No laughing matter: Cartoons or Caricatures?

Updated On: Feb 07, 2006

All across the region, there was condemnation of the publication of the cartoons in the Danish newspaper, that were later reprinted in several European papers.

While most of the regional governments condemned the cartoons and see their publication as provocation and insensitivity, there was also an appeal for calm. 

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the reprinting of the images, calling it an “act of blasphemy and had clearly offended Muslims.”  However, he appealed for the public to maintain calm, saying that the government had taken bilateral and multilateral steps to resolve the furore. Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said on Friday (3 Feb), "As a predominantly Muslim country, of course we object to the issue. I've expressed the government's indignation to the Danish ambassador here and they have apologised openly." Foreign Affairs spokesman Yuri Thamrin said on Wednesday (1 Feb) that Indonesia and 12 other countries in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) had lodged a formal protest with the Danish government in    December.

The JakartaPost (6 Feb) also reported “angry hard-line Muslims stormed the lobby of the Rajawali Tower Building where the Danish Embassy is located in Kunigan,South Jakarta, on Friday [3 Feb].”  What was interesting that Jakarta Post used the term “hard-line” to describe those who stormed the building. No other protest was reported on Saturday. The Post (2 Feb) stressed that Denmarkwas “an important donor to tsunami-stricken Acheh and Nias, donating more than US$17m, a large amount in terms of its population.”  Even the 4-day visit by Danish Minister of Development and Cooperation, Ulla Torneas was not marred with protests.

A local Indonesian newspaper (Rakyat Merdeka) reprinted the cartoons on its print edition and website on Friday but the chief editor had to agree to publish an apology after hundreds of members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) held a protest outside the Rakyat Merdeka’s office on Friday.

On the whole, it seems that the general media in Indonesiahave been careful and restraint in reporting the news.

In Malaysia, an editor of Sarawak Tribune resigned after reprinting the cartoons in the Sunday edition of the English language paper. Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi was reported as saying, "Let the perpetrators of the insult see the gravity of their own mistakes which only they themselves can and should correct." (New Straits Times 6 Feb).

The New Straits Times editorial (6 Feb) emphasized the importance of exercising responsible press freedom “with a sensitivity to cultural differences and a respect for the belief of others.” It called the Danish editor-in-chief of the Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten Carsten Juste’s excuse that he would not have printed the cartoons had he known the consequences “lame”. The editorial referred to the examples of the death fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie and knife attack on Naguib Mahfouz of violence when Islam was insulted. The editorial also added that “While the Muslim world is not short of fanatics who are only too eager to take advantage of incidents like this to stir things up, the newspaper should stand up to the fact that it is equally guilty of sowing hatred and causing deep offence to Muslims.”

In Singapore, two Ministers also took issue with the “freedom of expression” argument used to justify publication of the cartoons. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr George Yeo said the caricatures were done in “a very disrespectful way” and that the other newspapers which subsequently reprinted them did so “in order to be spiteful.” The Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaccob Ibrahim backed a statement by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) on Thursday (2 Feb) expressing unhappiness over the printing of caricatures. He also said that he was happy that Muslims in Singapore responded “very calmly” and called on them to explain to non-Muslim friends “why this thing should not have happened and why we are upset.” 

The editorial in the Straits Times (2 Feb) pointed out that “The governments of Denmark and Norway need to make a distinction between incitement and expressing an opinion responsibly. It was disingenuous of the Danish government to cast the incident as an issue of free speech. The newspapers were doing violence to the concept; the acts were calculatedly reckless and downright dangerous to the national interest.”

In Thailand, attention was so much focused on the Shin Corp deal, but there were also brief reports of unhappiness from the Muslims in Thailandconcerning the cartoons.  

In Brunei, two political parties, the National Development Party (NDP) and Brunei National Solidarity Party (PPKB) sent their protest statements to the weekend edition (5 Feb) of the Borneo Bulletin. The NDP suggested the formation of International Relationship and Peace as a platform for peace, civilisation and religious dialogue. The PPKB pointed out that it might also send a protest letter to the Danish Diplomatic Representative or Embassy. 


SBY Rejects Cartoons, Calls for Order, JakartaPost (6 Feb)

Europe’s Prophet Cartoon Furore hits Home, Jakarta Post (4 Feb)

RI Condemns Danish Caricatures of Prophet, JakartaPost (2 Feb)

PKS Supporters Urge Danish Government to Apologize, Antara (6 Feb)

FPI Members Throwing Eggs at Danish Embassy, Antara (3 Feb)

NU Files Protest to Danish Govt, Antara (3 Feb)

Indonesiajoins choir of critics of Danish Mohammed Drawings, Thai Press Report (6 Feb)

IndonesiaJoins Choir of Critics of Danish Mohammed Drawings, Thai Press Reports (6 Feb)

Danish Embassy in IndonesiaNot Distribute New Apology, Thai Press Reports (6 Feb)

Use of Offensive Caricatures of Prophet Muhamma: Editor of SarawakResigns, New Straits Times (6 Feb)

Not Fit to Print, New Straits Times (6 Feb)

Danish Embassies Torched as Muslim Protests Grow, New Straits Times (6 Feb)

Yudhoyono, Abdullah join Chorus of Protests; But the Indonesian and Malaysian Leaders Urge their Countrymen to Exercise Restraint, The Straits Times (5 Feb)

S’pore Ministers Speak out Against Cartoons of Prophet; They say Uproar Shows How Vital it is to Respect Religious, Racial Sensitivities, The Straits Times (4 Feb)

World: European Media vs Muslim World, The Straits Times (3 Feb)

Caricatures Incite Hatred, Says MUIS, The Straits Times (3 Feb)

EuropeIn Caricature, The Straits Times (2 Feb)

BruneiParties Join Global Islamic Outcry, BorneoBulletin (4 Feb)

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