25 May 2010

South Africa: No Apology From Mail and Guardian

The Mail & Guardian newspaper says it will not apologise for a Zapiro cartoon it published on Friday depicting Prophet Muhammad.

The newspaper was due to meet with the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) tomorrow to discuss the cartoon which has been greeted with outrage in the Muslim community.

The cartoon shows Prophet Muhammad lying on a psychiatrist's couch complaining: "Other prophets have followers with a sense of humour!"

MJC president Moulana Ighsaan Hendricks said they would discuss the matter further once the meeting had taken place.

Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes said they would be going to listen to what the MJC had to say, but said they would not be offering an apology.

"But we will express our regret for the distress we may have caused our readers," he said.

He confirmed that Zapiro would be present at the meeting tomorrow.

Muslims consider any depiction of Prophet Muhammad as offensive.

Dawes said: "My view is no cartoon is as insulting as the assumption Muslims will react with violence."

In an online statement he said: "When I first saw the image, and approved it for publication, it was clear to me that it was Zapiro's contribution to the global debate around representations of the Prophet. This is an enormously complex and sensitive subject, but I felt that Zapiro had attempted to handle it with care."

Several Muslim organisations met yesterday to discuss the cartoon of the Prophet and said it was "blasphemous, insulting, insensitive and hurtful to the Muslim community.

Organisations formed a committee, the United Muslim Forum of South Africa, who said they had a mandate to obtain an apology and appropriate assurances from the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

Hendricks said the organisation respected Zapiro's right to freedom of expression, but that the cartoonist had to apply this with sensitivity to religious beliefs.

Zapiro was not willing to comment when contacted last night to discuss the matter.

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