Muslim cartoon provokes fury among UK Jews

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The Independent Online

For days, Muslims across the world have been protesting about European newspapers that published drawings showing the Prophet Mohamed. One MP accused the editors of hypocrisy.

Yesterday a newspaper published cartoons that Jewish groups say they find offensive, and US generals protested about a cartoon in the Washington Post. It showed Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary, beside a limbless soldier, but the generals said, on behalf of the normally robust Mr Rumsfeld, that the drawing was "tasteless".

The latest cartoon row centres on the British paper Muslim Weekly. Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, said the cartoon was "obscene" and in terribly "bad taste", and has now made a formal complaint to the paper. He added: "This cartoon depicts people in the most obscene fashion, reminiscent of Die Sturmer, the Nazi propaganda sheet. It denigrates and incites hatred towards Jewish people. I sympathise with the Muslim complaints about the cartoon that appeared in Denmark, but it is hypocritical to publish a cartoon like this."

Mr Dismore hinted that if the the paper does not promise to stop carrying artwork of that type he would make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. The cartoon, which appeared in last week's edition of the current affairs publication, shows world leaders, including President George Bush, President Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and Iran's new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a caricature of an Israeli figure meant to represent Mr Olmert. The caption reads: "The nuclear club (US, UK, France and Israel) is angry for Iran's attempt to enter the nuclear market."

A spokesman for the Muslim Weekly said the cartoon was an "evocative" caricature, not intended to offend or be "stereotypical". He said: "It's a caricature so that's the whole point of it. It's a depiction, a portrayal. If he feels it is anti-Semitic we will try to reach common ground."

Jewish groups have complained about previous cartoon portrayals of Jews that appear in the Arab press. They include a depiction in 2002 of the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as Hitler, with his hands dripping with blood. Another shows a Jewish devil with a huge hooked nose haranguing the Pope. The Pope says: "Peace on earth" and the Jew replies: "Colonies on earth."

Cartoonists are defending their right to lampoon public and religious figures, even the prophet Mohamed. Dave Brown, of The Independent, said: "If there was some important strong, valid point which would have necessitated the drawing of Mohamed, then fine. The one with the turban in the shape of a bomb: the only point it makes is that all Muslims are terrorists, which is crass, stupid and objectionable."

Ralph Steadman said: "I can draw whatever comes into my mind if whatever comes into my mind is legitimate. If it does not incite violence or cause people to get hurt or endangered, I can produce that drawing and make it what it is."