Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Maharashtra Newspaper Apologizes for Cartoon Showing Piggy Bank with ISIS logo

Marathi daily Lokmat apologized on November 30 for printing a cartoon image of money falling into a piggy bank with the Prophet’s seal, which is incidentally also the flag of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and As-Sham). With the headline “ISIS cha paisa”, which roughly translates into “ISIS’ money,” the article was about the global funding of ISIS.

Muslims across the state of Maharashtra took to the streets, burnt copies of the newspaper and vandalised the paper’s offices in Akola and Jalgaon. They were offended by a cartoon of a piggybank that accompanied the article. The caricature had the Prophet’s signature inscribed on it.

The signature, called the seal ring of the Prophet, reads, “Muhammad Rasul Allah”, or Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Also known as the Black Banner/Black Standard راية السوداء (pronounced :rāyat al-sawdā) the Islamic flag has been appropriated by Jihadist groups including ISIS. As a relic of Islamic history, the Muslim soldiers of Iraq and Syria often find themselves in a dilemma on the issue of defacing the enemy’s flag upon victory on the battlefield.

The pig is as reviled as an animal in Islam as the cow is sacred to Hinduism. As pigs are known to roll over in their own faeces (besides consuming it hence the use of ‘pig toilets’), they are considered unclean animals to be looked down on. Thus the conjunction of a pig and the Prophet Muhammad’s seal is flagrantly offensive to Muslims everywhere.

One of the people leading the protests was the Member of Legislative Assembly from Malegaon, Shaikh Asif Shaikh Rashid. The Congress politician, speaking over the phone, said that it was unacceptable that the paper used the Prophet’s signature along with an image of a pig. “The media is supposed to be a justice delivery mechanism, not a propaganda vehicle against a community,” he insisted.  When it was pointed out to him that the ISIS too used the signature on its logo, Rashid said that he had organised multiple protests against the IS and he didn’t subscribe to their world view.

The pig is considered an unclean animal in Islam.

“We won’t tolerate misrepresentation of the Prophet.” Rashid, who was responsible for one of the First Information Reports (FIRs) being filed against Lokmat’s illustrator and editor, said the apology wasn’t enough and he would press for investigation against the newspaper. “Today one newspaper published something and then apologised; tomorrow other publications will follow suit. I appeal for some kind of action,” he asserted.

Incidentally, the Lokmat group is owned by Vijay Darda, also a Congress leader. Lokmat’s group editor Dinkar Raikar said it was a “goof-up” on the newspaper’s part. “An illustrator who didn’t know much about things picked up a random image and used it. We should have checked,” he said.  Raikar insisted that the newspaper didn’t want to hurt anyone’s sensibilities and so an unconditional apology was issued.

Arunabh Saikia of news website News Laundry has ignored the flagrant insult to Muslim sentiments and instead launched a scathing attack on the grounds of "freedom of expression." The issue also has had a similar response on Reddit (r/India), which is known for its right-wing views.

In other news, two Egyptian feminists photographed themselves defecating and menstruating on the flag of ISIS in August 2014. The link contains graphic images so viewer discretion is advised.

Earlier this year a version of the Black Standard with dildos was mistaken for an ISIS flag at a gay pride event in London.

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