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irregular times logoThe Goose and the Gander: Making Mohammed Cartoons and Holocaust Cartoons Available to Meet the Free Speech Challenge

-- February 28, 2006

Earlier this year, we at Irregular Times published our own images of the Islamic prophet Mohammed (Comic 1 | Comic 2 | Comic 3 | Comic 4). Earlier this month, we established a web page to hold the twelve well-known but little-seen cartoons of Mohammed from the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten.

Initially, we shied away from using the Irregular Times website to publish the Mohammed comics from Denmark. Clearly, we have published our own set of Mohammed comic strips because in writing and drawing them, we naturally agree with them. But we did not draw the original 12 Danish Mohammed cartoons, and do not necessarily find ourselves in agreement with them. Indeed, it would be fair to say that we do not like a number of them, and so we felt little need to publish them in our own mirror site.

However, as it became clear that most American newspapers would refuse to publish the Danish drawings of Mohammed, we began to ask how responsible citizens could possibly form an opinion regarding images of Mohammed if they could not be seen. It is reasonable to expect that active, responsible citizens in an Information Age should be able to review the images and make their own considered decisions regarding them. And so, because our mainstream media has largely refused to make those materials accessible in this case, we felt a need to publish them in our own mirror site.

Since then, the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri, in conjunction with Caricature House, issued a challenge to the West. If Western media would be willing to publish cartoons deeply offensive to Muslims in the name of free speech, would it also be willing to publish cartoons offensive to Jews regarding the Holocaust in the name of free speech?

In making this challenge, the Hamshahri newspaper was making a bet that Western media would respond with a resounding "No." To quote from Hamshahri's letter of challenge:

As usual, freedom of expression is used to serve as an excuse for westerners to attack sanctities of the Muslims in blatant disregard for moral prinicples and respect for opinions of others. The attack comes despite the fact that it is an unforgiven crime in the West to debate and critique many issues including the domineering system, looting, and crimes perpetrated by the U.S. and Israel as well as historical events like the Holocaust. Many thinkers express doubt about the accuracy of the Holocaust. However even expressing doubt in this regard entails prosecution.

Here, the Hamshahri newspaper displays either its ignorance or its willingness to deceive its readers. While what Hamshahri claims is unfortunately true in some areas of Europe, here in the most powerful Western nation, the United States, it is not a crime at all to debate any of these subjects or matters. Nobody can be prosecuted in the United States for being stupid and ignorant enough to deny that the Holocaust occured. Here in the United States, we let Holocaust deniers say what they have the legal right to say, and then we laugh at them derisively and disprove them with clear evidence of the shameful historical truth of the Holocaust. This is why Holocaust deniers are unhappy in the United States; we fail to give them the cachet of the censored.

After this disappointingly off-kilter beginning, Hamshahri finishes strongly: "Hamshahri is going to measure the sanctity of freedom of expression among the westerners. Thus, it is co-sponsoring with the Caricature House a competition on the Holocaust.... Theme of the competition: what is the limit of Western freedom of expression?"

The Iranians running Hamshahri clearly hope that the Western media will refuse to publish their cartoons because this is "different" or "clearly out of bounds," or something similar. Then Hamshahri hopes to be able to revel in the hypocrisy of Westerners, and assert more loudly that the whole "free speech" claim is a front for hatred of Islam and Muslims.

In responding to Hamshahri's challenge, we are presented with the same dilemma as with the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. On the one hand, after reviewing the five Holocaust-related cartoons Hamshahri has made available, it's fair to say we don't like most of them. On the other hand, Irregular Times is not only a place for people to find out what we like, but is also a place where citizens can come to find out what's going on and see for themselves what all the fuss is.

Therefore, with a mind to Hamshahri's challenge and anticipating that most Western media will NOT publish the Holocaust cartoons, we have created this web page as a repository for the five Holocaust cartoons from the challenge that Hamshahri has made available thus far. Our publication of these Holocaust comics does not indicate that we agree with them; in fact, it's fair to say that we disagree with most of them to some degree. However, we also feel strongly that such cartoons should be made available as widely as possible.

Furthermore, to go above and beyond, we will also make available to Western eyes six cartoons displayed by Caricature House that respond directly to the publication of Mohammed comics. Again, our publication of these reaction comics does not indicate that we agree with them. These are mostly disappointing in the extent to which they are simplistic (Danes are devils!) or infantilize their own readers (poor Muslims, they can't control themselves when they see a cartoon. Cartoons are destroying peace!) However, we again feel strongly that such images should be widely available, and so we present them here.

Holocaust Cartoons from the Iranian Hamshahri Newspaper Competition

(images available as of February 28, 2006)

Reactions to the Danish Mohammed Cartoons by the Iranian Caricature House

(images available as of February 28, 2006)

It is my sincere hope that a member of the staff at Hamshahri finds this web page and notes with interest how a Westerner reprinted the cartoons ... and managed NOT to be arrested for it. I then hope that the staff of Hamshahri might begin considering publishing the Mohammed comics itself, and resolving its own case of glaring hypocrisy.

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