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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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Pique: Is this issue going to go away, or are we seeing the beginning of something?

AR: If you take the Muslim riots in France last year – young people rioted every night, and eventually they stopped. I don’t think anything has changed for them in France since then, so I assume at some point this cycle of violence will run out of steam too. But then something else will come along to take its place. Maybe the new footage of British soldiers beating the crap out of Iraqi kids is going to replace the cartoon issue, I don’t know.

It’s not the cartoonists or the Danish newspaper that have been hurt by this, it’s the poor guys in the streets of these countries who are hurting themselves and each other with their protests. That’s the real tragedy.

From what I know, the prophet Muhammad was a man of peace and forgiveness – if that’s Islam, then I whole-heartedly subscribe to it. It’s unfortunate that radicals have hijacked that religion for their own ends. But then, the same thing has happened to our western religions in the past. It’s nothing new.

Pique: It was hard to see all the rioting and death, and then not be able to see and judge the cartoons for ourselves. What about the decision by most North American news outlets not to run them? Were they being respectful or afraid?

AR: It’s really up to the individual editor to make the decision as to whether to publish them, but I suspect most editors would look at them as a hot potato. Is publishing them worth spending half the day answering phone calls and mail from angry readers and then spending the rest of the day going before the TV cameras justifying their decision to publish? What’s more important, reporting on local issues that affect us, or stirring up a hornets nest on an issue that really has no relevance to our day-to-day lives?

I recall a few times an editor has said he’d publish an unusually tasteless cartoon of mine, on condition I take all the phone calls from readers. Yep, I chickened out.

In response to the riots, I drew a cartoon that showed a television set tuned to Al Jazeera, and on the scrolling news bar across the bottom I put the cartoonist threat level at ‘orange.’ It was a joke of course, I was implying jokingly that a cartoonist to them is what a terrorist is to us, but the paper got a fair bit of mail from angry readers who took it the wrong way.