Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the cartoons

October 25, 2023 • 9:00 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “quack”, commemorates the anniversary of the Jyllands-Posten Danish cartoon scandal, when the Danish newspaper published satirical cartoons of Muhammad (and, by implication, Islam) on September 30, 2005.

It was quite a fracas at the time, with international protests by Muslims, some non-Muslims also condemning the cartoons as blasphemy, and a widespread refusal to reprint the cartoons (I’ve done so below). The most ridiculous occurrence was one in 2009, when Yale University Press published a whole book called The Cartoons that Shook the World, but then refused to reprint the cartoons in the book! In a Slate article, Christopher Hitchens said this about the cowardice of the Press’s director:

According to Yale logic, violence could result from the showing of the images—and not only that, but it would be those who displayed the images who were directly responsible for that violence.

Let me illustrate: The Aug. 13 New York Times carried a report of the university press’ surrender, which quoted its director, John Donatich, as saying that in general he has “never blinked” in the face of controversy, but “when it came between that and blood on my hands, there was no question.”

Donatich is a friend of mine and was once my publisher, so I wrote to him and asked how, if someone blew up a bookshop for carrying professor Klausen’s book, the blood would be on the publisher’s hands rather than those of the bomber. His reply took the form of the official statement from the press’s public affairs department. This informed me that Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”

The capitulation of Yale University Press to threats that hadn’t even been made yet is the latest and perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism—particularly Muslim religious extremism—that is spreading across our culture. A book called The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born Jytte Klausen, who is a professor of politics at Brandeis University, tells the story of the lurid and preplanned campaign of “protest” and boycott that was orchestrated in late 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. (The competition was itself a response to the sudden refusal of a Danish publisher to release a book for children about the life of Mohammed, lest it, too, give offense.) By the time the hysteria had been called off by those who incited it, perhaps as many as 200 people around the world had been pointlessly killed.

So here’s another depressing thing: Neither the “experts in the intelligence, national security, law enforcement, and diplomatic fields, as well as leading scholars in Islamic studies and Middle East studies” who were allegedly consulted, nor the spokespeople for the press of one of our leading universities, understand the meaning of the plain and common and useful word instigate. If you instigate something, it means that you wish and intend it to happen. If it’s a riot, then by instigating it, you have yourself fomented it. If it’s a murder, then by instigating it, you have yourself colluded in it. There is no other usage given for the word in any dictionary, with the possible exception of the word provoke, which does have a passive connotation. After all, there are people who argue that women who won’t wear the veil have “provoked” those who rape or disfigure them … and now Yale has adopted that “logic” as its own.
Where is Hitchens now, when we so badly need his voice? But here are Jesus and Mo:

But you can still see the cartoons, though they’re hard to find. The Wikipedia article above reproduces them (the one with Muhammad wearing a bomb turban was the most “offensive”):


7 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the cartoons

  1. I see repressive tolerance in these :

    “Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”

    “sudden refusal of a Danish publisher to release a book for children about the life of Mohammed”

    Tolerance of censorship when it Liberates the oppressed – or as Social Justice praxis on behalf of the oppressor – thereby justifying the censorship and oppressor/oppressed “Binary” in the first place.

    The Ouroboros.

  2. Good strip this week. Thanks for posting the Hitchens letter and Mohammed’s ansigt. I can see how those images could send someone on a murder spree /s… Only religion can poison a mind to such a degree of perversion.

  3. We humans are complicated. We want mutually exclusive things to happen simultaneously. On the one hand, we say we’re all a single, human, species and all deserving of the same rights, including the right to any particular religion. But then, our religions tell us that we’re not all equal. Christians and Muslims (and others) proselytize to convert others to their religions. We say we’re all one, but then talk about vanishing peoples and cultures and how to save them and keep them alive. But nations often systematically try to do away with other cultures within their borders. We basically build our own unresolvable problems by trying to be one species with guaranteed human rights while at the same time maintain the uniqueness of each and every culture and religion, many of which are mutually incompatible. Until we all recognize the incongruencies in our positions, we’ll not solve the problems.

    1. E Pluribus Unum

      The Pluribus part expresses, I think, the (apparent) contradiction outlined above. Many, as in, independent entities.

      But of course, there is no contradiction but in our minds, as you say. We are not polygons only to be congruous.

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