Friday, 21 May 2010

The World Cup, South Africa and yet ANOTHER Muhammad cartoon scandal!

In case I've forgotten to mention to you...

I will be at the World Cup in South Africa this year, so over the next few weeks, my posts if I find time to do them will be World Cup and South Africa related.

Today, the terrorist threat in South Africa shifted from "Low" to "Moderate" overnight with the World Cup just around the corner.

The recent furore surrounding cartoon depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad see no signs of letting up as top newspaper in South Africa the Mail and Guardian decided to join the fray and publish it's own cartoon of the prophet, drawn by controversial cartoonist Zapiro. I don't have the offending image in question, but here's one of my favourite Zapiro images - it's less controversial but equally as sharp.

Despite warnings and a failed interdict by the Council of Muslim Theologians, the Mail and Guardian published the cartoon depicting Muhammad sat in a psychiatrist's chair pondering the attitude of his followers with a speech bubble that read: "Other prophets have followers with a sense of humour!..."

Following incidents this week, PASCO, a highly-specialised global risk consultancy firm based in South Africa today changed it's terrorist threat status from "Low", meaning little prospect, to "Moderate".

With "un-refuted" reports of a suspected World Cup terror plot being thwarted earlier this week by the arresting of Al Qaeda militant Abdullah al-Qahtani in Iraq and the Mail and Guardian publishing this cartoon of Muhammad, the threat to the summer games is becoming heightened, a spokesperson from PASCO told me earlier today.

While the timing of this couldn't have been worse, considering the extreme threats of violence and drastic action taken in Pakistan following the Facebook group "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day", earlier this week. Some people are concerned that the Mail and Guardian could have increased the threat of terrorist action at this summer's World Cup in South Africa, with almost two weeks to go until the opening ceremony.

This Mail & Guardian's editor-in-chief felt the cartoon was a gentle poke at the frenzy surrounding Pakistan's clampdown on Facebook but found himself drawn into High Court proceedings last night in an attempt to block the cartoon ahead of today's edition by the Muslim Council, also known as Jamiatul Ulama, the same group which tried to block the Mail on Sunday's republishing of the notorious Danish Muhammad Cartoons back in 2006. In court the council, although denouncing violence couldn't guarantee that there wouldn't be violent reaction to the paper's actions, signalling the World Cup as an obvious target.

However, the proceedings failed as the paper was already available in some outlets and the cartoon had also been published on the newspaper's site. "My view is no cartoon is as insulting to Islam as the assumption Muslims will react with violence." Dawes said after winning the case.

It was a very naive move on the part of the Mail and Guardian if you ask me, there really is no need to fan the flames, whether right or wrong. Plenty of people are betting on things to take a turn for the worst when the world descends on South Africa in June, the Mail and Guardian did themselves or their country no favours with this stunt.

- Mr Devo

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