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].


  • Bangabir

    “The idea of ‘free speech’ is … acceptable as long as it stays within bounds acceptable within the society in which it is expressed” – well done David Kennedy! All free thinkers and writers would do well to pay heed to this time-tested aphorism. What has been repeatedly vindicated through the ages is that truth is more often a victim of perception. The only consolation in all this is that truth seldom changes while perceptions do.

  • Was ich überhaupt nicht verstanden habe, wo genau eigentlich in dieser Karikatur der Prophet beleidigt wurde. Es ist zu mir eifach einen Witz was auch mit “Herr” oder “Frau” x, y verwendet sein könnte.

  • Aman

    I think that what we all need to worry about is a ideology that has no sense of humor. It seems clear that if a radical believer in Islam activates a car bomb and destroys innocent lives – Muslims tuck their head and might say it is a shame. But is a cartoonist attacks an idea – perhaps even a myth – there is a bounty placed on his head and Muslims everywhere become offended. Islam is a frightening religion if it can’t take ridicule without declaring Jihad.

  • Muhammad

    I am surprised to see the reactions of prothom alo. they just want to clean their dirty hand by simply punishing their so called contributor. This is their deliberate attempt to creat anarchy and chaos in the society that is already facing many challenges. Prothom alo should be punished for such heinous act of creating such unrest in the society.
    Off course, every body has the right, freedom to express. But this does not give any license to hurt others by mockery fun particulary while one would be dealing with such sensitive issues concerning caste, creed and identity.
    Western countries do not allow such mockeries particularly when one challenges the Holocast theory.
    We should learn from them

  • Suman, Sie haben absolut Recht. Das ist, wie die Fanatiker ihre Weise finden. Dank!!

  • j. kactuz

    Quote: 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.

    Perhaps this reader needs to watch TV or read the newspapers again. Perhaps he should take note of the censorship and repression in Muslims societies reported here at Global Voices. Perhaps he can explain why he thinks “Western World ppl” are making Muslims do what they do.

    Muslims are intolerant. Period. It is Muslims that do these things. They are the ones that are attacking and killing. When will Muslims stop blaming others for their problems? In Islam it is always somebody elses fault, never Islam.

    About “what prophet(PUB) means to a true muslim” is also a good topic for debate. I suggest that Muslims read their own traditions and see what their dear prophet really did. The traditions are very clear and it is not a nice story. Mohammad did not treat non-Muslims with “dignity and respect” except when it was convenient for him. The life of Islam’s prophet explains much of what we see in Islamic societies today.

    Oh yes, about the cartoon. It is something called satire, aimed at the superficial religious attitudes among many Muslims. I doubt that Muslims can understand this simple message.

    Also, Islamophobia is a stupid word. It is a term that Muslims love because it places the blame on others (again). It makes it easy for Muslims not to take a hard look at the hate and violence in their religion and the way Muslims treat others. Maybe, just maybe, who knows, quien sabe, what is called islamophhobia is a natual reaction to the hate and violence continually manisfest in Islam. This is the cycle: Muslims preach hate and do bombings. People in West condemn Islam and are suspicious of Muslims. Muslims cry ‘islamophobia’. Repeat cycle.

    Jay kactuz

    PS: The future will not be nice and I blame Islam. When Muslims start treating others with dignity and respecting the rights of non-Muslims then things will improve. Probably never.

  • oneworld

    I think that this is where we forget everything and try to pose sensitive and religious not by being pious but being paranoid.This cartoon was actually directed to MULLAHS not to Muhhamad,PBH. I believe many of those MULLAHS are definately not as they should be.ISLAM IS A RELIGION not A CULT.Unfortunately when fingers are pointed to those people who claim to be the so called religion- representatives, they cunningly propagandize and give air to fire the foul feelings. This is purely anti-islamic. Come my friends, Islam is a religion to practice.Islam means peace.And this is the time Bangladeshis realize before its too late.

  • Muslims are intolerant. Period. It is Muslims that do these things. They are the ones that are attacking and killing. When will Muslims stop blaming others for their problems? In Islam it is always somebody elses fault, never Islam.


    I think you are generalizing traits of some Muslims as traits of the whole Muslim race which consists of different cultures, communities, countries, colors. I am sure we all want to fight this intolerance of some people and understand the truth. I hope you find the debate in the Muslim world regarding the incident not single tracked and curved towards intolerance. And I hope you noted that these words not always represent the Islam you have your mind.

    Only through debates we will make people understand the way towards the truth and realization. Blanket generalization of people will only increase more hatred and create differences.

  • bdchinta

    Respect People’s belief, whether he atheist, hindu, jews or muslim.Please don’t heart in one’s sensivity…learn to respect

  • fiate

    Is this a new cartoon? I am sure I heard this joke years back when it was acceptable in Bangladesh to share a laugh without being worried about ultra-sensitive people

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