Cartoon Jihads

Cartoon Jihads
By Daryl Cagle

Nothing generates anger in the Muslim world like a cartoon. The most recent cartoon-Jihad comes from a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The Jyllands Posten, Denmark’s biggest newspaper, has been bombarded by street protests, international diplomatic incidents and death threats against cartoonists who have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives.

I’m fond of the Jyllands Posten newspaper because they run my cartoons. Reporter Anders Raahauge wrote the report below to cartoonist Doug Marlette who alerted me to the ongoing events:

“To test the limits of self-censorship, we asked all Danish cartoonists to draw Muhammad. We were provoked by the fact that a Danish author of children’s books couldn’t find any illustrators for his planned, decidedly non-polemic book on the prophet. Twelve cartoonists dared.

“There has been a great uproar. 5000 Danish Muslims protested in the streets of Copenhagen, 12 Muslim ambassadors demanded that our Prime Minister should take immediate and harsh action against (us) which he firmly declined (to do). The ambassadors then complained to the “Organization of the Islamic Conference”; there has been a general strike in Kashmir, and a political party in Pakistan, with Danish affiliations, has put a bounty on the heads of the 12 Danish cartoonists: 50,000 Danish Kroners for each execution.”


Danes treasure their press freedoms. The newspaper ran the Muhammad drawings as part of an article about self-censorship in the press, noting that even with a free press defined by law, there are other constraints regarding what can or can’t be published. The Danish prime minister refused to meet with ambassadors from 11 Islamic countries, led by Egypt, who objected to Denmark’s “smear campaign” and demanded punitive action against the newspaper. The ambassadors then announced a general boycott against Denmark. The United Nations weighed in, conveying sympathies to the offended Islamic countries. Last week, in an apparent concession to the angry Muslims, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Danes to exercise their rights to free speech without inciting hatred against Muslims. The Danish government had the prime minister’s words translated into Arabic and distributed to Middle Eastern countries in the hope of easing the diplomatic crisis. Jyllands Posten’s editor-in-chief is quoted as saying, “the next step will be giving orders to suppress the newspaper.”

I found the offending cartoons on the web; they are disappointingly dull and it is hard to see how they could make anyone angry. Muslims consider any graphic depiction of Muhammad to be taboo. For the Muslim countries, it is a matter of imposing their sensibilities upon the infidels in the West. For the Danish “infidels” at Jyllands Posten, it is a matter of press freedom and an unwillingness to accept restrictions on an absolute and treasured freedom, which includes the right to offend anyone they choose to offend. In America we take our freedom to offend seriously; we would never threaten the lives of artists who paint the Virgin Mary with animal dung, or put a crucifix into a jar of urine -we limit the argument to whether our National Endowment for the Arts will subsidize these artists.

Depictions of Muhammad are not the only cartoons that inspire Islamic rage. Montreal Gazette cartoonist Terry “Aislin” Mosher had a similar experience. In response to a deadly terrorist attack against foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt, Mosher drew a dog wearing Arab headgear; the dog was labeled “Islamic Extremism” and the caption read, “With Apologies to Dogs Everywhere.” Mosher and his newspaper received a flood of Muslim threats and vitriol in a Jihad similar to the situation in Denmark.

A cartoonist whom I syndicate, Sandy Huffaker, drew a cartoon showing an Iraqi holding a book titled, “The Koran for Dummies,” and an American soldier asks, “Anything in there about GRATITUDE?” I was bombarded by many thousands of e-mails in a flame campaign instigated by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which asked readers on their Web site to e-mail me. The e-mails were hysterical, filled with colorful threats and demands that I fire and punish Huffaker. I posted a big batch of the emails on my Web site and asked my own readers to respond to CAIR. (My Web site has a rather large audience, so I flamed CAIR back.) Being on the other end of a flame campaign may have been a new experience for CAIR, because their flame campaign against me stopped abruptly -or more likely, CAIR saw that the hysterical rantings of their supporters, displayed on my Web site, did not speak well for their cause.

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette of the Tallahassee Democrat, found himself blasted by a CAIR e-mail Jihad when he drew a cartoon with the caption, “What Would Muhammad Drive?” The drawing showed a man wearing Arab headdress and driving a Ryder truck (a reference to Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh). In response to an inquiry from Jyllands Posten, Doug writes, “I was used to negative reactions from religious interest groups, but not the kind of sustained violent intensity of the Islamic threats. The nihilism and culture of death of a religion that sanctions suicide bombers, and issues fatwas on people who draw funny pictures, is certainly of a different order and fanatical magnitude than the protests of our home-grown religious true believers.”

Marlette continues, “As a child of the segregated South, I am quite familiar with the damage done to the “good religious people” of my region when the Ku Klux Klan acted in our name. The CAIR organization that led the assault (on me), describes itself as a civil rights advocacy group. Among those whose “civil rights” they advocated were the convicted bombers of the World Trade Center in 1993. They cannot be taken seriously. For many of those who protested my cartoon, recent émigrés, many highly educated, it was obvious that there was not that healthy tradition of free inquiry, humor and irreverence in their background that we have in the west. There was no Jefferson, Madison, Adams in their intellectual tradition. Those who have attacked my work, whether on the right, the left, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim, all seem to experience comic or satirical irreverence as hostility and hate. When all it is, really, is irreverence. Ink on paper is only a thought, an idea. Such people fear ideas. Those who mistake themselves for the God they claim to worship tend to mistake irreverence for blasphemy.”

Muslim countries expect the press in Denmark to suppress cartoons that would be offensive to them, but they don’t extend the same cartoon courtesy to others that they demand for themselves. Cartoons in the Arab press are typically so ugly and racist that American audiences have never seen anything like them. Middle Eastern cartoon venom is targeted toward Israel, often depicting Jews with hooked noses and orthodox garb, sometimes with fangs and bloody teeth, often in the roles of Nazis. The Jews are sometimes shown crucifying Arabs in a “Jews killed Jesus” scenario, or enacting their own concentration camp Holocausts on their neighbors, along with their henchmen, the Americans. The cartoons are designed to be as offensive to Jews as possible, and are seen as nothing out of the ordinary by Middle Eastern newspaper readers.

Unless we defend our funny little drawings with the same zeal that we see from the victims of our irreverence, we’ll continue to see our freedoms constricted by the loud voices of those we offend.

©2006 Daryl Cagle – Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for MSNBC.com. He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2006 Edition,” are available in bookstores now.


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24 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted 30 January, 2006 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Bravo.

    Nice job.

    I applaud your work :)

  2. Abdullah
    Posted 30 January, 2006 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Fuck u all im sure u would like if we drew a picture of your “Pope” molesting a little kid or or bush going 2 the pope and telling him :”For give me father for i have sinned, I killed 10,000 Iraq’s today.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted 30 January, 2006 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Abdullah,

    Yes – the cartoons you suggest can be drawn without fear of any jihad against my arse.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted 30 January, 2006 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Question? What would happen if the islamic world made cartoons of say the pope or baby jesus, or the virgin mary molesting children…I WONDER?

  5. Answer_to_anonymous
    Posted 31 January, 2006 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Answer: Probably the same thing that happened to the guy that dispolayed a cross in urine – Nothing.

  6. chiron
    Posted 31 January, 2006 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I have a question:
    where is the border between offending people’s belief and freedom of speech?

  7. chiron
    Posted 31 January, 2006 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I have a question:
    where is the border between offending people’s belief and freedom of speech?

  8. Mark
    Posted 31 January, 2006 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Who gives a fuck about Jesus the Pope, Mohammed, and all those other so called prophets that use their name to dupe people out of 10% of their income.

  9. timon
    Posted 1 February, 2006 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    I agree, that so-called prophet Muhammad dupes people into killing themselves, as well as others.
    But how do you come up with that number?

  10. Mark
    Posted 1 February, 2006 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    That is what all the television evangalist claim you should “tithe”(give the cleric, preist) to the organization.

  11. Pablo
    Posted 1 February, 2006 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    chiron, there is no border between the two. No one has a right to not be offended. Everyone has a right to express themselves.

    More importantly, no one has the right to harm or threaten to harm another because of being offended.

    Of the offended muslims, how many of them object to the vile portrayl of Jews in the Arab/Islamic media? People in glass houses should STFD and STFU.

  12. Martin
    Posted 1 February, 2006 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Some years ago the danish goverment funded a painting of Jesus with an erect penis in a public spot, nobody but a few christian gave a crap… That is a perfect secular society for you… Read and learn muslim world!

  13. Jihad_their_ass
    Posted 1 February, 2006 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    The only way to prevent these “5th line of goat-f**kers” from carrying out their death threats is to crush them economically. This will not happen until the world’s dependence on gasoline has been mitigated. And with Bush as president of the USA and the Republicans winning the house and the senate this will be impossible. The intelligent and the intellectual amongst the Muslims don’t have a problem with free speech. It’s the dumb ‘n’ the retarded who have a problem. Dark days are ahead my friends…

  14. Steve Pierce
    Posted 2 February, 2006 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    If the shoe fits,….that’s the question. And, when it comes to the issue of Islam and violence, the answer is clear enough. 20 out of 22 violent acts world wide involving religion involves a Muslim. You name it. Phillipines, Indonesia Africa, India, Europe, Middle East, the U.S. If you want a religion loving the untility of violence from it’s very inception, as modeled by its founding prophet and carried forth to today….By all means, become a Satanist. I mean, a Muslim. If you want a religion that loves not only violence of this sort but also social violence against its own people, and especially women, by all means, become a Muslim. For, all anyone can say, is that if there were no Muslims, the world would certainly have a much more peaceful and developed human culture. One striking evidence, among many, that if there is a God that is good at all, indeed, good in any way intelligible to human beings, THAT God neither called nor commissioned a prophet Mohammad. THAT God would have to be Satan, instead. Thus, Mohammad was clearly a false prophet-teacher, pure and simple (you would think it grossly obvious), and the world has had to pay for his sins and lack of enlightenment to this very day.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted 2 February, 2006 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Islam is the religion of God(Allah),whomever fights it, in anyways. he is fighting GOD. i hope those devils, apologize from us and stop this big fight.all u people should go against your Government, or u have another road to go on to, which is death in between the hands of a muslim. muhamad (PBUH) never been a bad person, he may be the most perfect human who came into existence. If u dont care about making fun about Jesus, well we do care about our Great prophet.
    my advise to u is to know whats the truth and chose the right way.
    my last thing to say is that allah will curse those who did it but we hope that allah will gift u the wisdom offered by Islam and the message by Muhamad (PBUH).
    salam w alikom

  16. joe
    Posted 2 February, 2006 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Muhamad wasnt a perfect man. Need to quite letting thiese racist imams not letting real history of that bastard come to light. And all goverments do bad things. So you intelligent baffons need to get that right. Muhamad is an idiot!!!!. intolarate idiots play the victim all the time. A bunch of cry babies

  17. joe
    Posted 2 February, 2006 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Hey if you racist pigs can put cartoons of people or religious figures in your cartoons. We can do it too you two faced bastards

  18. Posted 3 February, 2006 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    On the other hand, I think the Guardian should appologise at once to God:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoons/stevebell/0%2C7371%2C1328195%2C00.html

    OK. to GW Bush….

    Where is the fun in living if you can’t have any fun at all?

  19. Imran Ali
    Posted 3 February, 2006 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Hi all. As you can gather I am a muslim and I find some the comments written as grossly mis-leading. However, we should believe in freedom of speech. People (no matter how wrong and ill informed) should be allowed to have their (narrow minded) opinions and express them (unfortunately). The cartoon was offensive because the muslim people feel that (just) the prophet (PBUH) and God should never be depictated. It’s as simple as that. Draw the common muslim (make me laugh – some of us are odd) but not the prophet (PBUH).

  20. joe
    Posted 3 February, 2006 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    narrow minded. That is a odd statement for muslim. your gov and newspapers are a walking contradiction. They have done worse to the christians and jews in europeans and muslim papers. im not either. I would side with muslims if they were not hippocrites and would stand up when they do that to Christ or buddah, or any other religion figure. Until yall do i think yall are a bunch of cry babies. You stand up for all the others when it happens i would stand with you. But you didnt see all the hate that you see when you see muslims on tv for something like this.threatening death because of a cartoon. Barbarians how can we see otherwise

  21. anonymous
    Posted 3 February, 2006 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I cannot believe the Muslim community is so close-minded and insecure that they would be so offended by one person’s cartoon. Regardless of which religion a cartoon pokes fun at, there will always be extremists who take things too literally. Burning the Danish flag and protesting in the streets about a drawing is not only ludicris, but plays directly into whatever stereotype this cartoon was making fun of. Hats off to the Danish for standing up for free speech. Perhaps other countries would benefit from such rights…

  22. HARIS
    Posted 4 February, 2006 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    freedom got to have limits….dont push a person to its limit till he strikes

  23. W
    Posted 4 February, 2006 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    Fuck you poeple, western civilization is the best thing that has ever happened to this planet. You fucking cavemen need to stop getting so offended by petty jokes.

  24. Farmann forum
    Posted 4 February, 2006 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Comment and discuss this article in the Farmann forum:

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