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Cartoons used as an abuse of power not humour

By Salam Zreika - posted Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Humour is a great thing. Some say laughter reduces stress, increases the average life span and keeps you looking younger. I’d hate to think what most Muslims around the world look like considering they cannot take a joke. Yes, according to one Sydney writer who was published in The Australian (February 6, 2006), as well as others nationally and internationally Muslims cannot take a joke.

This is a very risky and certainly incorrect statement to make when the joke that was made featured a caricature of the final messenger of Islam, Mohammed, with a turban on his head depicted as a bomb about to blow up, or a picture of him on a cloud welcoming suicide bombers to paradise greeting “stop, stop we ran out of virgins!” Now tell me this, do you really think that this is really something most Muslims would find utterly hilarious? What reaction do you think Christians or Sikhs or Buddhists would have if an image published was a severe mocking of their central belief? Would they really be overwhelmed with laughter at the so called humour portrayed?

What is the real issue here? That Muslims have no sense of humour or that these images are really there to vilify an entire religion? For what purpose? I have no doubt that the editor who allowed these images to be published and other editors across Europe and New Zealand crossed a sensitive line of what we would call “freedom of the press”. What relevance did offensive pictures of Mohammed have to the wider society, especially when Denmark’s Muslim population is about 3 or 4 per cent? To use freedom of the press as an excuse to justify these actions is ludicrous. This editor has one thing on his mind. To incite religious and ethnic hatred using the one source of power he had - a voice to the people. It sounds a bit like Hitler’s propaganda scheme.


The media and editors in particular have a far greater responsibility towards this global community than they think. That is to first and foremost educate, inform and advise society about the facts - not the fiction. There is certainly nothing wrong with the occasional humour. I support humour on a religious level but there is nothing funny and nothing true about the cartoons recently displayed. This is purely an abuse of power. We know that this is an abuse of power because papers in the US and Britain have supported Muslims’ anger towards having them printed.

What came as a real shock to me was one news poll in Australia had a far greater number of people wanting to view these cartoons in our Aussie papers compared to those who did not.

The sensitive issue of race recently displayed in Sydney is obviously of no concern to many Australians. To further mock the most important figure in Islam would only convey to Muslims that those papers hold them and their faith in contempt.

The reaction, however, around the world by Muslims is barbaric and completely unnecessary. The Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora possibly made the most sense when he said in a message to Muslims in Lebanon, “destabilising security and vandalism gives a wrong image of Islam. Prophet Mohammed cannot be defended this way”.

This message needs to be delivered far and wide across the world. Furthermore other messages that need to be delivered include a message of respect to the Danish people who did apologise in street protests. A message of appreciation should be given to the US Government for condemning the cartoons, as well as a message of respect to the New Zealand Prime Minister who criticised the newspaper in her country that ran the cartoon.

Our Sydney writer making comparisons between these purely offensive caricatures and Monty Python films, or some odd joke going around on Wog-a-Rama is simply ignorant. I attended Sydney’s Wog-a-Rama and laughed until I was close to being resuscitated, especially when references were made to Lebanese people and Lebanese Muslims. I laughed and gasped at the same time crying out “that is so true”! Not to mention another joke a comedian made about going with his mates to the airport to dress up as an “Arab”, hang around, and then ask security when the sensors were going to be switched off. Quite frankly I think that’s hilarious.


Perhaps our Sydney writer has not heard of The Official Muslim Comedy Tour where Muslim comedians such as Azhar Usman laugh at racism in a genuine attempt to break the barriers that have been building since September 11. There’s something for you too Google.

Religion can be a laughing matter but with everything a line must be drawn.

This issue is much more than Muslims not being able to have a joke. It is about doing something under the banner of the freedom of speech that is utterly despicable and plain rude while knowing full well that it will anger and offend many people.

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About the Author

Salam Zreika is a freelance journalist. She has written for a community paper called FAIR (Forum on Australian Islamic Relations). Salam graduated from the University of Western Sydney in May 2003, with a Bachelor of Communication - majoring in Journalism. She completed her cadetship with the Northern District Times.

Other articles by this Author

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Related Links
Danish cartoons: Muslims in their own Dark Age - On Line Opinion
Making fun of Islam - On Line Opinion

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