Manama: The editor in chief of a Saudi daily has distanced himself from the storm that enveloped his newspaper after it published a seemingly controversial cartoon.
In the cartoon published by Al Watan, the long beard of a menacing looking man in a suit and a tie ends with a gun pointing at a target that is not illustrated. Although the cartoon does not label the figure using the beard to shoot at others, the reference seemed to be to the Muslim Brotherhood, heroes for some but villains for others as the dramatic events in Egypt unfold. Several Saudis condemned the cartoon on social networks, charging that it criticised or made fun of Muslims who grew beards in line with the religious tradition.
However, Talal Al Shaikh dismissed the claims and insisted that his newspaper did not target Islam or Muslims. “The man in the cartoon referred to the so-called Muslims who abuse Islam, terrorise people and kill them in the name of religion,” he said. “We do not in any way condone any abuse of religion or of religious scholars,” he said in remarks published in Saudi media on Tuesday.
But Ahmad Al Maliki, a lawyer, said that the excuse put forth by the editor in chief was unacceptable. “The cartoon is a blatant insult and the justification is not acceptable,” he said. “People do not know about your intentions and what is required is an apology.”
Aweed Al Subai, a blogger, condemned the cartoon for “trying to link terrorism and violence with bearded people”. “The media with all their channels have been working on consolidating this concept,” he posted.
Fayez Al Fayez, a blogger, said that Saudi lawyers should file a case against the daily for “mocking a genuine Islamic traditions and for publishing a cartoon full of lies”.
People in Saudi Arabia, like in the other Arab countries, have been closely monitoring the events occurring in Egypt where supporters of deposed president Mohammad Mursi have been locked in a bitter and at times deadly standoff with his opponents as the status and role of the Muslim Brotherhood, the former leader’s affiliation, loom large.