M&G sparks controversy with Mohammed cartoons

2010-05-21 13:15

Days after an alleged al-Qaeda operative detailed sketchy plans to

attack the Fifa Soccer World Cup in South Africa over cartoons of the Muslim

prophet Mohammed, the Mail & Guardian has stirred controversy by also

publishing a cartoon of the prophet.

The cartoon, by award-winning satirist Jonathan Shapiro (“Zapiro”)

and published in the M&G today, shows the prophet grumbling to a

psychiatrist about the furore created in the Muslim world by a page on Facebook

called “Everybody draw Muhammad Day”.

The Zapiro drawing depicts a bearded figure wearing a turban and

stretched out on a psychiatrist’s couch as he complains: “Other prophets have

followers with a sense of humour!”

Yesterday evening the M&G defeated an 11th-hour court bid by

the Council of Muslim Theologians to bar the publication of the cartoon.

The council warned of a possible violent backlash and said that the

timing was bad, given the alleged threat to the World Cup.

“My view is that no cartoon is as insulting to Islam as the

assumption that Muslims will react with violence,” the newspaper’s editor, Nic

Dawes, said in defence of the drawing.

Today the newspaper reported that it was receiving a flood of angry

calls and even death threats against Shapiro.

A spokesman for the Media Review Network, a group that lobbies on

Muslim affairs, told Radio 702 that he was “greatly disappointed” by the ruling.

He appealed for calm in the Muslim community.

Shapiro’s latest sketch comes days after an alleged al-Qaeda

operative was arrested in Iraq on charges of terrorism, including a plot to

target the World Cup.

Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani, a Saudi Arabian national, told

journalists he had discussed with friends an idea to attack the Danish and Dutch

teams or their supporters, to avenge perceived insults in those countries

against Muslims.

In 2006 a Danish newspaper sparked outrage among Muslims by

publishing 12 cartoons of the prophet. In Islam the physical depiction of any

prophet is considered to constitute blasphemy.

The Netherlands has experienced a rise in anti-Islamic sentiment in

recent years since a Muslim murdered a film director, Theo van Gogh, who made a

film that was critical of Islamic culture.


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