An Interview with the Brave, Egyptian Cartoonist, Doaa el Adl

When I was at the festival in St. Just, France I had the opportunity to interview Doaa el Adl.  She is a rare female cartoonist in Egypt, and she has been persecuted by  by the Morsi regime for drawing a cartoon that featured Adam and Eve, an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to chill her speech.  Editorial cartoonists are very important voices in Egypt, with their cartoons routinely running on the front pages of the many, vibrant newspapers in a culture that still reveres newspapers.

I think Doaa is a hero, for standing up to the regime, speaking truth to power, and putting herself at risk in doing so.

Interestingly, Doaa had some strong objections to my own cartoons.  Here are a couple of my cartoons that she disliked the most …

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Doaa says “Yes, Obama does that – but you draw him as an angel – he is no angel! He meddles in everything!  He wants to control everything!”

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To this one Doaa says, “Obama is not like that! He is in there fighting with everyone, making trouble, trying to run everything!”

Obama has managed to make all sides in the Middle East see him as the bad guy.


Cartooning for Peace

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Le Monde’s editorial cartoonist, Jean Plantu, and his trademark mouse.

I’m a big supporter of French cartoonist Jean Plantu’s Cartooning for Peace organization. It sounds a little silly, because all of the cartoonists are in favor of peace, and the nature of cartoons seems to be frivolous, while peace is a serious topic.

That said, Cartooning for Peace does a lot of great stuff; they organize meetings of editorial cartoonists and hold impressive exhibitions all over the world. I’ve made a lot of worldly, cartoonist friends through Cartooning for Peace. Plantu is the star cartoonist of France – that’s him at the right, with his trademark mouse that appears in the corner of every Plantu cartoon.

One of Plantu’s recent projects is a weekly page in his newspaper, Le Monde, with cartoons from around the world about a topic in the news. Plantu does a great job with it, soliciting the newest cartoons from member cartoonists every week.  I have pasted some pages below.  They look great and show the power of editorial cartoons at their best.

We syndicate a bunch of international cartoonists to about 850 newspapers, and they tend to be less popular than our American cartoonists. Americans aren’t much interested in events outside of the United States, unless we’re at war or threaten to be at war with someone. Passionate cartoons about water issues or the European Union don’t generate much reader passion in the USA.

On the topics that penetrate our borders and generate interest here, collections of international cartoons are a wonderful way to show a variety of world opinions at a glance. My local newspaper, the Santa Barbara News-Press does an international week in review with world cartoonists regularly. I would urge more editors to consider doing it.

The page below is “Egypt: an explosive cocktail”. It includes the Adam and Eve cartoon by Doaa El Adl, that has led to her prosecution by Islamist authorities. I’d love to see newspapers all around the world reprint Doaa’s cartoon.

Egypt Cartooning for Peace cartoons

Gay marriage has recently been a hot topic in France.

GayMarriage Cartooning for Peace cartoons

Here is the most recent one, on International Womens Day.

IntlWomensDay Cartooning for Peace cartoons




Better Not Insult Adam and Eve

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Egyptian Cartoonist Doaa El Adl of the Al-Masry Al-Toum newspaper.

It didn’t take long for the new Islamist government in Egypt to start acting like other nutty Islamic regimes when it comes to cartoons.  The latest wacko religious intolerance comes in response to the cartoon below, by Egyptian editorial cartoonist Doaa El Adl.

The cartoon, published on her newspapers online site, shows an Egyptian man with angel wings lecturing Adam and Eve.  The three are on a cloud beneath the infamous forbidden fruit tree.  The man is telling Adam and Eve that they would never have been expelled from heaven if they had simply voted in favor of the draft constitution in the recent Egyptian referendum.  Some of the supporters of the referendum were quoted as saying a “yes vote” guarantees one a spot in heaven, while a “no vote” guarantees one a spot in hell.  Neither Adam nor Eve in Doaa’s cartoon is uttering a word. In short, the cartoon is critical of Egyptians who have recently politicized religion.

The cartoonist is being sued by Egypt’s new Secretary General for the Defense of Freedoms, Khaled El Masry; he claims that the cartoon insults Adam, who is considered a prophet in the Muslim religion.  Egypt’s Attorney General has ordered an investigation.

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This is the offending cartoon. The angel who appears to be a typical Egyptian man, is telling Adam and Eve that they would never have been expelled from heaven if they had simply voted in favor of the draft constitution in the recent Egyptian referendum.

I met Doaa El Adl at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention a couple of years ago in Florida, shortly after the revolution in Egypt.  She was the only woman cartoonist in a large group of Arab cartoonists sent by the US State Department to visit their colleagues in the USA.  In our conversations she was beaming with pride and optimism about Egypt’s revolution and her high hopes and expectations about Egypt’s future.

In Egypt, editorial cartoonists are especially important.  There are lots of popular, thriving, competing newspapers in Egypt, and most of them run their editorial cartoon in color on the front page. The editorial cartoonists are the most important voices in each newspaper, and clearly, the most threatening voices to Islamic-extremist politicians. I doubt that Doaa is being sued because of insulting Adam, rather she is being sued to chill her voice, and make it costly to be a cartoonist who is critical of Egypt’s new religious junta.

This is a shame.  Doaa is talented, brave and eager to seek a better future for Egypt – just what Egypt needs right now.  Read more about her case on the Cartoonists Rights Network site.