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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Muslims didn’t get the ‘joke’

    Last September Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten published 12 demeaning cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, which were republished last month by several European papers, sparking Muslim outrage across Europe and much of the Middle East. The cartoons were to serve, according to editors, as “”an experiment in self-censorship.””

    When a paper encourages offensively depicting a revered religious individual, its reasons for doing so must be questioned; respect and sensitivity should outweigh absolute freedom of speech.

    The war in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the media’s negative portrayal of Islam already have many Muslims feeling targeted. In a country like Denmark, where 200,000 Muslims make up 3 percent of the population, provocative images of Islam’s messenger are sure to ruffle more than a few feathers.

    The cartoon controversy becomes more interesting in light of the fact that only three years ago, Jyllands-Posten refused to publish drawings satirizing Jesus Christ. According to the Guardian, Jens Kaiser, the Sunday editor at the time, refused to run the cartoons, saying, “”I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.””

    It is ridiculous to assume that the same paper didn’t realize the outcry that would result from the publication of the Mohammad cartoons, especially given that the depiction of religious figures is contrary to Islamic law. Islam forbids the portrayal of God or

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    any of the prophets, reasoning that any attempt to depict them would not measure up to their respected status.

    As Tariq Ramadan, a philosopher and leading spokesman for Muslims in Europe, said, “”How will the average Muslim in Europe who opposes terrorism react to seeing the Prophet Mohammad depicted with a bomb in his turban?””

    It is hard for Western societies to understand Muslims’ reactions, when portrayals of a blond-haired, blue-eyed naked Jesus or a veiled Virgin Mary are commonplace, especially as religious lampooning has become part of pop culture. But as Ramadan put it, “”These cartoons are seen by average Muslims as a transgression against something sacred, a provocation of Islam.””

    Taking the firm beliefs of more than 1 billion people into consideration, newspapers across the world, especially in places where Muslims are populous, should consider the necessity of publishing images that have the ability to alienate and offend large portions of their societies.

    While leading U.S. newspapers like the Washington Post, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune all refrained from publishing the caricatures, and CNN ran the illustrations with Mohammad’s face blurred out, the Arizona Daily Wildcat decided to publish its own political cartoon on Tuesday depicting Mohammad, Jesus and other religious figures. In the cartoon, Jesus tells Mohammad, “”You really needa learn how to take a joke, Mohammad.””

    Newspapers across the world, especially in places where Muslims are populous, should consider the necessity of publishing images that have the ability to alienate and offend large numbers of its society.

    Wildcat editor in chief Aaron Mackey said the Wildcat abides by a code of ethics that prohibits the promotion of stereotypes or hate speech and that the cartoon published Tuesday wasn’t meant to offend Muslims or agree with the Danish cartoons.

    “”We would never run a cartoon that links the Prophet Mohammad with terrorism or any of the ones published in the Danish paper,”” he said. “”Those only served to offend.””

    Apparently, Wildcat editors don’t think it’s offensive to stereotypically depict Islam’s most revered figure as a sullen dark man with a big nose and make light of the anger, insult and loss of life that still rest heavily on the hearts of millions.

    Mackey said the joke was intended to make the point that a cartoon shouldn’t lead to the massive burning of embassies and a loss of life. I say he’s missing the point: The majority of Muslim protests were peaceful, and the majority of Muslims who are offended by any depiction of their beloved prophet think civic duty should outweigh freedom of speech.

    Yusra Tekbali is a journalism and Near Eastern studies junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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