Zapiro: I won’t say sorry to Hindus

2013-10-30 00:00

THE row over cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro’s drawing of Lord Ganesha deepened yesterday with Hindu leaders questioning why he was not willing to resolve the matter amicably.

The cartoon, carried in the Sunday Times, depicts deity Lord Ganesha holding a cricket bat and money, while Cricket SA (CSA) chief executive Haroon Lorgat, tied up on an altar, is about to be stabbed as a sacrifice to him by two CSA officials. It refers to the CSA agreeing to suspend Lorgat for the duration of India’s tour to South Africa after its hand was apparently forced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Zapiro has refused to apologise and Hindu religious leaders have threatened mass action against Zapiro and have issued a call to boycott the Sunday Times.

Zapiro said in a statement issued yesterday that while he would not apologise, it was also not his intention to offend the Hindu community.

“I don’t think I will apologise. I stand by it and I thought the cartoon worked very well. I’ve had quite a few good responses,” said Shapiro.

He said he did not want to court controversy, but rather wanted to do a cartoon that the average South African reader could understand.

“In doing so, I look for imagery that I feel will work. I certainly did not set out to offend a group of people,” he said.

The cartoon was not about religion and Lord Ganesha was used as a metaphor.

“I’ve done research and know that Lord Ganesha is seen as the remover of obstacles and hence the removal of Haroon Lorgat in the path of the Indian Cricket Board,” said Shapiro.

But local Hindu leaders are not satisfied and the matter has been reported to the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, as well as the Press Ombudsman.

South African Hindu Dharma Sabha leader Ram Maharaj said fundamentalist Hindu organisations in India were also looking at the action they will be taking.

Maharaj said Shapiro was out of line.

“Instead of resolving the issue amicably, he wants to fan the flames of discord. While we take cognisance of the fact that he, as an artist, has a democratic right of expression, he must realise that with all rights comes responsibilities. If he really wanted to depict India so that people could understand, why not use the hugely popular and easily recognisable Taj Mahal? Zapiro is adopting an intolerant attitude and this sort of posturing will not enhance inter faith understanding and relationships,” said Maharaj.

The Hindustan Times reported yesterday that the BCCI had asked South African Hindu Maha Sabha chairman Ashwin Trikamjee Trikamjee to send a copy of the cartoon to them.

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) expressed concern at the outrage, saying artistic expression should not be “censored in favour of personal interests that are far outweighed by the public good”.

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