What do the cartoons actually depict?

By Laura Hamilton

In “The Cartoons Of Muhammad Are Only Racist Islamophobia,” Rahaf Kalaaji wrote, “Like most Muslims, I wholeheartedly condemn the violence that has been part of the protests.” I applaud his explicit condemnation of the violence that has led, to name a few examples, to the deaths of at least 10 in Libya and at least 45 in Nigeria, the destruction of the Danish embassy in Syria, and a reward (offered at Friday prayers by Pakistani Muslim cleric Maulana Yousef Quereshi) of $1 million, 1.5 million rupees, and a car for the death of one of the Danish cartoonists.

However, if Kalaaji is right in claiming that “most Muslims” condemn the violence, that majority seems to be silent.

The set of cartoons comprises: two cartoons that explicitly criticize the solicitation of the cartoons, two vague cartoons which appear not to be critical at all, two cartoons implying that the cartoons ought not to be offensive, one cartoon implying that cartoonists are scared to draw Muhammad, two cartoons which seem to criticize Muhammad or Islam, and three cartoons implying that Muslims tend to be violent.

The response of the Muslim world to the publication of cartoons implying that Muslims are violent was violence. According to MSNBC, an “Associated Press reporter saw mobs of Muslim protesters swarm through the city center with machetes, sticks and iron rods. One group threw a tire around a man, poured gas on him, and set him ablaze.” So far, scores of innocent people have been killed in riots, cars have been lit on fire, and an embassy razed—as parts of Muslims’ protests of the idea that they are violent.

I do not see how the cartoons imply that “Muslims are inherently and genetically inferior,” as Kalaaji claims. I do, however, see how Muslims could be deeply offended by the three fake cartoons that Danish imams added to the mix to instigate the mobs. The first fake cartoon displays Muhammad as a pedophile demon. The second fake cartoon displays Muhammad with a pig snout. The third fake cartoon displays a praying Muslim being raped by a dog.

I find it curious that Kalaaji chose to complain about the 12 Jyllands-Posten cartoons, several of which are not critical of Muhammad and none of which strike me as “meant only to offend” as Kalaaji claims.

I was also intrigued by Kalaaji’s suggestion to “imagine the reaction of a cartoon portraying Jesus or Moses or Gandhi or Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, Jr. with a bomb.” First of all, one characteristic of editorial cartoons is that they are generally provocative. There have been many offensive editorial cartoons in the history of the newspaper, and many big names have found themselves victims of the caricature. The Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has found a number of exceptionally offensive cartoons, many at the expense of Jews, yet the Jews seem to have refrained from car-burning and embassy-razing. According to the PMW, a July 13, 2004 cartoon (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida) features several Palestinian terrorist groups on the names of arrows stabbing Sharon (who is depicted as a bull).

M. Zuhdi Jasser, chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, describes a “vilifying cartoon” of him that the Arizona Muslim Voice published. The half-page cartoon depicts Zuhdi Jasser as a dog, on the leash of the state newspaper Arizona Republic, devouring Islam. In National Review, Zuhdi Jasser sadly notes that “being portrayed as a dog is profoundly offensive if not downright hateful in our Middle Eastern culture,” yet that “there was hardly a ripple of outrage in the local Muslim community.”

Where is Kalaaji’s criticism of the Arizona Muslim Voice’s publication of this deeply offensive cartoon of Zuhdi Jasser? Where is his criticism of the three deeply offensive cartoons circulated by the Danish imams? I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he intended to criticize those as well but simply ran out of column space.

When newspapers are prohibited from printing cartoons that imply Muslims tend toward violence for fear that Muslims will riot, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.