Islamists Battle Cats

Islamists buring a copy of Prothom AloThe Cat Cartoon

[Welcome Crooks & Liars readers. Please consider supporting the campaign for release of the 23-year old cartoonist Arifur Rahman by adding the "Free Arifur Rahman" badge that is on the sidebar to your own blog. Thank you for spreading the word about this unjust abuse of power by Bangladesh’s military government and suppression of freedom of expression.]

Bangladesh has its very own Muhammad cartoon controversy. Two days ago the leading Bangladeshi newspaper Prothom Alo published a cartoon in its weekly supplement "Alpin". By today the military government of Bangladesh had arrested the cartoonist, banned the cartoon, confiscated all copies of the newspaper issue, and forced the newspaper to fire the editor responsible for publishing the cartoon. Prothom Alo has also apologized profusely to its readers in two front page editorials.

The Bengali language cartoon entitled "Name" ("Naam" in Bengali) depicts a conversation between a Muslim man and a boy:

Man: Hey boy, what is your name?
Boy: My name is Babu.

Man: It is customary to say "Muhammad" before saying a name.

Man: What is your father’s name?
Boy: Muhammad Abu.

Man: So what is on your lap?
Boy: Muhammad cat.

For the record let me say that I found the cartoon to be quite funny. It made me chuckle and remember the countless times when people would inadvertently add "Muhammad" – a very common practice in Bangladesh – to the beginning of my name.

What the Islamists find offensive about this cartoon is that the Prophet Muhammad’s name is being used to describe a cat. Somehow that is considered offensive even though the Prophet Muhammad was apparently very fond of cats. Presumably these very same Islamists did not find it offensive that the man who piloted a plane into a skyscraper causing massive loss of innocent life was named "Muhammad Atta".

Opportunistic Islamist politicians in Bangladesh have jumped on this cartoon to try to silence a newspaper that has often been critical of them. The Islamists have found a ready partner in Bangladesh’s military government. Islamist politicians met with the military government’s Law and Information Advisor Mainul Hosein and got what they wanted:

A delegation led by the Baitul Mukarram mosque’s khatib, Obaidul Haque, called on the law and information adviser, Mainul Hosein, and demanded cancellation of the declaration of the Prothom Alo and arrest of its editor, along with others concerned, before this Friday ‘for showing disrespect to Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (pbuh)’.

The cartoon ridiculed the prophet by adding his name (Mohammad) before an animal, they said.

‘It is a conspiracy to destabilise the country. We are very concerned over the issue,’ Mainul told reporters after the meeting.

The conspirators wanted to throw the country into a chaotic situation, he claimed.

The adviser asked everyone to remain alert against the plot so that the conspirators cannot be successful. [Emphasis added]

It is alarming that the unhinged Information Advisor sees a "conspiracy" in the cartoon. This is the same military government that saw a "conspiracy" when mass protests broke out in Bangladesh last month. Those protests were promptly crushed by a brutal response from the military that included beatings of students and journalists, and the ongoing arrests of university professors.

Since it took power in a coup last January the military in Bangladesh has suspended fundamental rights, intimidated and censored the media, purged the political parties, and created a climate of fear within the country. In this climate of fear the Islamist political parties have been left largely untouched while the two major political parties have been decimated by arrests of their top leaders. In what was a largely secular Muslim majority democratic nation, the Islamist parties played at the fringes – only managing to share power by joining in coalitions with the larger secular parties. However, with democracy and political activity suppressed by the military Islamists have a disproportionate voice. This has been the case in Pakistan through successive military dictatorships, and today Bangladesh is on a similar path.

The military government’s validation of the Islamists’ absurd complaints over a harmless cartoon amply demonstrates the symbiotic relationship the military and Islamists share in South Asia. They both reinforce each other’s paranoia and intolerance for dissent. When democracy is suppressed Islamists thrive in the vacuum. It is then vitally important to restore democracy in Bangladesh.



This entry was posted in Bangladesh, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Islam, Media. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Islamists Battle Cats

  1. Rivkeleh says:

    Muhammed Riley feels far more important now than she ever did before.

  2. Khanna says:

    If u understands but pretends not, then it is difficult to talk on this issue. As a Muslim it really hurts me and same should be for all others. It seems that as a converted Bengali – American Muslim u r too moderate to find any faults with the cartoon.

    It also very funny to find a link with military backed government in all issues? Do not claim that all media of our country is “Duthe dhoa tulshi pata”? It’s not. So don’t try to uphold these Medias who are basically sell news for money not with ethics.

  3. AsifY says:

    “As a Muslim it really hurts me and same should be for all others”

    As a fellow Muslim, I respect your hurt. But what gives you the right to define what SHOULD hurt me or not?

  4. satburn says:

    Nothing like insulting in this cartoon. Islamists are not only battling cat, they are keep on battling with :(|)3:-o>:):@):o) and **==. Its their livelihood and survival.

  5. Mash says:

    Satburn, creative use of the smileys! 🙂

    You forgot to add ~:>=:)o:-)


  6. Mash says:

    Khanna, it is not I who linked the military government in this whole fiasco. It was the military government itself who stepped into this. They did the following among other things:

    1. Arrested the cartoonist!
    2. Banned the magazine
    3. Information Advisor Mainul Hosein incited even further trouble by claiming the cartoon was part of a “conspiracy”

    So if you find it “funny” that the military government is involved, you should direct your questions at them.

  7. Hasan says:

    As I have read the blog, I feel that bloggers does not like the military rule. Probably he/she likes the corrupted politicians/businessmen/civil employees sucking the whole country into demise. It makes me wonder if his life in US is contributed by black money which his parent earned to provide as I have seen for many students while going to school in US. I am an immigrant and my parents do not have any money to provide if I were not immigrant.

  8. Mash says:

    Hasan, you are right. I don’t like military rule. Speaking of sucking the country dry, the military dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad stole so much money from Bangladesh that he had become one of the richest men in Asia. Corruption is not the sole province of civilians, the military rulers in Bangladesh have been quite efficient in stealing the country’s wealth.

    Since I started blogging, many commenters have taken personal shots at me when they have failed to muster a meaningful counter-argument. However, you have the ignominious distinction of being the first commenter who has actually launched an attack on my late parents’ character. You really should be quite ashamed of yourself.

  9. MargeA says:

    You don’t have to draw cartoons to make me laugh at religion. It’s hilarious all by itself.

    You’d think that if the invisible sky daddy was actually concerned by any of this crap it would have done something about it. Since it’s supposed to be so omnipotent and all.

  10. Pete Bogs says:

    it\\\’s a cliche, but some people really need to get lives… it\\\’s astounding the way some people react to things… these guys couldn\\\’t be more intolerant…

  11. Animesh Ray says:

    C’mon, the fellow should be incarcerated not only in Bangladesh, but also extradited to Kansas or South Carolina, tried in secret and then confined for life in Guantanamo. He had the temerity to say a cat has ‘soul’!! That is terrorism! He has tried to cast a blow at the foundation of our Judeo-Christian faith, our American values!! All men are equal, but not not some men and cats.

  12. Sunny says:

    Honestly, I don’t find the cartoon funny at all. I’m not religious yet I know my limits when it comes to making religious jokes. I feel for Arifur Rahman and I beleive he should be set free cz shobai bhool korey shey jonno maaf ditey hoy.

    After 1971 the Bengalis turned their backs on Islam because the Punjabis used Islam as a porda against the Bengalis, but Islam is coming back into the lives of Bengalis. And as the months pass more and more people will support the Islamic leaders.

  13. murmurr ::tdm:: says:

    This is the most pathetic infliction of authority I have heard for quite a while, perhaps only beneath the teddy bear named mohammed.

    I fully understand terrorism and, in some ways, I sympathize with them. They are fighting for freedom of speech, basically. In a violent way yes but they do not have an army and the taliban pays more than the government etc.


    Muslims – get over yourselves and learn to be able to laugh at yourselves. This is important. If you can laugh at yourself in every way, nobody can laugh at you and hurt you.

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