Setting the record straight on cartoons

Some peoples views regarding the cartoons have been understanding.

Itís been an interesting couple of weeks. Iíve been sitting back and keeping a close eye on all the attention focused on the cartoons that depict the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. And, over the past few weeks in the Star Tribune and the Daily, I have seen and read peopleís opinions on the matter.

Some peopleís views regarding the cartoons have been understanding, others have not. Some have looked at the issue with introspective contemplation while others have responded with ignorance thatís fueled primarily by what I see as a misunderstanding of the situation as a whole.

As a Muslim and a cartoonist, I find myself in a rather unique position. Not only can I understand how offensive and counterproductive the cartoons are from a Muslimís perspective, but I also can respect the right of Jyllands-Posten to print such material from the perspective of a journalist and editorialist exercising freedom of speech.

With all that noted, I have to say ó in my own opinion ó that while Jyllands-Posten surely had the right to print those depictions of Muhammad, it was in extremely poor taste, out of the bounds of journalistic conduct and was created and printed with malicious intent.

The fact is the cartoons simply do not serve a purpose. They do not foster thought or discussion or open dialogue regarding terrorism and its ìrelationshipî to Islam.

The cartoons further perpetuate the stereotype that Islam is a violent religion and that Muslims are an angry people while this stereotype is untrue.

Although it is unfortunate that the rash, violent and completely un-Islamic actions of a few have made some people believe the stereotype is true for the many, one should not look to the 15 seconds of footage on CNN or Fox News for their perception of Islam, but should go and actively acquire an opinion ó whatever it might be ó based on their own research of the religion.

Though it certainly would be hypocritical of me to say every cartoon I have ever done has been a thought-provoking, intellectual masterpiece, I can honestly say that ó with the exception of series pieces ó I have never made light of any person, quote or event not initially and predominantly based in truth. And while sometimes I have argued with my editors to push the envelope in an attempt to get people to critically consider an issue, Iím always aware of my ethical boundaries as a journalist and my responsibility to my readers to produce accurate content.

The same cannot be said for those who made and published the Muhammad cartoons. Those cartoons show that, like a lot of people ó both Muslim and non-Muslim ó Jyllands-Posten really had no idea of the type of person Muhammad was or what Islam is all about.

Whether one agrees with a particular issue or not, one should at least take the time to obtain the relevant information about a topic before just taking what a so-called expert says as the truth about it. There are numerous events this week covering the topic of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and I encourage everyone to attend an event at 6 p.m. today at 310 Anderson Hall.

The bottom line is that, despite what you might hear, Islam is not a religion of violence and does not promote the idea that everyone should be forced to submit to its principles. Likewise, the Prophet Muhammad was not a warmongering militant but rather a patient and tolerant person. To everyone is their own belief.

But donít just take my word for it; go find out for yourself.

Adam Elrashidi is the Dailyís cartoonist. He welcomes comments at [email protected]