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Muhammad Cartoon Stimulus and Response … and Repeat

We just saw yet another terror attack provoked by cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, this time at a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland Texas. A competent cop shot two home-grown terrorist gunmen before much damage was done. The event was organized by a right-wing group called “Stop Islamization of America” that was best known for opposing the construction of a mosque in Manhattan. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists them as a hate group, which they deny.

Cartoonist Rénald “Luz” Luzier, who drew the famous Charlie Hebdo cover after the shootings in France, recently decided he would no longer draw Muhammad cartoons. I can sympathize with Luz’s choice, since he’s now “typecast” as the premier Muhammad cartoonist – It seems reasonable that Luz wouldn’t want his career to be boiled down to being the “Muhammad cartoon guy.”

I’m an editorial cartoonist; I haven’t drawn a Muhammad cartoon myself, because I haven’t been inspired to do so. I shy away from drawing cartoons that some people would find offensive. I don’t use four letter words, or the “N-word” in my cartoons. I don’t draw sexually explicit cartoons. Offensive subject matter in cartoons can be so loud that it drowns out anything else I might want to say in a cartoon, except, “Look, I have the freedom to draw something offensive.”

Many cartoonists have drawn Muhammad cartoons, and racist cartoons, and dirty cartoons; that’s fine, that’s their business – but drawing offensive stuff just to draw attention to myself, or to prove that I have the right to do so, just looks like lousy cartooning to me. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were doing more than that; they were addressing issues in French culture that were important to them, and rejecting all religions that they felt didn’t fit with their secular society.

I knew three of the five Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were murdered earlier this year and I got to know more of them at French cartoon festivals. They have a genuine passion for their issues and our conversations always turned to a discussion of their religion-bashing cartoons. Here in America we’re not faced with the same social pressures and similar cartoons here should seem out of place.

The “Stop Islamization of America” people, who sponsored this contest, are poking the extremist Islamic beast to elicit a predictable response. This violent, cartoon stimulus and response will surely continue to be repeated.

It doesn’t matter that I personally don’t choose to draw Muhammad cartoons, or that most cartoonists don’t care to draw offensive cartoons, all editorial cartoonists are now being seen as recklessly poking surly Islamic beasts. My profession is being painted with the Muhammad cartoon broad-brush.

I was recently asked to speak at a local college, and I met the college president; the first thing he said to me was, “Now, don’t show any of those Muhammad cartoons.” This is not unusual. Casual conversations with editorial cartoonists often start with, “So, do you draw those Muhammad cartoons too?”

Like Luz was typecast, it seems we’re all typecast now.

By Daryl Cagle

Daryl Cagle is the founder and owner of Cagle Cartoons, Inc. He is one of the most widely published editorial cartoonists and is also the editor of The Cagle Post. For the past 35 years, Daryl has been one of America’s most prolific cartoonists.

6 replies on “Muhammad Cartoon Stimulus and Response … and Repeat”

Considering that you are avoiding drawing something offensive, why are you stopping at religion? We all go to parties and know that we should stay away from certain topics: religion, politics, etc. But I believe you are wrong in not challenging beliefs or ideas or assuming we don't have the same problems France is facing with Islam. We do have those problems but we are not quite as far along in recognizing that the collision is coming between the American ideals and the goals of Islam as professed by radical believers.

It is important that we fight for the Constitutional rights of every American citizen, including the right of Free Speech, especially when we find such speech offensive. In our Constitutional Republic, we do not have a crime against blasphemy or other religious offenses. I personally find that people like Pamela Geller and her supporters hold a worldview I find repugnant but I will defend their freedom of expression because that is the American way. There is no "fine line" between what is acceptable and what some people may find offensive that editorial cartoonists must follow. Cartoonists are not required to seek the permission of any religious leaders, groups or organizations before they publish a drawing. There is a difference between criticism of religious beliefs and attacking the people who hold such beliefs. So it is not "Islamaphobia" to draw the Prophet Muhammad or to be critical of his teachings and/or the Quran. It is the duty of those who hold religious beliefs (Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.) to obey the law no matter how offended they may feel. They are free to exercise their freedom of speech in protest if they believe their supernatural worldview has been offended but under no circumstances do they have the right to assault or kill a cartoonist. It's like blaming a woman for the way they dressed for being raped. Rational people hold the rapist accountable for their actions and we must hold those who use religion as an excuse to commit violence responsible for their actions.

nice but it's not their right, it hurts really bad for Muslim when anyone disrespect our prophet Muhammad PBUH, because we love Him and what if some one disrespect the one that you love most? wouldn't hate that person? won't you desire to make it stop?
yes, you would. that's why the Muslims are offended by those ppl.

Actually, let’s summarize this nice and neatly:

SIOA took a real risk and real stand for freedom of expression. Whatever else is true about them, they were willing to put their lives on the line for this.

You aren’t. But you’re not reeaaaalllly comfortable admitting, “I’m fine with free speech and criticizing issues as long as it doesn’t have any risk attached”. So you decide to explain that it’s not that you don’t have the courage, no siree! Why it’s that attacking religion is _racist_! Never mind that most of the victims of this horror are poor and darker skinned than you….

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