Alpin is one satirical cartoon supplement of Prothom Alo, claimed to be the most popular Bangla Newspaper. In page 6 of its issue 431 a cartoon titled “name” was published (Monday, September 17, 2007) which created much controversy in Bangladesh.
So what was in that cartoon? The controversy is not in the picture, rather in the text. The Bangla blogosphere took on this issue right from the start.
The text of the cartoon is a conversation between a boy and an aged person. Sudharam Sadhu posts the texts in his blog:
Boy, what is your name?
My name is Babu.
It is customary to add Mohammad before the name. What is your father’s name?
What’s this in your lap?
This appears to satire the culture of the use of Mohammad in Muslim names and nothing to disgrace the prophet.
[Photo: Naya Diganta.]
However the Islamist political parties thought otherwise. Naya Diganta reports that Khelafot Andolon had protested this at Baitul Mokarram Mosque by burning copies of Prothom Alo. Its Ameer, Maulana Shah Ahmadullah Ashraf stated:
(that) the cartoon indicates disgrace of the Muslim prophet by naming a cat ‘Muhammad’. Similar to the Danish Cartoon incident prophet Muhammad has been defamed in Muslim majority Bangladesh. He says Muslims use Muhammad in their names to pay the respect to the prophet. He demanded Prothom Alo to seek apology to the nation otherwise they demanded the Government to take strong action against this ness paper.
No doubt this has instigated many people to react strongly against this newspaper. Check the comments section of Amar Desh report to get an idea about the outrage. You will also laugh at some stupid comments and I wonder how this newspaper approved them, probably they have a personal vendetta against this newspaper.
Prothom Alo gave in to all this and published an apology today:
We apologize and are extremely sorry
…inadvertently an unedited, unapproved and unacceptable cartoon titled ‘Name’ was published… we are withdrawing the cartoon… and taking actions against the persons responsible for this.
Wow! Note the emphasis [added], they just don’t want to face this and blame somebody else. They have removed the Monday’s publications from their archives. What an escapist move!
However the Bangla Blogosphere is divided over this issue. Hasib comments on the above post:
This is an innocent cartoon. It is evident that the target is not the prophet himself. The retarded ones should read the texts again.
The protests against these cartoons show the opportunist intentions of the political Islam. I have no support for these kinds of protest
While Ummu Abdullah says:
Prothom Alo apologized, so the issue is over. The apology indicates they are also in doubt. This victory is for Bangladeshis. I welcome the protests.
Ziner Badshah comments in this post:
In our parts of the world people add Muhammad to their names to respect the prophet… there is nothing religious about it… even if it is it does not add any value to anyone… but defaming this culture is like the same as destroying the Bamian heritage in Afghanistan by the Talibans.
And what a reaction it was from the caretaker government! bdnews24.com reports that the government has banned the debated issue of Alpin and more worryingly detained Arifur Rahman, the cartoonist. The Press and Information Department (PID) said in a statement that the cartoon hurts the feeling of the citizens.
Kowsheek Ahmed is outraged by this action of the Government:
Arifur Rahman achieved many awards for his cartoon. This time for a innocuous cartoon he was made victim of self proclaimed defenders of religious feelings. Now a days satire cartoonists are prone to these kinds of attacks. But this is happening in this dire time when we are crying that we are being more tolerant, claiming all piece is embedded in this religion. The Alpin issue has been banned and the editor was suspended.
How strange are our realizations. After the August 22 revolution the Government has become so narrow in their views that a cat has instilled fear in them.
* The folks at LGF has got something to cheer about.
A commenter says:
They got upset over that? Good lord, these people are idiots! It’s a mild cultural comment, it doesn’t involve religion at all.
Idiots! Idiots! I’m falling into despair. Can no one in Bangladesh think?
Update II: Reporters without borders picked up this story and demanded release of Arifur Rahman.
Update III: This debate just got more interesting. The Bangla Blogosphere is just great, they dug out a similar cartoon published in Bangladesh by Chattra Shibir, the Student wing of the Islamist party Jamaat-E-Islami. Saleem Samad writes in E-Bangladesh.