I was just reminded today of how depressingly treacherous it has become to navigate the Mohammed cartoon affair and its religious-cultural discontents. The day before yesterday it was reported worldwide that the upcoming memoirs of ‘Bomb in Turban’ cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, Manden bag stregen (‘The Man Behind the Line’), would be published with the cartoon for which he has become world-(in)famous on the cover. Pretty daring and rather provocative thing to do, I figured, but perfectly plausible, I felt. We published the news both at our Danish comics site Nummer9.dk and at the Danish Comics Council webpage, as media all over the internet had done.
Then today, I received an email from the book’s publisher, John Lykkegaard, informing me that the news as reported everywhere was in error and that it was not the intention to publish said cartoon on the cover. He also mentioned that the announcement that the book has 35 illustrations in Somalian media had been interpreted as it carrying 35 images of Mohammed. For fuck’s sake.
Lykkegaard included the actual cover design for the book, which features the cartoon Westergaard drew for his newspaper Jyllands-Posten (publisher of the original Mohammed cartoons) to mark his retirement earlier this year. It refers to the debacle, casting the cartoonist as Don Quijote accompanied by an ass carrying a box labeled ‘freedom of speech’, on top of which rests a bomb with a lit fuse. Above them, the crescent of Islam glows. The caption reads: “The Don Quijote of idealism says goodbye, with thanks — the real Sancho Panza will be sticking around for the moment”
So, a reflection of the issue, and fairly acerbic (understandably!), not to mention a little self-aggrandising, but not exactly something to reignite the fuse of idiocy, I hope. Real sad, though — and symptomatic — that we nevertheless reported it that way.