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Cartoon Wars: Rumsfeld and Mohammed
Last uploaded : Saturday 4th Feb 2006 at 01:10
Contributed by : The Editor


The present furore over the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that first appeared in a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, last September has inspired many across the world to be surprised. In 'The Guardian,' a Danish journalist said ‘Nobody saw this coming.’ There is a general atmosphere of shock and astonishment that the reaction in the Muslim world has been so extreme.

I am not surprised at all. Since attending the Global Peace and Unity Conference at the Excel Centre in London on 4th December, my eyes have been opened to what is commonly called ‘Muslim rage.’ Some say this derives from a feeling of exclusion and alienation. Others say it is an expression of despair from poverty and joblessness. I can think of many ethnic minorities who have suffered oppression and deprivation but whose kin go to school, to work and often on to distinction and greatness.

In the past few years the European and British press have published countless cartoons depicting grotesque parodies of George Bush, Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon, Colin Powell and Condi Rice (the accentuation of their facial features could be called racist) , not to mention scores of creepy parodies of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. It is notable that this week a cruel cartoon showing a quadriplegic war veteran being treated by a sardonic ‘Dr Rumsfeld’ has caused outrage in Washington. The senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken the unprecedented step of writing a group letter to the Washington Post to condemn the cartoon. Rumsfeld is not exactly Mohammed and no blasphemy has been committed, but cartoons clearly affect humanity deeply. See the editorial, ‘Cartoon Culture Gone Sour’


The Dave Brown cartoon of a naked Ariel Sharon about to eat the head of a baby and the award of 'cartoon content of the year' to the image caused consternation in the Anglo-Jewish community but not one spot of violence. It galvanised ‘The Washington Post’ to launch a debate in its pages in Judaeophobia. No Jews went out with posters threatening death to the cartoonists.

Yes, again one has to emphasise that parodies of politicians cannot be equated with images of sacred religious figures. However, after attending the event in London at the Excel centre I am aware of the depth of Muslim rage. It is something I do not comprehend.

Millions of Jews throughout the centuries were persecuted, tortured, burned alive, taken out into public arenas and brutally murdered and were the victims of repeated massacres. Their reaction? They continued davening Torah, keeping the Sabbath and producing gentle scholars and devoted mothers who nurtured the home and who produced generations of decent, law-abiding citizens. This is why I do not understand Muslim rage. There are twenty-two beautiful Arab countries, many of which are fabulously rich in resources, and fifty-five Muslim countries boasting sun-soaked climates in glorious parts of the world. The anger I witnessed at the Excel centre was irrational and inexplicable. Millions of people of all backgrounds live in Great Britain. They are not angry. They do not hold rallies in which wildly exaggerated rhetoric is used to incite hatred of other peoples.

Today ugly scenes unfolded in London’s exquisite and historic streets. Placards praising the July 7th bombers and threatening a ‘9/11 on Europe and the UK’ soiled an otherwise tranquil February day in that green and pleasant land.

For those of us who enjoyed ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ and ‘The Life of Brian,’ and who guffaw at the irreverent humour of Jewish comics -- ‘laugh a little, cry a little’ is the motto of the Jewish shtetl -- it is puzzling that the unfortunate cartoon has caused such hideous reactions. Without doubt, humour and being able to laugh at themselves has sustained the Jewish people for over five thousand years.

Likewise much has been written in the past twenty-four hours about the effect of the cartoons sanctioned by Josef Goebbels in Nazi Germany. Yes, these vile parodies compounded the crisis in Jewish Germany but I beg to observe that the editors of the secular European papers who printed the offending cartoon of the Prophet were not by any stretch of the imagination inciting their nations to genocide of Muslims.

Many Muslim countries do not welcome Christians and Jews, and possession of a Christian or Jewish Bible is an offence. The last Jew to live in Libya died two years ago and Muammar Ghaddafy personally arranged for her remains to be flown out of the country. Jews were expelled from Arab nations after the establishment of Israel. Those of other faiths have not exactly felt warmly welcomed in the Middle East. Omar Bakri Mohammed, the radical cleric banished to Lebanon from Britain, has declared a fatwa recommending beheading of those who have offended in this present maelstrom. Islam needs to look at itself before its radical adherents raise placards in gentle London threatening its inhabitants with further attacks by suicide bombers they extol in their slogans.

If it is acceptable for Islamic websites to show videos of beheadings and of Western hostages like the generous-spirited Margaret Hassan being executed, it is time for the people demonstrating against a cartoon to see things in perspective. A cartoon kills no-one. Hijackers do. Suicide bombers do. Insurgents do. The men who shot wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer and threw him overboard from the Achille Lauro cruise liner killed. The men who perpetrated 9/11 killed, as did the murderers of 7/7, of Madrid and of Bali. To those shouting inflammatory slogans in the streets of London, in a gracious country that has welcomed with equality the men and women of other cultures for generations we say: get a life.
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