Cartoon Shmartoon

By now, you’ve probably heard of the spreading controversy over the twelve cartoons published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30th of last year. One of the cartoons drew general indignation for its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, with a lit fuse and the shahada written on it. (You can view the cartoons here.)

There was an initial outcry in the fall of 2005, and the story would probably have ended there, the way many other stories of religious affront do. In this day and age, to be Muslim means to put up with this kind of ignorance and bigotry almost daily.

Then the Norwegian magazine Magazinet (a Christian magazine, it should be pointed out) reprinted the cartoons on January 10th. The controversy re-ignited, and the calls for boycott of Danish goods followed. Then on February 1st, newspapers in France (France-Soir), Germany (Die Welt), Italy (La Stampa), and Spain (El Mundo) reprinted the cartoons, an act that was viewed as a provocation by some in the Muslim world.

I have to say I find the cartoon tasteless and quite offensive–something that the artist should be called on–but I do not believe he should be molested, or that his office should be threatened with a bomb, or that Danish products should be boycotted. The reason is simple: One cannot demand that those who do not share one’s religious beliefs should have to show them the same respect.

This is not the first time that the Prophet has been caricatured. And yet, somehow, he always manages to retain his place among Muslims, so why should this new cartoon be any different from all others before it? Frankly, if you’re a Muslim and you believe the Prophet was here to spread a message of justice and peace, then you will continue to believe that, no matter what some ignorant and bigoted cartoonist thinks.

So, I say, “Leave the cartoonist alone! He has a right to his stupidity!” And also, for the love of all that is holy, don’t we have better things to do than to worry about a cartoon?

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