Yesterday, Matt Shaffer accused students who took part in the protest against Kurt Westergaard’s visit including me of “dishonesty” and “hatefulness” in his column “Cartoons tactless, not hateful” (Oct.6). Although I cannot speak on behalf of the other protesters, I would like to respond to this charge.
Shaffer claims that the now infamous cartoon cannot be compared to other symbols of hate speech, such as swastika. To him, the image of Muhammad wearing a turban concealing a bomb in his turban is not hateful enough. Though he believes that the cartoon insults Muhammad, to him, it is merely a political cartoon.
But there is a fundamental difference between a political cartoon and a cartoon lampooning religious symbols. Politicians, no matter how much we respect them, are not held sacred by any sections of our society.
Moreover, the cartoon not only insults Muhammad but also all Muslims. By writing the Islamic creed, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his Prophet” on the turban, Westergaard attacks a the core Muslim belief and associates it with terrorism. A cartoon that connects a religious creed to terrorism is not hateful enough?
Shaffer uses the wrong metric to determine what makes a symbol of hate. While a Nazi would not consider the swastika, which in itself is a harmless image, hateful, Jews would feel differently because of the horrible history associated with it. Similarly, it is appropriate for Muslims to deem the cartoon hate speech, since it signifies American and European arrogance and oppression. I was not being “dishonest” when we said the cartoons are hateful. Insulting our prophet, attacking the Islamic creed, making us—one billion people—terrorists is hate speech.
Although Shaffer emphasized that Westergaard has denied that his cartoon expressed ill-will towards all Muslims, he failed to acknowledge the fact that Westergaard has never actually apologized for his deed.
Westergaard, as painted in Shaffer’s piece, is some sort of a hero, a tortured man by an intolerant world. But it is not suffering which makes people heroes; it is the good they do that counts. Westergaard did no good. He just misused the liberties in his country to attack, insult and vilify an already vulnerable community.
Syed Salah Ahmed
The writer is a junior in Saybrook College.