Haffajee supports Zapiro cartoon

Cape Town – Controversial cartoonist Zapiro has received support from City Press editor Ferial Haffajee, following the outcry over his cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, which was published in the Mail & Guardian on Friday.

The cartoon depicts the Prophet lying on a therapist’s couch saying: "Other prophets have followers with a sense of humour."

On the table next to Muhammad is a newspaper with the headline "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day", a reference to the Facebook group of the same name.

“Zapiro’s right to draw must be supported unequivocally for you cannot blunt a cartoonists’ pen on this issue, but expect him to be sharp on others,” Haffajee told News24.

She said she did not believe it was an abuse of media freedom and “certainly much less cutting” than his cartoon of President Jacob Zuma and justice.

“Knowing what one knows about the Prophet Muhammad, of his wisdom and patience, he might well have had a chuckle at the Zapiro cartoon and moved on to weightier matters like the well being of humanity and of ordinary people,” Haffajee said.

Facile and childish

However, she did say that she thought the Draw Muhammad Day campaign was facile and childish.

“One that wittingly, or unwittingly aligns its Facebook friends to a rising tide of Islamophobia besetting Europe and which has seen women stripped of their burqas and fined; of attacks on areas where Muslims live, of minarets being banned from the Swiss skyline.”

This kind of action can mutate quickly into xenophobia and racism, said Haffajee.

“And from whence springs this? No doubt the campaigns of terror, or suicide bombings and kidnappings, often carried out in Islam’s name.

“Would I have published it? Probably not, but I would also have resigned because you can’t censor your cartoonist and still be an editor who respects freedom of expression.

“And I know any editor who did such a thing would lose Zapiro, a fate almost as bad as having angry Muslims issuing fatwas against you,” she said.

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