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Sunday Stabroek Cartoon should be condemned

With reference to the cartoon published in the Sunday Stabroek of January 11, the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) wishes to bring to your attention its observation regarding same. First and foremost, the IAC wishes to state, without any ambiguity, it forthrightly condemns the brutal onslaught in Paris, France, which began on January 7, 2015 and resulted in the deaths of seventeen people, including ten staff’ members of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. Such actions by extremists, regardless of their religious adherence, must be rejected and have no place in a civilised world.

The IAC remains mindful that such actions by extremists, regardless of their religious persuasion, can result in the rupturing of harmonious relations in countries of diverse cohabitation, inadvertently precipitating, or in some instances, exacerbating related stigma. Such situations have the potential to engineer mistrust among cohabitants, which, unfortunately, would be difficult to be confined to one geographical area.

The IAC believes that despite the untold grief as a result of such diabolical extremist actions, profound caution must be foremost in the depiction and analysis of such situations given the complexity and sensitivity that engulf them. It is in this context that the IAC feels a sense of compulsion to register its concern regarding the cartoon referenced above.

The IAC, which has adherents of Islam in its leadership and membership, is shocked and outraged at and condemns what it believes to be a highly offensive and egregious cartoon, drawn by cartoonist Paul Harris, published on the day in question.

The IAC considers the said cartoon to be a blatant, insensitive, discriminatory and insulting attack on the entire Islamic community of Guyana and, by extension, on all those who profess to be adherents of Islam on the face of the planet.

The IAC, therefore, calls on the Stabroek News, which, inadvertently through its action, possibly has senselessly endangered the lives of its employees, to immediately apologise to all the citizens of Guyana, especially those who are adherents of Islam, for publishing this offensive and disgraceful cartoon, which can promote divisiveness in our society and hate towards Muslims.

The IAC feels strongly that the depiction of a four-person band of robed, bearded, turbanned. sandalled, scimitar-wielding, wild-eyed, angry and violent Jihadists, attacking from behind a visibly unarmed, pen-holding, bespectacled cartoonist, who had drawn an image of the world-famous heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali (formerly known as Cassius Clay), is highly offensive for the following reasons:

(1) The publication of this cartoon, by Sunday Stabroek, just a few days after the shocking and unacceptable murders and wounding of a number of employees of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, by two gunmen, was not aimed at reducing animosity and tensions, but rather promoting and increasing them, by publicly ridiculing the followers of Islam.

(2) The cartoonist, Paul Harris, in an unprofessional manner, has unethically and immorally misled the readers of Sunday Stabroek and by extension, the citizens of Guyana by his improper and biased usage of the Arabic word ‘jihad’ which means ‘good struggle’ in the context of the fight by Muslims for a better world at both the ideological (Greater Jihad) and military (Lesser Jihad) levels. His portrayal, in contradiction to the proper meaning of ‘jihad’, conveys a sense of evil and mindless violence.

(3) In this cartoon, four robed, bearded, turbanned, sandalled, wild-eyed, angry and violent assailants have been drawn and described collectively as ‘Jihadists.’ Mr Harris’s portrayal by his use of the term ‘Jihadists’ identifies them, unambiguously, as persons who subscribe to the beliefs that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad, on whom be peace, is the prophet of Allah, ie, they are Muslims and, more particularly, extremely violent or even murderous Muslims.

(4) In this cartoon in the Sunday Stabroek the cartoonist is significantly portrayed to be looking at the four Muslim assailants over his left or sinistral shoulder while calling them “Idiots.” The portrayal gives the subtle but distinct impression that the four Muslim assailants are both sinister and ignorant.

(5) In this cartoon, the cartoonist is portrayed as being attacked from behind by the four Muslim assailants. His portrayal depicts these Muslims as devious persons who attack unfairly and brutally when one is unaware of them.

(6) In this cartoon, the cartoonist is portrayed, significantly, as being attacked viciously by four Muslim assailants, rather than just by one Muslim.

This portrayal gives the distinct impression that the sinister, ignorant, devious Muslim assailants are collectively prone to launch brutal, murderous attacks on unsuspecting persons.

(7) In this cartoon, Paul Harris portrays the bespectacled, pen-holding cartoonist, as standing in front of a large and representative drawing of the world-famous African-American heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medallist, Muhammad Ali, and saying to the four Muslim assailants attacking him from behind “…This is Muhammad… Muhammad Ali. Idiots!!” in reply to the question, “Who?” from the Muslims. His portrayal gives the distinct impression that the Muslim assailants are all ignorant, uneducated fools who are unable to recognize the famous face of the arguably, most globally identifiable Black Muslim from the USA; one who converted from Christianity to Islam, one who is universally respected by all people, and one whose image should never be used in a divisive cartoon like this.

(8) In this cartoon Paul Harris portrays the bespectacled, pen-holding cartoonist, who is being attacked by four Muslims as wearing a T-shirt with the word “Cartoonists” emblazoned on the front of the T-shirt. This portrayal gives the distinct impression that cartoonists are the enemies of Muslims and therefore must be subjected to brutal and murderous surprise attacks.

(9) This cartoon, taken as a whole, gives the distinct impression that freedom of expression is absolute and unchallengeable and, therefore, is anathema to Islam and Muslims.

The IAC, therefore, considers the cartoonist, Paul Harris, and the Sunday Stabroek, the publisher of the cartoon, to be grossly insensitive and irresponsible; to have exercised poor judgment in allowing this cartoon to be published; to possibly have senselessly endangered the lives of the employees of Stabroek News; to have insulted the intelligence of the citizens of Guyana; to have unfairly depicted Muslims in a monolithic manner, and to have intentionally and deliberately provoked the peaceful, progressive, law-abiding Islamic Community of Guyana.

The IAC therefore urges the Stabroek News to apologise for publishing the said cartoon and to remain cognisant of the sensitivities in this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, given the influence the Stabroek News has. The IAC hopes that a profound sense of responsibility would be demonstrated.


Yours faithfully,
Yvette Ramharack
Indian Arrival Committee

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