Some newspaper editors think a satirical political cartoonist who often tackles taboo topics might have crossed a line when he incorporated a sexual innuendo into a comic strip about a character’s conversion to radical Islam. But it’s not the first strip by the artist to poke fun at religion.
The controversial "Opus" comic strip this past Sunday depicted a conversation between Steve and his spiritual seeker girlfriend Lola Granola, who suddenly appears in a hijab and niqab (head scarf and face-covering) to explain why she is unexpectedly becoming a "radical Islamist--hot new fad on the planet."
The cartoon ran in the Tribune, but it did not run in the Washington Post, the strip’s home newspaper, or a couple dozen other papers that pick it up. (It did run on WashingtonPost.com) The Washington Post Writers Group sent an alert to subscribers offering an alternative strip from a previous year in case they feared the Muslim cartoon would touch a nerve with readers.
Tribune editors heeded the warning but decided to let it fly, said Barbara Schaffner, the editor in charge of comics. So far, according to Karisue Wyson at the Washington Post Writers Group, there have been no repercussions at papers that published the cartoon. A second cartoon along the same plotline is scheduled to appear in some papers Sunday.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of Chicago’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he did not find the "subtle" sexual innuendo all that inappropriate for the cartoon’s adult readership. He added that whether he finds the cartoon offensive or not, the artist had every right to pen it and the paper had every right to publish it. But he does take issue with its content.
"It’s a terrible stretch to associate this kind of modesty found in the average Muslim woman with radical Islam which has connotations of threat to society," Rehab said. "I wouldn’t be so uptight about this point if Muslims were understood in the West. In the charged atmosphere where we’re seeing misunderstanding translate into hate crimes or overt acts of prejudice, it’s irresponsible to make that association." (MORE)