Honestly: Pain? If a cartoon is that much of a source of emotional suffering — especially compared to the crimes committed daily by what we’re told are “hijackers” and “misunderstanders” of Islam — your priorities are seriously out of order, to say the least. And that again proves the point of Zapiro’s cartoon, pictured above.
The Mail & Guardian (M&G) newspaper regrets the offence caused by a cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad published on Friday, editor Nic Dawes said.
Dawes said the newspaper, along with cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro, met with Muslim community representatives and business leaders in Johannesburg on Wednesday to discuss their concerns.
“We explained to them that we did not intend to cause any harm and we distanced ourselves from the islamophobic imagery depicted on a Facebook group,” Dawes said in a telephonic interview.
The cartoon, published on Friday, depicts Muhammad lying on a couch complaining to a psychiatrist: “Other prophets have followers with a sense of humour!”
Dawes said publishing the cartoon did not mean the newspaper supported the Facebook group “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” that sparked outrage in Pakistan and other Muslim countries.
In distancing itself from the group, the M&G explained on its website the group claimed to be a protest against restrictions on freedom of speech and religious fanaticism, but had seemingly become a forum for venting islamophobic sentiment.
“We certainly didn’t intend the cartoon to be an endorsement of those kinds of sentiments, which we repudiate,” Dawes wrote on the site.
“We regret the offence caused by the cartoon and the pain experienced by many Muslims around the country.”
Might we suggest some worthier things to be anguished about? Jihadist terrorism, for example. Domestic violence. Female genital mutilation. Or even more broadly, poverty. Hunger. Infant mortality rates in the developing world. If a cartoon gets you that worked up, you don’t know what suffering is.
On Wednesday Dawes said in light of what the paper had learned since publishing the cartoon on Friday, it decided to review its editorial policy on religion, especially where it concerned the Prophet Muhammad.
The review would be informed by consultation with a variety of parties within the country and based on “the constitutional values of freedom of expression and the M&G’s own values of social justice”.
But it’s certainly looking like some religions are “more equal than others” for the M&G.
“We have committed to not reproduce depictions of the Prophet during the review period.”