Cartoon ‘sense of humour’ irks

2010-05-22 00:00

MUSLIM organisations across South Africa took offence to a cartoon by award-winning cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro published in the Mail&Guardian yesterday.

The cartoon depicts the Prophet Mohammad complaining to a psychiatrist that “Other prophets have followers with a sense of humour”. Zapiro was responding to the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” campaign on social networking site Faceboo­k.

The campaign was inspired by Molly Norris, an American cartoonist who drew a cartoon in April to protest against the cancellation of an episode of satirical cartoon show South Park that depicted Mohammed. She condemned the Facebook site and apologised to Muslims.

Late on Thursday night the Muslim organisation Jamiatul-Ulama tried to get an interdict against the Mail & Guardian and its editor, Nic Dawes, but was unsuccessful.

Pietermaritzburg Jamiatul-Ulama president Moulana Abdur Rehman Sirkot said the cartoon caused anger among the Muslim community.

“We believe that the depiction of the Prophet (PBUH) shows utter disrespect to our religion. People should understand that the issue of these cartoons is a sensitive one, and we are hoping that leaders will work towards reaching an amicable solution,” said Sirkot.

A local Muslim, Abdullah Saeed, said the cartoons could create hard feelings between people of different religions. “Such blasphemous cartoons would not affect the noble personality of the Prophet (PBUH), but would most definitely hurt the feelings of the Muslims.

“Islam demands that Muslims respect all God’s creations, prophets and the scriptures of all religions.

“Freedom must be used with respect and, as with all freedoms, it must be curtailed at a certain point before it becomes dangerous,” said Saeed.

Shapiro said he was a bit surprised by the call for a court interdict, but was very pleased that it failed because South Africa is one of the few countries where an interdict was approved against the publication of a Danish cartoon about Mohammed.

“I’m not completely surprised [that there was outrage], but I thought my cartoon was quite gentle. I know that doesn’t cut any ice with people who want to be outraged, who want to pounce on you.

“The prophet in the cartoon is asking the therapist why other prophets have followers with a sense of humour. What he’s saying is why don’t my followers have the same sense of humour and why do they react in this over the top way,” said Shapiro.

“I am intent on expressing freedom of expression,” he said.

I don’t understand why religions of various kinds should be treated differently.”

Dawes said he expected that some people would take offence, but didn’t anticipate the threats of violenc­e and court action.

“I’ve been speaking to leaders of the Muslim community and I’ll continue listening to their concerns.

“They have their own constitutional rights and values and so does everyone. That means we cannot be stopped from exercising our constitutional freedom of expression.”

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