Violence continues in Pakistan over religious satirical comic

Pat Jarrett

Students, leaders discuss Muhammad cartoon controversy

Fifteen people are dead because of a cartoon.

Two died Tuesday in Lahore, Pakistan during a protest where demonstrators against the satirical comic depicting the prophet Muhammad set fires, wielded handguns and vandalized a KFC, a Pizza Hut and a Holiday Inn, according to The Associated Press.

“Muslims denounce violence, but just because you denounce violence it doesn’t mean . . . (you) think the comic is OK,” said Chereen Gamal, president of the Kent State Muslim Student Association.

The Daily Kent Stater editorial board ran a column Feb. 7 denouncing the violence stemming from the comic, but stood behind the freedom of speech argument. It said the proper way to protest the cartoon is through letters and “a more democratic process.”

“The Stater and other people were saying ‘it’s just a cartoon,’ but there are two things wrong with it: a) we don’t depict Muhammad, and b) he was depicted in a very disgusting way,” Gamal said.

Torsten Schack Pedersen, a member of Parliament in Denmark, commented on the cartoon after an interfaith roundtable discussion at the Islamic Community Center in Cuyahoga Falls Monday night.

“We have freedom of speech,” Pedersen said.

“Where do you draw the line? (Freedom of speech) is a basic value in democracy,” he said. “You can’t do a little bit of censorship.”

He also said he was surprised to see so much hate toward Denmark based on the actions of an individual paper.

Eno Trimcev, executive director at the Albanian Institute of International Studies, also attended the roundtable discussion. The cartoon issue surfaced during the discussion of religious tolerance and respect.

“How is it good that we’re here sitting around the table saying ‘it’s good that we’re sitting around the table’ when the windows are being broken?” Trimcev said during the discussion.

“We are failing to understand the other side at a time when we have to,” he said after the discussion.

The comic was printed first in September last year in Denmark and in Egypt in October. The Akron Beacon Journal ran a political cartoon dated Feb. 5 from illustrator Chip Bok that shows a couple watching CNN where they are showing the prophet Muhammad with his face pixelated.

The local comic led to a protest outside the Akron Beacon Journal main office in Akron after the comic was published, according to the Beacon and Bok’s personal blog at boksbluster.com.

Bok said he was making a comment about CNN, referring to an instance when CNN broadcast the cartoons on-air but pixelated the face of the prophet Muhammad.

“This is not something I’d do gratuitously, but if there is a reason to do it, I’ll certainly do it again,” Bok said.

The 19-year veteran artist caught flak from the Muslim community and even attended a special Council on American-Islamic Relations meeting in Akron on Feb. 10 to discuss his cartoons specifically.

Bok said in a phone interview that he thought one of the drawings had merit. He said he thought the cartoon of the prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban made a good point.

“I think it’s fair to make the connection to all the worldwide violence being done in Muhammad’s name to Muhammad,” Bok said.

Contact religion reporter Pat Jarrett at [email protected]