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THE POWER OF CARTOONS
Autor: Mr. Haris Alibašić
Objavljeno: 06. Aug 2008. 07:08:29
BOSANSKI

It’s the cartoonist's intention in creating the cartoon, not so much the image, that makes the cartoons more powerful than a mere image. There are two issues; first and foremost being the intended use of the cartoons. The second is the reaction to cartoons.
Many cartoonists have (I know there is a temptation to call a cartoonist an artist, but there is a clearly defined difference) for centuries used caricature to attack those in power. At several points in history, such as during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, WWI, WWII, and Nazi Germany, caricatures have been used as a propaganda tool to vilify and attack a certain group of people, perceived as a threat to the nation.

Recently, cartoons depicting an insulting characterization of Islam and Muhammed PBUH have become very powerful propaganda tools. It’s the cartoonist's intention in creating the cartoon, not so much the image, that makes the cartoons more powerful than a mere image. There are two issues; first and foremost being the intended use of the cartoons. The second is the reaction to cartoons.


The most recent issue of the New Yorker represents Obama and his wife as “Muslim terrorists” with Osama Bin Laden’s portrait hanging from the wall in the White House oval office, Obama depicted in Muslim garb and his wife sporting an assault rifle and uniform.
The most recent issue of the New Yorker (1) represents Obama and his wife as “Muslim terrorists” with Osama Bin Laden’s portrait hanging from the wall in the White House oval office, Obama depicted in Muslim garb and his wife sporting an assault rifle and uniform. The intended effect is to underscore the American voting population’s fear that Obama is a hidden terrorist and that good Americans should therefore be afraid to vote for him. The message is clear, as soon as Senator Obama takes over the oval office, his true face will be revealed tells the New Yorker.

Obama’s campaign office, rightfully so, has reacted angrily calling the cartoon offensive and tasteless. That reaction has created more sympathy for the New Yorker rather than sympathy for Obama. What everyone fails to note is the intended insult to Muslims, not Obama. The New Yorker correctly acknowledges that the cartoon is a bit of satire about the perceived hidden beliefs of Obama. But the satire could only be humorous since Obama is not a Muslim. Unless the intended message of this satire is to label all Muslims, many of whom live in this country, as terrorists.

The same analogy goes for the cartoons depicting Muhammad PBUH and Islam, done at the insistence in some western European countries. The angry and, I must add unnecessary violent reactions of the Muslims around the world, have created the desired results --- sympathies for those who created the cartoons rather than the sympathies for those who were offended and insulted, i.e. Muslims. Many who have protested have forgotten that maybe, just maybe, they need to ask themselves to paraphrase the famous American Christians phrase, What Would Muhammad (PBUH) Do? He would probably shrug off these vicious insults. As Aisa, the wife of Muhammad PBUH said “Muhammad never returned evil for evil and he forgave others for the wrongs they committed against him.” Hadith

God’s punishment is ready for all those who sin as well. As stated in Those who annoy or insult God and His Messenger will be condemned by God in this life and in the life to come. He has prepared for them a humiliating torment. (Sura Al-Ahzab 33:57). And as for those who insult believing men and believing women without their having done any wrong - they surely burden themselves with the guilt of their sins. (Sura Al-Ahzab 33:58).

So what one must do about cartoons that are offensive? In some situations we may be able to go through the legal channels. Many western countries have proper laws that forbid racial, religious or other discrimination against minorities. In the recent article Why Islam Is Unfunny for a Cartoonist , (2) the Wall Street Journal discusses the arrest of a controversial Dutch cartoonist, who goes by the pseudonym Gregorius Nekschot, and is famous for drawing cartoons depicting Muslims, blacks, Islamic themes in rather disturbing manners. The article points out that “he hasn't been charged with a crime, but the prosecutor's office says he's been under investigation for three years on suspicion that he violated a Dutch law that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.” This is a step in the right direction.

Let’s make something clear. Cartoons depicting Holy Quran and lascivious men, portraits of Muhammad PBUH are insulting, low-life, disgusting. They are in line with those of Nazi Germany’s portrayal of Jews, like the one appeared in "Lustige Blätter," a weekly German humor magazine, in 1943. The caption reads: "One eats the other and the Jew devours them all." (3) They are meant to insult and Muslims and Obama are correct in being offended. But the biggest mistake is to give them enough exposure and go out and protest (especially violently). The best way to deal with this is to work with European, Western laws, and this should be the same in Islamic country, outlawing the incitement of hatred through cartoons or any other means. Yes, full blown prosecution for those who purposefully and hatefully try to insult religious beliefs for one reason only, to create the reaction from the other side.

Muslims can do better and look at Muhammad’s example if they are to be successful. It is God's right to judge and punish. As good Muslims, we should pursue legal solutions when possible. Otherwise, we should shrug off these insults and leave judgment to God. Outrage over these cartoons only produces the desired effect and just encourages people to create more cartoons. Ideally, these cartoons will bring to the forefront the need for nations to prevent the use of so called art to incite racial and religious hatred. One need not look any further than Nazi Germany and its portrayal of Jews and Gypsies to see why.

Fussnote:
1) The New Yorker; http://www.newyorker.com/
2) The Wall Street Journal; Why Islam is Unfunny for a Cartoonist; online.wsj.com
3) German Propaganda Archive, WWII Nazi Cartoons http://www.bytwerk.com

Also, this article from our columnist you can read in magazine Preporod



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