
Eric Draitser
On Ilhan Omar, Assad Fetishism, and the Danger of Red-Brown “Anti-Imperialism”
Elizabeth Keyes
Broadway’s “Hamilton” and the Willing Suspension of Reality-Based Moral Consciousness
David Underhill
Optional Fatherhood Liberates Christians From Abortion Jihad
Nick Pemberton
Is Kamala Harris the Centrist We Need?
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Bailouts, Bernie and the Washington Post
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Blackout
William Astore
America’s Senior Generals Find No Exits From Endless War
Jeff Hauser – Eleanor Eagan
Boeing Debacle Shows Need to Investigate Trump-era Corruption
Ramzy Baroud
Uniting Fatah, Not Palestinians: The Dubious Role of Mohammed Shtayyeh
Nick Licata
All Southern States are Not the Same: Mississippi’s Challenge
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Sly Encouragement of Lawless Violence
Cesar Chelala
Public Health Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean
March 20, 2019
T.J. Coles
Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”
W. T. Whitney
Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show
Kenneth Surin
Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist
Howard Lisnoff
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party
Walter Clemens
Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together
George Ochenski
Failing Students on Climate Change
Cesar Chelala
The Sweet Smell of Madeleine
Binoy Kampmark
Global Kids Strike
Nicky Reid
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail