Jeremy Paxman talks to the Jesus and Mo artist; BBC and Channel 4 censor cartoon; Nawaz explains his tw**t of death

January 30, 2014 • 12:06 pm

As you may know, Liberal Democrat Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim and candidate for M.P., tweeted a perfectly innocuous Jesus and Mo cartoon, which has of course aroused ire in not just the British Muslim community, but among left-wing Brits, who are scared to death of Muslim ire and cowed by thoughts of appearing “Islamophobic.”  Nawaz has received the usual death threats (it’s scary that by now we’re used to these!), and a petition is circulating to the head of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, to remove Nawaz as a candidate. The petition has over 20,000 signatures.

On last night’s Newsnight on the BBC, Jeremy Paxman interviewed the anonymous Jesus and Mo artist, whose figure and voice are masked.  The video below comes from YouTube, and seems to feature only part of the interview. Paxman seems puzzled about why anybody would make fun of religion, particularly if it would a) cause offense, and b) lead to violence.  Those are fair questions, but Paxman seems more confrontational than objective in his questions:

The most contemptible part is that the BBC itself, as well as Channel 4 (a publicly owned station independent of the BBC) have censored the offending Jesus and Mo cartoon, at least according to a post on Cranmer. It was in fact censored twice: on the Channel 4 news and on Newsnight. Here are the versions given by Cranmer. Note how innocuous the original cartoon (first image) was.  The absence of an image from the Newsnight show apparently means that they didn’t show the cartoon at all, though I’m not sure. At any rate, even not showing it is an act of cowardice.

Picture 1

This is contemptible, and shows that Channel 4 and the BBC are cowed by fear of offending Muslims. Would they censor, for example, Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” (an “artwork” with a crucifix immersed in a jar of Serrano’s urine) for fear of offending Christians? I don’t think so, for “Piss Christ” featured prominently in a 2009 BBC documentary  called “Why beauty matters” (video below). Here’s a screenshot from minute 42 of that show, and you can clearly see Jesus floating in the urine (this version, from Vimeo, has Spanish subtitles):

Picture 1

I’d like to ask the BBC why they don’t mind offending Christian sensibilities but bridle at offending Muslims. We already know the answer, of course.


This just in: Reader Chris called my attention to a Guardian piece by Maajid Nawaz defending and explaining his decision: “Why I’m speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it.” It’s an excellent piece, and the kind of thinking we hear far too infrequently from Muslims. An excerpt:

My intention was not to speak for any Muslim but myself – rather, it was to defend my religion from those who have hijacked it just because they shout the loudest. My intention was to carve out a space to be heard without constantly fearing the blasphemy charge, on pain of death. I did it for Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was assassinated by his bodyguard for calling for a review of Pakistan’s colonial-era blasphemy laws; for Malala Yusafzai, the schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting an education; and for Muhammad Asghar, a mentally ill British man sentenced to death for “blasphemy” last week in Pakistan.

My intention was to demonstrate that Muslims are able to see things we don’t like, yet remain calm and pluralist, and to demonstrate that there are Muslims who care more about the thousands of deaths in Iraq, Pakistan and Syria than we do about what a student is wearing. My intention was to highlight that Muslims can engage in politics without insisting that our own religious values must trump all others’ concerns, and to stand before the mob so that other liberal Muslim voices that are seldom heard, women’s and men’s, could come to the fore. And many such Muslim voices have been heard this last week.

However, in the final analysis, my intentions are irrelevant. What matters is this simple truth: I am free not to be offended by a cartoon I did not draw. If my prospective constituents do not like me not being offended, they are free not to vote for me. Other Muslims are free to be offended, and the rest of the country is free to ignore them. I will choose my policies based on my conscience. As such, I will continue to defend my prophet from those on the far right and Muslim extremes who present only a rigid, angry and irrational interpretation of my faith. I will stand for fairness, as Amnesty International once stood for me when I was a prisoner in Hosni Mubarak‘s Egypt. Because I believe that the difference between fairness and tribalism is the difference between choosing principles and choosing sides.

Of course I’m not wild about Islam, but if there were more people like Nawaz, at least its malevolence could be weakened. Sadly, I think he’s put a target on his back, and this piece just makes it more visible.

125 thoughts on “Jeremy Paxman talks to the Jesus and Mo artist; BBC and Channel 4 censor cartoon; Nawaz explains his tw**t of death

  1. It’s too bad that the jesus and mo cartoonist appears to be a horrible advocate for his cause. Saying things like, “it’s not my problem” may be very true, but it makes him sound like an asshole.

      1. Generally when you tell people they are offending or inconveniencing and they respond with “well, not my problem”, they sound like a dick. Imagine talking about poverty with a rich person, and having them reply with “not my problem, whatever”.

        Now of course it isn’t and shouldn’t be his problem, and I totally agree with him. He doesn’t come of ass an asshole to me personally, but the point here is to make the point to people who are not already on his side. So it’s a matter of phrasing, really. You can frame the same idea in many ways.

        1. Generalizing and comparing a cartoon to poverty doesn’t sound like a reasonable approach to the situation, but at least he didn’t come off as an asshole to you personally, as you say.

          What I don’t understand though, is that you think he should have phrased it differently because it might sound offensive to some.

          He’s a cartoonist, not a politician and honesty shouldn’t be a subject of tone.

          Out of curiosity, what do you think he should have said instead?

          1. I am not comparing the situations, I was simply illustrating the importance of phrasing.

            What I also don’t mean is that he should phrase it differently because it it offensive to others; I just think he could’ve made a better argument than “not my problem”.

            A good example of what he could have said can be found by looking at Hans Teeuwen, a dutch comedian who, after the murder of Theo van Gogh, wrote an ‘offensive’ song to sing at his memorial. He, in a television show, got asked the exact same questions as Paxman is asking the illustator. In response to this he said, much like the illustrator, that he is merely out to make comedy, and that especially those things which are controversial are good to make fun of. And when they can’t be made fun of, we get dictatorial situations, scary situations.

            This isn’t very different from what the illustrator is saying but imagine showing the video to someone who thinks these subjects should be handled with care and god forbid, sensored. There is a subtle but stark difference between someone making a case like the aforementioned comedian (the video became a huge hit -loads of people agreed-, which is very very good), and saying something like “whatever, not my problem”. We want to win over those people who think all this stuff needs to be censored and muslims need to be treated like royalty, right? Well, then a strong way of phrasing can accomplish a whole lot.

            Still, just a matter of phrasing.

            1. I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder.

              I just re-watched the interview and if this is what it takes to turn off those that want to impose laws of censorship and treat muslims like royalty, then I’d argue we’ve taken a few steps back in recent years and learned nothing from the cartoon controversy.

              He did make a better argument than just saying “not my problem”, but I’m guessing it’s the initial “No, because I’m not a Muslim”-phrase that rubbed you the wrong way?

              I don’t want to win over people who want to impose censorship by phrasing my language in certain ways ( I’m strongly tempted to use the phrase self-censorship ), and to be honest I don’t think it works.

              To me it just re-inforces the notion that it is ok to take offense and that we need laws to protect certain feelings from being hurt.

              1. It sadly doesn’t seem we’ve learned all that much from the cartoon controversy, does it?. It’s the same situation all over again. It didn’t rub me the wrong way. I agree with the man. I’m just placing myself in the shoes of the endless apologist. We need to make a strong case against these people.

                I am just arguing for better marketing. Imagine Hitchens being the cartoonist and being asked the same question. He would crush it, right? Somewhere down here I read someone that said that the fact that he has to hide his face is incredible in his own right. Point to these things.

                But let it be clear that I am not talking about offense here. We should never back down from offending those who are determined to be offended. What I am arguing for is a better spokesperson to show the public — the ones who haven’t put serious thought into this — that it is absolutely ridiculous that people need to hide their faces and should genuinely be afraid of their lives for drawing something in paint. We should be able to make fun of whatever the hell we like. To make this very clear, we, sadly I must say, apparently need to make a strong case for this.

                Anyway, it seems that we’re arguing a minor point. Let’s at least be happy we are in agreement for most if not all of the others.

              2. @dirk

                We may have a slight disagreement over what constitutes good marketing and why it should be necessary, but I hear you.

                As a final point though, I’d just like to stress that we gain nothing by considering what words we use in order to win over folks, and as musical beef points out, we need to be persistant and unwavering in our right to say, draw or write whatever we desire.

                Sorry, rant over. 🙂

              3. He’s not a spokesman. He’s himself. His cartoons say what he feels needs saying the way he wants to say it. And, IMO, he regularly makes a far stronger stand against the stupidity of religion than 99% of the rest of us atheists. Sure, Hitchens would give a better interview. So what? He wouldn’t have made better cartoons. (As far as I know.)

        2. “Not my problem” should only make you sound like an asshole if you say it in response to something that would be reasonable for everyone to expect you to accomodate.

          This is not one of those things. This is grown adults throwing tantrums. Tantrums that often involve deadly weapons. As you write, phrasing is important, and it’s important that we demonstrate that these reactions will not be accomodated. Zero tolerance. Get used to the fact that people are different. If you can’t handle it, it’s your problem, “not my problem”, and yours is the behavior that’s going to have to change.

          1. ““Not my problem” should only make you sound like an asshole if you say it in response to something that would be reasonable for everyone to expect you to accomodate.”

            Apparently people do think it is reasonable. We need to get them off this ridiculous point of view.

            1. Agreed.

              Which is why I think we need to say “not my problem” whenever it truly isn’t our problem. Get people used to it. Nothing will change if we don’t take off our kid gloves.

              1. Fair enough, but we should not miss any chance to explain why it isn’t our problem. It isn’t our problem, hell it’s not. But let’s make it very clear that we’re not being ‘inconsiderate’ or ‘deliberately offending’, because this is apparently how it is very often interpreted.

              2. Well I thought immediately (when I heard it) that ‘not my problem’ was an unfortunate way to phrase it. Because it *does* sound dickish and it is most commonly used by dicks.

                I’m NOT saying the cartoonist is a dick. I am saying that his position could have been much better expressed. That’s not a criticism of him, many (most) of us aren’t that good at putting our point of view persuasively at a moment’s notice, those that are have names like Harris and Hitchens.

              3. There’s the issue, IMO. I honestly don’t see why you say kit sounds “dickish”. Suggesting that it is “dickish” implies that somehow the cartoonist (in this case) is at fault for having said something boorish and hurt someone’s sensibilities.

                The fact is that it isn’t his problem. The problem is with people who ramp up their sensitivities in order to intimidate other folk.

              4. “The fact is that it isn’t his problem. The problem is with people who ramp up their sensitivities in order to intimidate other folk.”

                For sure, there are folks whose exquisitely delicate sensibilities are too easily offended.

                That said, to congenially inquire, in your view is it ever possible to ramp DOWN ones sensitivities too much?

              5. Is it possible to gratuitously attack a person? Of course. Is this relevant in this situation? No.

                When saying “not my problem” is interpreted as being “dickish” or unduly offensive, then the scales are severely in need of adjustment. How on earth does saying “not my problem” become the object of criticism in a world where people can’t talk on camera without fear of being physically attacked or killed?

              6. @gbjames

                I said it sounds dickish. I specifically did not say J&M was being a dick, read my post again. The trouble is, that phrase is so often used by people who are being dickish.

                J&M could have put it so much better – as a number of posters have suggested, I won’t rehash their points.

                You don’t agree? – not my problem!

                err, 🙂

              7. infiniteimprobabilit: I read it correctly the first time. Your point was that he “sounds dickish” which, presumably, you disapprove of. Otherwise, what is your point?

                There is no way that I can see for you to say that something “sounds dickish” without implying that you disapprove of the “tone” of the statement. That’s a BS position, from my point of view, because it is a distraction from the real issue: people required to publish cartoons anonymously and appear with disguised faces and voices because tyrannical idiots feel disrespected.

              8. @gbjames

                ‘Disapprove’ is too strong a word. I think he could certainly have made his points better.

                The aim of an interview on a controversial topic is to inform (and hopefully influence) viewers, right? And if the interviewee sounds dickish he is less likely to sway viewers to his point of view.

                (At this stage I’m trying to remember what ‘not my problem’ was in response to! Was it ‘causing offence’?) But a brief explanation of why, in a free society, we all have to tolerate opposing views we may not like, would I think have been much more persuasive to uncommitted viewers.

                Leading with ‘Not my problem’ is something Hitchens could have got away with because he would immediately have followed it up with cogent reasons why. But (IMO) it’s not something lesser mortals can get away with.

              9. I’ll simply say this and then let it rest. I simply don’t agree that he “sounds dickish”. And if I did I wouldn’t give a rip. “Dickish sounds”, like hurt Muslim feelings, are in the brains of self-made victims and complaining that a cartoonist who can’t publicly identify himself for fear of being killed doesn’t measure up to your desired level of “spokesman-ship” seems to me remarkably close to tone trolling.

              10. You think I’m tone trolling and I think you’re tone deaf. Quite obviously when trying to make friends and influence people, the way in which things are said matters. For example I’ve devoted some (brief) thought to how I write this, as, presumably, do you. And the way I say things in this forum is not the same way I would express them to a general public audience.

                I was commenting on how J&M came across on the night. Not looking to dictate some ‘standard of spokesmanship’ to which most of us wouldn’t measure up anyway.

                One side issue – ‘not my problem’ was self-evidently factually wrong anyway since J&M had to appear disguised – so it obviously IS a problem for him. (For reasons we all know. Whether it should be, in an ideal world, is not quite the same issue.)

                I think that’s enough of this.

        3. but the point here is to make the point to people who are not already on his side

          Uh, if he was a politician or proselytizing in some other way, then you’d have a point.
          Having been reading the cartoon for a number of years (I’m pretty sure longer than I’ve been visiting here), I’ve never had the impression that The Author is trying to proselytize.

    1. I used to stick a large rainbow flag to my backpack when I biked to work. One reason: so people would see me better and not run me over. My mom and wife told me they will run you over for other reasons now. I stopped doing it out of fear, because I noticed that it made some people drive more aggressively around me. It is not my problem that they hate gays.

      The cartoonist is brave and clever.

    2. I think he should have countered with the “Do you think you have a right to not be offended?” line. That throws it back on the questioner.

  2. I would ask Mr. Paxman if he ever allows his wife to go outside in shorts, or pants or anything except a bag covering her whole body. If he does, then he is offending muslims. I hope he doesn’t have any gay friends because they offend muslims. Why is it only the image of Mo that must be avoided and not all the other things that offend muslims?

    1. It’s because the image of Mo directly lampoons Islam, whereas wearing shorts doesn’t. The issue isn’t whether J&M is offensive to some Moslems, it is, it’s whether we should all be cowed into reverencing an absurd fantasy that in it’s worst incarnations results in suffering and death.

  3. Paxman doesn’t usually come across as a religious apologist so I wonder if his questions were more along the lines of presenting the standard argument against offending religious sensibilities so that the J and M author could knock them down.
    Unfortunately I think it might have been a missed opportunity by ‘author’ since he could have pointed out that cartoons of Mohammed are only one of a long list of things that offend islamists. Other things on the list include women appearing in public without being veiled, and the legal consumption of alcohol. It is common knowledge that these activities also offend islamists. Should we therefore make them illegal just to avoid causing islamicist offence?

  4. If I remember correctly, on Newsnight the image in question was indeed not shown, they only briefly showed one with Jesus in bed, but without Mo. Also they had the author draw Jesus, but not Mo. I expected better. Cowards.

    The latest Jesus and Mo is a quite funny response to Channel 4’s censorship.

  5. “Paxman seems puzzled about why anybody would make fun of religion, particularly if it would a) cause offense, and b) lead to violence. Those are fair questions, but Paxman seems more confrontational than objective in his questions”

    Not sure how much Paxman you have seen, but I saw nothing unusual in his interviewing style. That is how he is – confrontational. And I thought the cartoonist answered the questions well enough, personally.

    “tweeted a perfectly innocuous Jesus and Mo cartoon, which has of course aroused ire in not just the British Muslim community, but among left-wing Brits,”

    Which “left-wing Brits”? You fail to say. It’s a bit presumptive of you to assume that some comments ( you do not say by whom) represent a whole political movement isn’t it? I am a left-wing Brit, but my ire is reserved for those campaigning against Mr. Nawaz, for those signing a petition calling for his dismissal as a Lib Dem PPC,and for the BBC and C4 being so craven that they cannot even show the cartoon in question.

    It is a bit irksome to be characterised by you as some kind of apologist for those claiming these cartoons are offensive, or blasphemous with that rather broad brush comment of yours.

        1. No it’s not just you and yes it does read as a thinly-veiled death threat, with the added advantage of deniability. Disgraceful. Speaking as a left-wing Brit.


          1. No deniability at all, I’d say. How religious would someone have to be to have such a defective model of the universe…

        2. It certainly does. That is the person the Liberal-Democrat party should be disciplining (by kicking out of the party) not the guy that tweeted the cartoon.

    1. Not sure how much Paxman you have seen, but I saw nothing unusual in his interviewing style. That is how he is – confrontational.

      I agree. Paxo was being quite relaxed compared to his normal rotweiler-with-stomach-ache persona.

  6. Is there anything that doesn’t offend muslims? In South Africa all McDonald’s are halaal, they don’t sell any bacon McMuffins as pork products are not allowed in SA McDonald’s.
    Muslims make up about 5% of SA’s population, but the rest of us have to put up with some sort of “meat” called macon(“God” knows what’s in it). So South African infidels are dictated to by minority muslims in what they can eat.

    1. If you want to eat McDonalds you should expect to get “God knows what” in any of their products.

      Is not serving halal simply a business decision made my McDonalds? My guess is that they think the extra 5% of customers is more than the number that would be driven away by them being halal. I would think that rather than being dictated to by a minority, they are dictated to by profit motives rather than any ethical or religious considerations.

      I’m a vegetarian and I’d love them to not use meat in their burgers. I have no expectation that they would do that.

  7. Paxman seemed his usual confrontational self, to me. No more, no less. And I thought the cartoonist answered the questions pretty robustly, and well.

    Oh, and I am a left-wing Brit, by the way. It’s a bit irksome to see a whole political movement being portrayed as religious apologists in your post. (“but among left-wing Brits, who are scared to death of Muslim ire and cowed by thoughts of appearing “Islamophobic.”) Which “left-wing Brits” are those, then?

    Rather like some within the atheist movement must get irked by the assumption we must all think exactly like Prof.Dawkins, or Chris Hitchens.

    My support is firmly for Mr.Nawaz, and my ire is reserved for those calling on the LibDems to de-select Mr. Nawaz as a PPC, for the 20,000 individuals so offended by an innocuous cartoon that they sign a petition calling for the removal of Mr. Nawaz as a PPC, and for the BBC and C4 who are so craven they cannot even show the cartoon itself.

  8. After seeing the redacted cartoons, I know that, were I the Jesus ‘n’ Mo cartoonist, my next cartoon would feature Mo depicted as as oval, with Mo insisting that this really is an accurate and honest depiction of himself, unlike the body double who’s been playing him from the beginning.

    I’d then probably start rotating through the logos of the various news organizations that’ve censored Mo. This week he might be an oval, but next week the real Mo is revealed to uncannily spell out “BBC.”

    And, yes, please, Mr. Anonymous Artist, do feel free to run with this idea if it tickles your fancy.



    1. And, yes, please, Mr. Anonymous Artist, do feel free to run with this idea if it tickles your fancy.

      Of the two normal alternatives, this sounds like “great minds think alike”, rather than “fools rarely differ”.

  9. Jeremy Paxman is comes off as quite a prig, IMO. I am personally offended that he can be such a shallow interviewer.

      1. He just seems jaded and uninterested these days.

        Too depressed after seeing a generation of upcoming “bright young things” embarrassing themselves with their ignorance on “University Challenge”?

  10. Good grief, doesn’t the fact that the cartoonist has to publish anonymously, and Newsnight having to mask his voice and face tell you everything you need to know about this issue? In the light of this necessity, all of Paxman’s questions about “why would you deliberately cause offense” are irrelevant.

    Maybe he should be asking some fucking Muslim extremists (or their liberal enablers) why anyone should accept their attempt to impose their barbaric standards of behavior on what up until now was a reasonably civilized country.

    I suspect the eventual reaction to this madness will be a lurch to the right, seized on the extremists on the other side, and innocent people will be hurt in the ensuing melée. And all because people are allowed to get away with the most contemptible behavior as long as they hide behind the pretense of religious sensitivity.

    1. “Good grief, doesn’t the fact that the cartoonist has to publish anonymously, and Newsnight having to mask his voice and face tell you everything you need to know about this issue?”


    2. Worse, the contemptible interviewer made it sound like it was insidious to publish anonymously, as though he were anonymous just to avoid taking responsibility for his words, like some internet troll, rather than to avoid, you know, actual death.

  11. Paxman is just doing his job in asking questions intended to draw out his subject’s opinions. If anything he seemed quite sympathetic towards J&M’s cartoonist, as many will appreciate who have seen him interview politicians with something to hide.

    I think that what Paxman was trying to do was to draw out the motivation behind J&M, which is surely more than just humour for atheists. What’s clear though is that J&M’s cartoonist is better at cartoons than he is at interviews.

    1. +1

      I don’t know Paxman, but it seemed to me he was just asking the obvious questions that arise from the situation. He wasn’t sneering or trying to trip J&M up, he was giving J&M time to answer. Really, J&M’s answers weren’t always very good, he is indeed better at cartoons.

  12. It must be said that the lib-dems are supporting Nawaz.
    This was an annoying week for reasonable people. First it was Cristina Odone in the New Statesman then this…

    1. But are the Lib Dems supporting Nawaz? The Newsnight report seemed to leave that point very open, showing Paddy Ashdown equivocating and waffling about whether or not Islam did or did not “prohibit depictions of the Prophet”.
      What Islam does or does not prohibit is surely entirely beside the point.

        1. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Lib Dems will do so, though. Clegg doesn’t have a particularly strong lead of his party.

  13. Good for Nawaz, I always try to support Muslims who stand up to bullies in their own religion. It has the nice secondary effect of making placators look bad too.

    1. The only problem I have is that I see this as an instance of an individual rationalizing things: “That’s not MY religion!” rather than confronting the facts about the evils of Islam. It seems to be a common behavior among religious people — “Oh no, we christians don’t really believe in the literal truth of the story of Genesis”, or “Oh no, the Catlick church doesn’t condone child rape”.

      1. I saw it a big differently. I saw him as saying that he wasn’t going to be bullied anymore and that he wasn’t going to accept crap from Muslims telling him how to behave. I may not hold the same opinions about religion in general and Islam in particular as Nawaz, but both agree that you should question things that seem wrong.

        I equal Nawaz’s behaviour to the Muslims that informed authorities that there was an attack by Muslim extremists planned and a bomb was placed on a Canadian train.

        Police had Esseghaier and Jaser under surveillance since August. They were put on investigators’ radar thanks to tips from the Muslim community, Best said.

        “The very first instance we were aware of the activities of one particular individual that yes, was brought to our attention by the community,” he said.

        About two dozen Muslim community leaders were called to meet with the RCMP and received a briefing before Monday’s news conference.

  14. He referred to Jesus and Mo as “the prophets of the two major world religions.” Cue Hindu outrage.

    1. Don’t forget the Buddhists. Sure buddhism started in India, but most of its adherents (well over 1 billion) are not Indian.

          1. Hindu = Indian (in certain widely accepted senses of each word)

            Having grown up in a town with around 12% each of the population being Hindu Indians, Sikh Indians, and Muslim Pakistanis, and with a good smattering of other combinations of country and religion (including atheism), I grew up being very careful to get it right for any particular person. Calling a Pakistani an Indian is a sure-fire route to an unproductive harangue. (And the various vice versa mixtures.)
            If that is widely accepted in your area, then people need to get things right.

  15. Just watched the clip you provided – that looks to me like a very sympathetic and supportive Paxman actually. He is just giving the Jesus and Mo’ artist an opportunity to reply to what will be the criticism he faces in general. Usually Paxman just crushes interviewees. You can’t compare this interview to the one with Christopher Hitchens. That was a one off where Paxman melted in utter adoration – quite an astounding sight.

  16. I’m more worried about violence from Muslim extremists than Christian ones, but it isn’t prejudice: it’s “postjudice” based on experience. It’s obvious this is the reason BBC won’t show the cartoons, while claiming it’s to avoid giving undue offense.

    I would certainly not characterize religion per se as a mental disorder, but many forms of religiosity seem to create a !*predisposition*! to crazy and indeed violent thinking.

    1. I would certainly not characterize religion per se as a mental disorder

      I would, and so would not only you but virtually everybody on the planet, save for the fact that it has longstanding historical support.

      Take any major religion and change the names, dates, and locations of the characters. Set Jesus as Feng Tzu in Stalinist Moscow, or Mohammad as Raul Gonzales in eighteenth century New York City. Now imagine somebody telling you that they really, truly, sincerely believe that the stories are really true and have great cosmic importance.

      Anybody who did so would be universally regarded as having a serious break with reality.

      Save for the religions in question, everybody knows you’ve got to be absolutely bonkers to think that zombies are real or that you can ride a flying horse into the sunset. But for those lone exceptions…?



      1. Latter Day Saints. Scientology. Just two recent examples of the sort of serious mental illness that results from the faith virus.

        Critical thinking skill is the only known antidote to the virus, and the afflicted fight against its implementation as desperately as what’s-her-name opposes measles vaccination.

      2. I am pretty sympathetic to your position, Ben, but in order for this to gain traction amongst mental health professionals, we’d have to show that the religous (or some more of them at any rate) are massively dysfunctional to the point of danger or the like. This is because, as I understand things, the DSM and other diagnostic instruments look to “dysfunction” as a matter of clinical importance. I think, long term, we can do this, but paradoxically it might also require more confrontations between believers and non-believers, as well as between extreme and moderates to *create* the dysfunction. The idea would eb something like this: “your false belief creates friction precisely *because* it is not shared.” I’d like to be more optimistic, and not require this sort of “conflict” approach, but I cannot (at present) see another way. I’d love to hear from any health care professionals on the list if my (lay) understanding of psychiatric diangoses is correct, though.

        1. There’s a certain fairness to the harm and disfunction requirement in mental illness diagnosis, but I don’t think it’s necessary to manufacture conflict to demonstrate the harm.

          Just look at all the trauma children suffer out of fear from Hell, the angst teens and adults suffer over sex, the vast sums of money pumped into religious institutions, and the criminal operations those institutions perpetuate.

          Once again, shuffle around the names, dates, and locations of the gods in question, and the psychological establishment would instantly label the exact same religious beliefs as delusions and the exact same religious practices as unhealthy if not dangerous — even of the most benign examples of those who’re simply regular churchgoers. A psychologist may well be (justifiably) reluctant to intervene unless it’s causing significant harm to the patient’s ability to work and maintain relationships and the like, but no psychologist would even think to describe it as, “healthy.”

          Unless, of course, the names, dates, and location match those of a small handful of popular deities.



    2. I’m more worried about violence from Muslim extremists than Christian ones, but it isn’t prejudice: it’s “postjudice” based on experience.

      Speak to some of the delightful Christians of Northern Ireland to get your postjudices levelled off a bit.

  17. Oh no, Channel 4 have depicted the prophet as a black spot! They’ll be getting death threats for that I suppose.

    1. ” . . . depicted the prophet as a black spot.”

      Perhaps the color should rather have been Distressed Pumpkin.

  18. If your sad and bored enough as me and check out some muslim forums you see quite plainly why the media are afraid to show the prophet.

    I thought the auther come of quite well for someone who just wants to make people laugh.

    channel 4/bbc are cowards but its not like they are the only people doing this. No newspaper has printed the cartoon either…

  19. So channel 4 covered up Mo with big black burqa? I thought only women had to be covered up. Are they implying that Mo is female?

  20. I dont understand why Paxman is getting so much attention, if he just asked a load of easy questions and nodded along then the interview would be deemed USELESS!

    Check out his hitchens interview if you want to see true admiration

    1. Well maybe I’m not seeing the same thing you are in his questions. What I see is a man who just can’t believe that anyone could be so offensive and not apologize for it. And, assuming I’m not imagining that attitude, it is precisely the problem we face.

      Am I missing some subtlety?

      1. “…What I see is a man who just can’t believe that anyone could be so offensive and not apologize for it. …”

        I am pretty certain that you are misundstanding the interviewing style. Paxman doesn’t ever seem to be asking questions from his own point of view. He asks questions the way they need to be posed so that the Jesus and Mo’ artist can make his arguments from the “opposite” side. I have seen Pax being extremely ferocious with this way of interviewing, which he is not at all in this case, coming across as rather tame, to people who watch him regularly that is. In any case, it is very good that the artist could have his opinion heard from the hot seat at Pax’s. ‘nough said.

        1. Well, I’m not familiar with his work, so maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe he’s adopted the “don’t offend” mandate from the BBC. But it sounds squishy to my ear.

          1. That was the least confrontational interview I have ever seen from Paxman. What I took from it was that he pretty much agreed with J&M Artist on most things, but had to ask contrary questions because that’s what you do in an interview.

            1. To my ear there is a significant difference between these two questions:

              “Isn’t it your concern if you give offense?”

              “What do you say to those who complain that you give offense?”

              What you do when you interview is ask questions to draw your subject out. There is no requirement that questions be “contrary”. (Nor should there be a requirement to avoid “contrary” questions.) But people giving interviews need not assume the persona of third parties.

              1. Should have clarified, “had to ask contrary questions because that’s what you do in an interview” is my perception of Paxman’s attitude/approach to interviewing, not my personal view.

                We’re not so much defending or agreeing with him, just saying that to seasoned Paxo-watchers that was a pretty sympathetic interview by his usual standards.

              2. Sorry, guys…I gotta jump in here.

                This whole notion that we should at least pretend to have a go at no offending other people, especially the superstitious Muslim idiots (that would be the entire lot of them), is misguided, counterproductive, missing the point in so many ways, and possibly the most offensive thing I’ve read all week.

                You see, for the easily-offended religious douchenozzle types, simply failing to fall to your knees in a sincere and profoundly apologetic ejaculation of begging for mercy from the gods you have offended by your lack of belief in them is offensive. Sure, go ahead, and censor yourself in all these ways. Won’t be enough. Express respect and admiration for the faith of those involved while observing that it’s not the pathway for you; that’s still highly offensive. Cry, “Allah uh Akbar!” but you haven’t read the Q’ran in its original Arabic? Why, you’re mocking them!

                Fuck that shit. Sideways, with a rusty Leica mounted to a barbed-wire-wrapped redwood telephone pole, and no lube!

                These goddamned motherfucking sons of bitches assholes want to be offended, so let’s fucking offend them.

                But the joke’s on them, of course. For nothing anything any of us could ever possibly do to offend their delicate sensibilities could ever even remotely compare to the outrageous offense upon reason that they commit by simply refusing to grow up. When they’ve finally abandoned their imaginary friends and are no longer terrified of the monster under the bed, when they’ve realized that magic spells don’t work regardless of which superhero you try to compel to your bidding, when they understand that “faith” is the dirtiest word in any language…then we’ll talk, and maybe I’ll give a damn about offending them.

                Until then, fuck ’em all. They can go piss up the kitestring they’re flying off the long end of the short pier for all I care.



  21. I complained to Channel 4 about their actions and got what I consider to be a rather mealy mouthed appeasement excuse.

    “Dear Mr Martin-Royle,

    Thank you for sending us your views on the Jesus and Mo cartoon story which ran on Channel 4 News on Tuesday 28 January 2014.

    As we are sure you can appreciate, this is a very sensitive subject for many viewers. Channel 4 News editorial staff gave great consideration to the issues involved and believe that they reached a fair and balanced judgement, weighing up the potential for offence to some viewers by showing the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed and the necessity of showing the cartoon in full.

    The senior editorial team decided that the showing of the entire illustration, whilst likely to cause offence, was not integral to the story, and therefore took the decision to pixelate. Whilst we acknowledge your views, we believe that on balance this was the correct decision and as a rule, where we consider the likelihood of significant offence to our audience, we will attempt to mitigate against that. As to not pixelating the image of Jesus, it was not felt that the same level of offence was likely to be provoked as the image is commonly depicted in cartoon form.

    We appreciate you taking the time to contact us and be assured your comments have been logged for the information of our News team.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.”

    So, a cowards response, giving in to implied threats.

  22. The idiots at Channel 4 News didn’t even kowtow to Islam correctly. The depiction of any prophet is considered disrespectful*, and Jesus (Issa) is a major prophet in Islam. So they’ve removed the offending depiction of one prophet and left in another. Ridiculous.

    Maybe we could solve the whole difficulty by insisting that religious censorship has no place in the broader secular community. What a bizarre thought that would be!

    *At least to the people who consider depicting Muhammad disrespectful, since there are depictions—veiled and unveiled—of Muhammad in several Indian, Turkish, and Persian artworks.

      1. Aren’t there also some interpretations where *any* living thing is verboten?

        That’s one of the common interpretations.

        Hence all the tesselations and such in mosques?

        Another common artistic device is to not fill in the pupils of the eyes. “Windows of the soul” and all that.

  23. As I said in a previous thread, the way Channel 4 did it was so conspicuous and obvious – and everybody knows who’s behind the black blob – I’d say they were taking the piss out of the wannabe censors.

    1. Yes. And what they’ve done by their “censorship” is to draw attention to the issue, without taking an obvious stance on it. That wouldn’t have escaped their attention…

    1. I do like the last two sentences: “Freedom of speech requires that everyone has the right to cause offence. So does freedom of religion.”

  24. Perhaps we should view the piss jar as half empty. I am amazed to see a Muslim come forth, and this is a necessary first step toward the humanizing of Islam. Great news.

  25. Just so you know, Jerry, the subtitles in the video “why beauty matters” are in Portuguese, not Spanish. I know both languages look similar in writing, specially for people who don’t know either, but they are quite different when spoken.

Leave a Reply