The Funny Pages


Well, the Iranian “Holocaust cartoon” competition is over, and the results are in. As you no doubt remember, there was an amount of madness at the beginning of the year over “offensive” cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper – and subsequently a whole bunch of other newspapers. After all of that, an Iranian newspaper had a much better idea than rioting, and held a competition to make cartoons about the Holocaust.

The logic is not immediately apparent. Some Muslims get violently angry about some Danish cartoons – many more non-violently angry – therefore… mock the Holocaust. Doesn’t really seem to follow, until you consider that the Holocaust (and I am referring, of course, to the Nazi holocaust, not the Armenian one or any of the others) is one of those few remaining things in proper Western society that is sacred enough not to make jokes about. It’s in a delightful little group along with child molestation and, if you’re American, the military.

But what were they hoping to prove? According to al-Jazeera, when the announcement was made:

[The graphics editor] said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression.

“The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let’s see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons,” he said.

The spelling mistakes there are not mine, of course.

The original reason for Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten was to highlight the troubles writer KÃ¥re Bluitgen experienced when looking for an illustrator for his children’s book about the Qu’ran and Muhammad. Three illustrators declined his offer, citing events like the murder of Theo van Gogh by offended Muslims. At that point, the issue was self-censorship, not freedom of expression – that these artists refused to produce particular kinds of art for fear of violence against their person.

It quickly became about freedom of expression, however, when the ensuing violence became a kind of challenge to editors and publishers – “If you publish, we get violent. Therefore, if you don’t publish, it’s because we scared you into not publishing.” And because sane people don’t want a world where violence decides who gets to say what, a lot of people published. The original cartoons themselves really weren’t all that offensive – and yes, I do get to decide that – but the fires were fuelled by very offensive cartoons that hadn’t been published making the rounds and stirring up more anger.

Anyway, enter Iran’s biggest newspaper, Hamshahri. They say, “You want freedom of expression? Fine. We’ll publish cartoons that mock something sacred to you – the Holocaust.” And to my knowledge, there have been no riots or violence as a result. Some of the cartoons are pretty good, though.

Here’s one. (The images are links back to the site.)

And here’s the winner.

And another.

See the recurring theme there? They’re really not even trying to be offensive. None of the ones I’ve seen so far (there are many I haven’t) are saying anything like, “How do you fit a hundred Jews in a mini?” Most of them are saying, “The Palestinians are getting fucked over, and the world – especially the United Nations – is doing nothing to help them, because they’re too busy sighing about the Nazi Holocaust.”

It’s interesting that the original brief was “a cartoon about the Holocaust”, trying to make a point about freedom of expression. Presumably, it was expected that a bunch of really offensive submissions would be made. Instead, artists across the world have used it as an opportunity to make compelling points – some mistaken, in my opinion – about certain political situations. While Hamshahri missed the point a bit when they started the competition, it would seem that the artists did not.

8 Comments The Funny Pages

  1. Anonymous

    What do you mean by “missed the point”? I feel they’ve got it, perfectly.

    People that have experienced wrongs are unlikely to make “how do you fit a hundered Jews into a mini?” jokes, because that trivialises the conflict. And like any people that have been oppressed and feel wronged, they feel very strongly about it. To me, those cartoons are simply them trying to get a message out to the world. A message the world intends to continue ignoring.

    The West makes cartoons like that because they sometimes act like they are incapable of empathy. I have yet to see American cartoons about September 11th circulating among the general public. It seems we get to choose our “Holocausts”. Who’s going to remember Rwanda? It’s not like it happened to us.

  2. Person Unknown

    September 11 is an excellent example of something sacred to many Americans, yeah. What I meant about the idea of the competition missing the point is that even if they had been severely offensive about the Holocaust, it’s unlikely there would have been violent riots in response to them. If they had been as offensive as the original cartoons were to some people, all it would have achieved is showing that everyone can be as offensive as each other, but some people don’t go batshit insane about it.

    What I’m saying is that the competition began sounding like, “Come and be as horribly offensive as possible!” and ended up being some great political cartoons. Well done, those artists.

    And yeah, the very fact that “September 11” refers to 11/9/01 in the States, and not to 11/9/73 in Chile is further evidence for your point.

  3. Anonymous

    Iran’s clerical dictators believe, as do a number of other warlords and clerics in positions of power in the region, that the world is controlled and manipulated by Jews. That is, every perceived ‘attack’ on their regimes is instigated by the Elders of Zion. This belief is as central to its believers in political and religious matters as the belief that ‘the earth goes around the sun’ is to science. If you doubt this then I encourage you to log on to ‘google video’ and watch a typical speech given by one of the despots in the region; For a more comprehensive understanding of this kind of thought, I would direct you to Mr David Icke. When someone or something in ‘the West’ is taken to offend, it is ultimately blamed on the Jewish people. The Iranian response to the Dutch Cartoons can be made sense of in this context. I would encourage you to read a few bulletin boards on the internet where Islamo-Ickians hang out. It will do more than confirm this. Of course the bulletin boards might be controlled by the Elders of Zion… 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    . . . and I’d like to take the opportunity to encourage you to visit Iran, where you’re likely to meet some surprisingly well-informed people.

  5. Person Unknown

    Anonymous (the first one),

    Perhaps you could provide a link to a few choice speeches.

    As for the Internet, if I believed that all posters from various countries were reflective of the attitudes of their governments, I would possibly kill myself.

  6. Anonymous

    following my earlier post…

    I am not talking about the opinions of the Iranian people, who are overwhelmingly modern, with only 4% of young people attending a mosque regularly. I refer to the beliefs of the despots who control Iran.
    a links to a speech:

    This is a not very extreme example, very typical, what you will hear preached in ‘moderate’ mosques around the world.

  7. Person Unknown

    The commenters on that YouTube link seem concerned that the speech labelled “Iran Doesn’t Hate Israel?” features an Arabic man speaking Arabic.

    The point of my post, however, was not the clergy or the political leaders of Iran, but the cartoonists – most from outside of Iran – and their cartoons.


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