FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Shock of Peroxide-Blonde Hair

Geert Wilders judges others based on ethnicity. He is well known for his anti-immigration politics and routinely refers to himself as a ‘Dutch-freedom-fighter’. As a Dutch politician and filmmaker Mr. Wilders was cleared last week of inciting hatred against Muslims. This editorial, however, is not about the Mr. Wilders’ acquittal nor is it about free speech. This article is about Geert Wilders the caricature — the man who wears slim-cut, European styled-pinstriped suits beneath a shocking-mane of dyed, peroxide-blond hair. Mr. Wilders is a walking contradiction. He is a man who ignores a genealogy that includes Jewish-Indonesian ancestors, persistently warns Europe of an oncoming “tsunami” of Muslim immigrants, and compares the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

As someone who has been drawing cartoons for the past twenty-five years and it doesn’t get any better than Geert Wilders ? he is a godsend to cartoonists like me. Caricatures exaggerate prominent facial characteristics. Exaggerating these facial characteristics make the subject easily recognizable in the drawing. Exaggerations are usually imbibed with an inherent character flaw — providing additional insight to the illustration. My favorite? In the years leading up to Watergate, the artist Philip Guston created a series of caricatures of Richard Nixon — a searing denunciation of a corrupt President with a nose rendered as a bloated, disreputably dubious and deceitful phallus. The drawings also depict his sidekick, Henry Kissinger, as a walking, talking pair of black-rimmed glasses — viewing the world through thick, myopic bifocals.

Mr. Wilders’ blond-mane symbolizes a wave of nationalism that is sweeping Europe today. His hair, a revanchist symbol, is no different from Hitler’s mustache or Mullah Omar’s beard. Nazis were obsessed with racial purity. An essential requirement for any German SS applicant, up until 1940, was proof of Aryan ancestry dating back several generations. Hitler, like Mr. Wilders, would have failed his own ethnic filtering machinations. Hitler’s trimmed mustache, as Mr. Wilders’ hair, was part of a public image — a symbol of Aryan modernity impressed on a country that had no place for an old-world, Jewish orthodoxy that restricted the cutting of hair.

The Taliban leader-in-hiding, Mullah Omar is no different than Mr. Wilders and Hitler. The Taliban consider beards a religious obligation and demand unconditional acquiescence — threatening punishment for non-compliance. The Prophet Muhammad is assumed to have had a beard and those who insist that devout Muslims grow beards contend that they are doing no more than asking the faithful to emulate the Prophet. It was only last week, the Hizbul-Islam militants in Somalia ordered all men in Mogadishu to grow beards and trim moustaches and have said, “Anyone found violating this law will face the consequences.” The growing of the beard for many Muslim-fundamentalists has become the imaginary, first-step in becoming Arab and erasing any memory of their collective ethnicity and culture. These hirsute symbols are symptomatic of a prevailing bigotry mirrored by such people.

The old nationalistic notions of a pure Christian Europe with that of a new, melting-pot continent are explosive combinations. Many Europeans think the only way forward is to look back at a bygone era. The situation is no different in Muslim dominated countries. Muslim clerics routinely look to the past to inform present day decision-making. These clerics routinely condemn minority groups and Muslims who think differently. Recently, an Egyptian, but Christian, telecom mogul, Naguib Sawiris, angered Islamic hard-liners by posting an online cartoon of Mickey Mouse sporting a beard. The Islamic hard-liners feel the cartoon ridicules Islam. According to the Islamists, Muslims grow their beards long and trim their mustaches — a style said to emulate the Prophet Muhammad. The Islamists are now threatening Mr. Sawiris that they will have “to cut out the tongue of any person who attacks our religion,” and have filed multiple lawsuits accusing him of religious contempt.

If a person can be reduced to a singular exaggeration like Kissinger’s glasses or Mr. Wilders’ hair-mane it can be posited, with little subtlety, that the person’s character can be summed up in the reactions of a few irrational individuals. When a person believes in the plurality of life it becomes harder, as a cartoonist, to draw them using a singular exaggeration. It is easier to draw Hitler then it is to draw Obama; it is easier to draw Mullah Omar then it is to draw Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Octavio Paz very eloquently once said, “What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions. Life is plurality, death is uniformity. By suppressing differences and peculiarities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death. The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us. Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life.”

Nationalism and religion target the ignorant, promising security in either a bygone era or an afterlife. The more one is educated, the more one understands that religion and state are intrinsically linked to life ? allowing us to live together having the freedom of choice and reflection.

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:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail