Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.

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:
October 16, 2018
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation