Muslim cartoonist draws a bead on controversy


Khalil Bendib likes to draw controversy, and people even pay him to do it.

The controversial part comes rather naturally. As an Algerian-born Muslim American, the Berkeley-based, award-winning editorial cartoonist has an unusual perspective as he critiques a myriad of topics, from racism and homophobia to foreign policy and the Patriot Act, and even certain Muslim groups.

The pay part has been a little more work. His personal motto being, "The pen is funnier than the sword," Bendib, 46, shunned the editorial restraints of mainstream media several years ago, and his work now appears in on-line publications such as The Black Commentator and is distributed through a progressive news service to various community newspapers across the country.

And now he has published a book of his cartoons called, "It Became Necessary to Destroy the Planet in Order to Save It!" (Plan Nine Publishing, $15.95).

It's a collection of what he calls "truly subversive editorial cartoons." The cover depicts a laughing President George W. Bush riding a bucking missile a la Slim Pickins in "Dr. Strangelove," and the title refers to the military's explanation during the Vietnam War as to why a village had to be destroyed.

"I thought it was a good title for what Bush is doing right now," Bendib said.

Bendib's work recently got some national attention, thanks to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. "I kind of made fun of President Bush's nomination of Janice Rogers Brown (to the federal appeals court), as though she were the next Clarence Thomas," Bendib said.

It was a cartoon of Brown, a conservative African American, but as a smiling and exaggerated U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas face on a woman's body with a wild Afro, being applauded by Thomas, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as President Bush says, "Welcome to the federal bench, Ms. Clarence ... I
mean, Ms. Rogers Brown. You'll fit right in!"

The piece didn't seem terribly notable to Bendib until he was visiting relatives in Algiers last month and started getting overseas calls from the New York Times.

 


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