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It's just a cartoon

Adrian Raeside talks about Muslim riots, Tom Toles, and the state of editorial cartoons

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I also get letters from environmentalists, who I make fun of a lot, even though I am green at heart and support what they do. I’m an equal opportunity cartoonist.

Pique: So what do you think is behind this Muslim cartoon issue? Are Muslims really offended by the cartoons themselves, or was this the last straw?

AR: I think the cartoons have become a rallying point for a lot of pent-up frustration in the Muslim world. Sadly, some of the world’s poorest people are Muslims.

You also have to look at how they are treated by their own governments – there are a lot of poor people in Saudi Arabia, and in Nigeria, where there is all of this tribal oil wealth. So why weren’t there protests outside of the Saudi, or Nigerian embassies as well as the Danish embassy?

What we’re seeing with this cartoon issue and everywhere… is a small group of people who are twisting the facts to advance their hidden and not so hidden agendas. Some of the cartoons they’re seeing in Muslim countries were not even published, so someone is deliberately trying to stir things up… quite successfully.

I just wish the same people who were out on the street saying they were outraged and offended because of the cartoons would be out on the streets protesting every time Al Jazeera showed footage of a Western hostage being beheaded (in Iraq).

Pique: There is Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, all these legitimate grievances, which is why people think it’s strange that Muslims are rioting over cartoons.

AR: In some regions, and especially in places like Iraq, when it comes to violence I think they’re inured to it at this point. There are entire generations who have grown up surrounded by violence, which is tragic, because people have got used to it.

Yes, the cartoons are an issue, but I suspect the underlying social conditions and feelings of helplessness are contributing to the outrage.

Pique: If you worked for Jyllands-Posten, and there was a call for editorial cartoons of Muhammad, would you have participated?

AR: I’ve seen the cartoons, and for myself personally – and I’m not a Muslim – I really can’t see what was so offensive in them. But then, I’m a cynical agnostic.

I probably wouldn’t draw on this subject matter in the first place. I don’t see what Muhammad has to do with the events of today. Sure, I would depict the Iranian president, or Yassir Arafat, or a Saudi Prince – they’re all fair game because they’re in the news . But as for those specific cartoons, I question what relevance, if any, they have now.

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