Muslim committee wants M&G apology

2010-05-24 18:14

Johannesburg - A newly-formed committee representing Muslims offended by a Zapiro cartoon on the Prophet Muhammad, want an apology from the Mail & Guardian, they said on Monday.

The committee was also planning workshops with journalists to explain why they are so upset.

"To a Muslim it would seem obvious, in terms of spiritual relations, but to non-Muslims, they ask 'why is it so?'," Moulana Ebrahim Bham told Sapa.

He said that while the committee - formed after a meeting of 17 groups representing Muslim leadership in the country - understood and accepted freedom of expression, for them this was a case of "freedom to insult, and freedom from insult".

"That is the aspect that we would like to address," said Bham.


The furore began when a New York web-based group RevolutionMuslim objected to the depiction of the prophet in a bear suit in the satirical cartoon South Park.

The group found it insulting that the producers had made a joke of Muslims' belief that no likeness of Muhammad should be drawn, and so had instead drawn him sitting inside a van and not visible, only talking, and then later wearing a bear suit.

A blogger on the RevolutionMuslim website reportedly objected to the depiction, not only of the prophet, but also of the show making fun of their belief that he not be depicted.

The writer said the South Park creators might find themselves suffering the same fate as Dutch film producer Theo Van Goch, killed in 2004. Van Goch had created a film about Islamic culture.

Jesus and Moses too

They also felt aggrieved that Christian figures Jesus and Moses had been lampooned in South Park, saying it was also against their religion to accept making fun of other prophets.

News reports said that Comedy Central withdrew the episode, so Seattle-based artist Molly Norris drew a cartoon objecting to this.

"In light of various threats aimed at the creators of the television show South Park (for depicting Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit) by bloggers on RevolutionMuslim's website, we hereby deem May 20 2010 as the first annual 'Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!'"

She said Comedy Central had "co-operated with terrorists and pulled the episode". The cartoon, headlined Will the REAL likeness of the prophet Muhammad please stand up?!, has items like a tea cup, a cherry, a domino and a box of pasta commenting individually that they are the real likeness of the prophet.

'Historic censorship'

However, Norris had since written on her website that she did not intend "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" to be a real day, that her satirical poster had been hijacked and made viral, and that she did not set up the Facebook sites on the subject that led to the social networking site being banned in Pakistan.

"I apologise to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off."

She said she had spent time with a Muslim group to understand the sensitivity surrounding the matter.

"Thank you to those who are turning this crazy thing into an opportunity for dialogue. Oh, and screw all of you who are mad at me for not leading a 'movement'. My cartoon was the beginning and end of what I had to say about this creepy, historic censorship. (By the way, where is Cowardly Central now? Pretty dang quiet. Guess they can dish it out but can't take it.)"

The Zap

South African cartoonist Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro drew the ire of sectors of the Muslim community by drawing a cartoon of the prophet complaining to a therapist that "Other prophets have followers with a sense of humour".

On Thursday evening, the M&G won an eleventh-hour court bid by the Council of Muslim Theologians to bar the publication of the cartoon.

The United Muslim Forum of South Africa said they decided unanimously that the cartoon was "blasphemous, insulting, insensitive, and hurtful" and that the publication must apologise for it.

"The meeting noted that there were various options available to them including legal action and public participation in protest action," a statement said.

Bham said that people had been urged to register their unhappiness in terms of the law and that there would be no violence.

The controversy came shortly after Baghdad security authorities said they had arrested a man who allegedly planned to attack Denmark and Netherlands teams at the forthcoming World Cup because a Danish cartoonist and a Netherlands filmmaker had insulted the prophet.

Zapiro followed up the therapist cartoon with one of himself tiptoeing through a "minefield" of people wearing the headgear of various religions.