Zapiro responds to cartoon controversy

2010-05-28 09:59

In his latest Mail & Guardian cartoon, popular cartoonist

Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro drew himself on the same therapist’s couch he put the

prophet Muhammad on last week and poured his heart out on the difficulties of

censorship on religious grounds.

“Tough week?” asks the therapist. While lying on a couch Zapiro

replies: “You have no idea”.

Last week he drew the prophet Muhammad complaining that other

religions had leaders with a sense of humour, drawing criticism from Muslims

locally and internationally who believe that images of the prophet are


In today’s cartoon in the Mail & Guardian, Zapiro said he

thought the cartoon that caused all the trouble was quite mild and “not like the

Danish turban-bomb cartoon” which set off riots after Danish newspaper Jyllands

Posten published it.

After the US’s Comedy Central pulled an episode of South Park

recently because it had a scene with the prophet in a bear suit, a Seattle-based

cartoonist drew a piece satirising how the prophet may be depicted and titled it

“Draw Muhammad Day”.

A campaign was then started on Facebook which she says she had

nothing to do with. She has also apologised for her own cartoon.

Zapiro’s dialogue with his therapist continues with the therapist

saying: “The issue is depicting the prophet. It’s that simple!”. He responds:

“That’s for adherents of Islam! Why should non-believers be censored?... And

there’s the contradiction of all those ancient Iranian and Turkish Muhammad

drawings... drawn by devout Muslims!”

He notes the irony of being roasted by Muslims who supported his

pro-Palestinian cartoons that angered his fellow Jews.

“Are you sorry?” asks the therapist.

“I’m sorry I’m being linked to that juvenile Islamophobic Facebook

campaign. And I’m sorry if anyone’s linked me to the Islamophobia of the US ‘war

on terror’... or the Burqa and minaret bans in Western Europe!”

Zapiro said that in South Africa Muslims are empowered. During a

meeting with Muslim clerics this week with the newspaper, the clerics said that

they were for freedom of expression except for drawing the prophet.

“Making exceptions for religious censorship is hard for a

cartoonist,” he said.

In his dialogue with the therapist he says he may have to live with

the contradictions and then his phone rings and promises his editor he will not

draw another Muhammad cartoon. “Just a 188-word Muhammad essay,” he says.

The editorial on the opposite page reads: “We clearly

underestimated the depth of anger ignited by the cartoon, and sincerely regret

the sense of injury it caused many Muslims.”

The editorial said the newspaper had never thought as hard about

religion before and felt it appropriate to do so. But, this would not turn them

into “shrinking violets”.

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