Bangladesh: Yet another Muhammed cartoon controversy

Alpin is one satirical cartoon supplement of the Daily Prothom Alo, which claims to be the most popular Bangla Newspaper in Bangladesh. In the 6th page of its 431th issue a cartoon titled ‘name’ was published (on Monday, September 17, 2007) which created much controversy in Bangladesh.

So what was in that cartoon? The controversy is not in the picture, rather in the text. The Bangla blogosphere took on this issue right from the beginning.

The text of the cartoon is a conversation between a boy and an aged person. Blogger Sudharam Sadhu posts the texts [bn] in his blog:

* Boy, what is your name?
– My name is Babu.
* It is customary to mention Muhammed before the name.

* What is your father's name?
– Muhammed Abu

* What's this in your lap?
– Muhammed cat

This appears to satire the culture of the use of Muhammed in Muslim names and nothing to disgrace the prophet itself.

However the Islamist political parties thought otherwise. The Daily Naya Diganta reports [bn]that Khelafot Andolon had protested aginst this at Baitul Mokarram Mosque in Dhaka by burning copies of Prothom Alo. Its Ameer, Maulana Shah Ahmadullah Ashraf stated:

(that) the cartoon indicates disgrace of the Muslim prophet by naming a cat ‘Muhammed’. Similar to the Danish Cartoon incident prophet Muhammed has been defamed in Muslim majority Bangladesh. He says Muslims use Muhammed in their names to pay the respect to the prophet. He demanded Prothom Alo to seek apology to the nation otherwise they demanded the Government to take strong action against Prothom Alo.”

No doubt this has instigated many people to react strongly against this newspaper. Check the comments section of the Daily Amar Desh report to get an idea about the outrage. You will also laugh at some stupid comments and I wonder how this newspaper approved them-probably they have a personal vendetta against Prothom Alo.

Prothom Alo gave in to all this and published an apology today [bn]:

We apologize and are extremely sorry:

…inadvertently an unedited, unapproved and unacceptable cartoon titled ‘name’ was published…we are withdrawing the cartoon…and taking actions against the persons responsible for this.

Wow! Note the emphasis, they just don't want to face this and blame somebody else! They have removed the Monday's publications from their archives. What an escapist move!

Arif Jebtik slams [bn]Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman for his actions of suspending the editor of Alpin for his rescue:

I have seen the real character of the intelects of this country who cries out for Freedom of expression, freedom of speech and such popular tags in Matiur Rahman's actions.

However the Bangla Blogosphere is divided over this issue. Hasib comments [bn] on Sudharam's post:

This is an innocent cartoon. It is evident that the target is not the prophet himself. The retarded ones should read the texts again.

Tirondaz says [bn]:

The protests against these cartoons show the opportunist intentions of the political Islam. I have no support for these kinds of protests.

While Ummu Abdullah says [bn]:

Prothom Alo apologized, so the issue is over. The apology indicates they are also in doubt. This victory is for Bangladeshis. I welcome the protests.

Ziner Badshah comments [bn] in the above post:

In our parts of the world people add Muhammed to their names to respect the prophet…there is nothing religious about it…even if it is it does not add any value to anyone…but defaming this culture is like the same as destroying the Bamian heritage in Afghanistan by the Talibans.

And what a reaction was from the Caretaker Government! reports that the Government has banned the debated issue of Alpin and more worryingly [bn] detained Arifur Rahman, the creator of the cartoon. The press and information department gave notification that the cartoon hurt the feeling of the citizens.

Kowsheek Ahmed is outraged [bn] by this action of the Government:

“Arifur Rahman achieved many awards for his cartoon. This time for a innocuous cartoon he was made victim of self proclaimed defenders of religious feelings. Now a days satire cartoonists are prone to these kinds of attacks. But this is happening in this dire time when we are crying that we are being more tolerant, claiming all piece of the world is embedded in this religion. The Alpin issue has been banned and the editor was suspended.

How strange are our realizations. After the 22nd August revolution the Government has become so narrow in their views that a mere cat has instilled fear in them.”

For more hot buzz on this issue please read the Bangla Blogging platforms “Bandh Bhanger Awaaj” and “Sachalayatan” [bn].


  • mahmud khan

    i was not sure what was this all about. but pretty much got a full picture in this.

  • dogfight

    Matiur Rahman, Editor or Prothom Alo, behaved as a chameleon by firing the editor of Alpin; to save his own back he didn’t hesitate to change his color immediately. As the editor of Prothom Alo, he holds equal, if not more, responsibility for whatever published in his newspaper. Once again this coward showed his ‘gelly-like’ personality to us. I am amazed that this CTG is holding meeting with the ‘Islamist Leaders’ of the country on this trifle issue! ( Where should we go? The whole nation is in a total mess!!

  • Ashfaq Hossain

    Muslims sensivities on the Prophets (sa) dignity and respect is not unknown to the world and specially to someone from Bangladesh. Danish cartoon is an example. He should have avoided such calous errorand lack of judgement. Today it is a cat. Will tomorrow be a dog and what not?
    Lets end it here with a sincere appology and forget about it.

  • MLA

    “In our parts of the world people add Muhammed to their names to respect the prophet…there is nothing religious about it” – So how many non-Muslims has Muhammad before their name? Please be careful what you say. It is 100% religious reason why people put Muhammad in their name.

  • Sorowar

    I wont say it was an innocent cartoon. Cartoonist is well aware of the current world, where islam is the victims. In the western world, ppl are deliberately hurting the Prophet (PUB)in the name of freedom of expression. They are intentionally doing this to prove muslim are intolerant. People over there cry foul when they see, their flag is burning due to angry muslim.But the same people fail to understand symbol of islam, what prophet(PUB) means to a true muslim.

    Cartoonist is very talented, he was trying to touch the issue in a “seemingly innocent” way. No way, its not innocent and a deliberate attempt.Good news is for the cartoonist: windows of oppurtunities are opening up to settle in a western cournty where far-right political party is looking for this type of people.

  • David Kennedy

    I was sorry to read of this event.

    I can understand the sensitivity of the subject matter at this time, not least when Islam is under attack from the West. Further, this being Holy Ramadan, it possibly was not well-timed.

    Censorship has a long history. It is invariably prejudiced in favour of the prevailing views of the society in which it is practised. Its purpose is to prevent the expression of all but orthodox views. Ultimately, this can be very stifling to innovation of thinking and of development. It can also lead to the persecution of anyone holding non-orthodox views.

    It reflects a fear within society that may be grounded in a lack of confidence, or a feeling of being under threat. Given the heightened tension across the world as Western governments follow America’s lead in creating Islamophobia, this doubt and threat is understandable.

    In this case the matter seems harmless enough, but it has undoubtedly aroused strong feelings. While the consequences for those responsible for this event seem rather harsh, I wonder whether it compares unfavourably with the treatment of people expressing unpopular views in the West, where it is often claimed that harsh treatment (such as imprisonment or deportation) is justified to safeguard ‘public order’.

    The idea of ‘free speech’ is an interesting concept. It is acceptable as long as it stays within bounds acceptable within the society in which it is expressed and many have suffered death for simply saying what they believed to be true. History is full of such examples. It is ironic that those expressing such views have often proven to be right.

  • Hash

    that news paper must shutdown.

  • […] When the country is being ruled by MOLLAS instead of ex World Bank people and (educated) generals, what do we get? Arrests and bans for stupid not funny cartoons like this. Report HERE. […]

  • Talat Islam

    This is simply harassment. The cartoonist jsut wanted to show how superficial our religious attitude is and now the action of the govt. just proved him right. I feel sorry for this guy.

  • […] Witz, abgedruckt in einer Zeitung in Bangladesh, hat, wie wir von Rezwan auf Global Voices erfahren, in dem größtenteils islamischen Land für ähnlichen […]

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