News Release

Cartoon Controversy: Beyond the Caricatures


AbuKhalil has been writing extensively about the cartoon controversy on his blog. He said today: “The double and triple standards of Western governments are quite clear, even if you take ‘freedom of expression’ as a criterion of analysis. Al-Manar TV, for example, has been banned from Europe and the U.S. … [but] European media did not defend Al-Manar.”

“Arab governments have instigated protests … those governments, aware of the public anger of their populations regarding U.S. foreign policy and its alignment with their oppressive government, do not dare permit [public demonstrations of] anger at the U.S. or Israel, so they find it tempting, easy, and costless to champion anger against Denmark or Norway.”

AbuKhalil is author of several books on the Mideast including Historical Dictionary of Lebanon and The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power. He is a professor in the department of politics at California State University, Stanislaus, and a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
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An Arab-American political activist currently teaching at the University of Balamand in Lebanon, Masri said today: “There’s loads of hypocrisy on all sides. The Europeans can’t really claim ‘freedom of speech’ given that there are laws restricting certain speech in Europe which don’t exist in the United States. For the Arabs, there’s now a movement directed against Denmark for cartoons, but no nonviolent movement, including targeted boycotts, against the Israeli and U.S. occupations. … During a recent peaceful protest near the U.S. embassy in Lebanon -­ protests just outside the U.S. embassy are not allowed — the Lebanese government responded very harshly. The government knew a massive protest was going to happen outside the Danish embassy and didn’t have the necessary police presence.”

Farzat is a Damascus-based political cartoonist. A book of his work, A Pen of Damascus Steel, has just come out; he is president of the Arab Cartoonists Union. Farzat said today: “In Damascus, my newspaper Ad-Domari (The Lamplighter) was closed by the government for being too pointed in its criticisms. I am now bringing a lawsuit against the Syrian government to recover my license to publish. So I can hardly endorse the threat of prison as a way to control journalists.”

Of the Danish cartoonists and editor, Farzat added: “Certainly their ignorance is wrong. Yet all of us in journalism are to blame: media outlets, journalists, caricaturists — those working in Western countries as well as those of us like me who work primarily in the East. We have done a very poor job of portraying Islam to non-Muslim audiences.”

Davis is founder of Cune Press, Farzat’s publisher; he is also author of the book The Road from Damascus.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167