One Picture, A Thousand Outcries

I draw to help prevent a world where others make decisions for me. And I'm willing to risk being called anti-Muslim for it.

BY: Signe Wilkinson

 

As someone who has been picketed and protested for her blasphemous, insensitive, anti-Islamic cartoons, I have nothing but sympathy for my Danish colleagues who have incurred the wrath of the godly by publishing a portfolio of cartoons making fun of one of the world’s great--but apparently humor-impaired--religions. However, I also have compassion for the members of humor-impaired religions. After all, I am a Quaker.

It’s been my experience that most groups are humor-impaired when outsiders make fun of them. On MSNBC.com, readers were asked to vote on whether they thought the Muslim protests were justified. The vote was running 82 percent against the Muslim reaction when I checked Thursday night.

Click the image to open a gallery of Signe Wilkinson's cartoons
But let’s just change the image. What if it were a cartoon showing someone burning the American flag? What if it were a depiction of Jesus with a smoking shotgun as a comment on Christians shooting abortion doctors? What if it were the Star of David used as a hoop that a politician must jump through to get elected?

I’m guessing the approval rating would plummet. Actually, I don’t need to guess because at various times in my career I’ve penned (and my newspaper has published) cartoons along those lines. Lack of humor ensued after each one. A number of my cartoons have caused boycotts, lost advertising for my newspaper, and elicited streams of phone calls and/or picketing in front of our building.

My editors have had to explain the nature of cartooning to the offended representatives of various faiths, ethnicities, and political groups. And I am not alone. Nearly all cartoonists worth their salt have enraged some portion of their readership, often when religious symbolism was part of the cartoon. While at least one colleague received death threats, most of the ensuing protests are loud, sometimes intimidating, but generally peaceful.

I don’t go out of my way to poke fun at the religiously faithful. I have no grounds to criticize other religions, when my own is such a quirky (though perfect) little cult. Unfortunately, cartoonists are easily bothered. I am particularly bothered when some group wants to impose its way of life on me--and most particularly when its adherents want my tax dollars to help them do the imposing. Religious groups are often among those asking for tax dollars, or particular laws to advance their interest or legalize their morality.

As the editor of the French newspaper France Soir noted after publishing the Danish cartoons, if we were to abide by all the rules of all the world’s religions, we wouldn’t be allowed to do much of anything.

I'll risk being called anti-Muslim to do my job
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