Cartoons reinforce racist stereotypes

Submitted by Anon on 2 March, 2006 - 8:54

By Vicki Morris

I’m not against people being allowed to publish or see the cartoons. I oppose people threatening people with violence for publishing them. And, yes, seeing them does give people more information about them (for example, they’re not all bad). But if the AWL were humanity’s last hope of seeing these cartoons, should it give them houseroom?

I think what people knew at the start was probably enough to decide. If I know there’s a cartoon of the prophet’s head with his turban made into a bomb I pretty well can judge what idea is being conveyed without having to see it. I don’t think the AWL should publish the most offensive, yes, I’d say racist, cartoons, because we shouldn’t be seen to condone their content.

The way I read it, in the case of the turban-bomb cartoon the cartoonist intended to convey his view that the founder of Islam and ergo Muslims are violent.

Some Muslims are violent, there is Islamist violence, we know. But we do not think it is reasonable to portray all Muslims as violent. Yet here we are, publishing the cartoonist’s absurd message on our website.

At least three cartoons, not just the turban-bomb one, but also the virgins and suicide bombers, and the prophet with the menacing sword and two cowering women in chadors, are racist. At least, shall we say, they reinforce a negative stereotype of Muslims.

It is Muhammad, the founder of Islam, that is depicted as violent. He is not depicted despairing, holding his head in his hands saying, “look what Al-Qaeda/the Islamic Republic of Iran are doing in the name of Islam!”.

We have to represent all our politics, not, reacting to the Islamists, just one part (our defence of free speech). Because they, the Islamists, are enemies of free speech, we are allowing ourselves to be provoked into publishing cartoons that incite hatred of Muslims, or at least reinforce prejudices.

I think the AWL is burying its head in the sand about the extent of anti-Islam/Muslim prejudice, whether or not you call that prejudice “Islamophobia”.

Probably a majority of people in the European Union oppose Turkey being allowed to join, a majority of those, probably, because Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country.

BNP leader Nick Griffin describes Islam as uniquely violent and bloodthirsty, from its origins up to today, along with its adherents. That image exists. Islamists have their own agenda, and use the fact that this image exists in despicable ways to despicable ends. But the image does exist. The image is wrong and we should say so, not go reinforcing it in our publications.

I am against the left cosying up to religious leaders, getting starry-eyed about religions, as the SWP is doing with Islam. I oppose Islamism. But I don’t see these cartoons as anti-Islamist. I see them as anti-Muslim and racist.

For many in the AWL, the argument why we should publish seems to be “so that people can decide for themselves”. But the comment that goes with the cartoons on our website says that the cartoons are “anti-Islamist”, which is as good as saying we agree with them.

In publishing the cartoons, the AWL is not serving the interests of free speech but reinforcing racism.

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