Coffee House

How the media has it both ways over the ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoons

14 February 2014

11:14 AM

14 February 2014

11:14 AM

A reader sends me a card for sale in Scribblers in the King’s Road, Chelsea. It depicts two slices of cheese standing vertically on their thinner ends. On both, black beards and eyes are crudely superimposed, and above them two gold rings form haloes. The caption says ‘Cheeses of Nazareth’. The joke is pathetically bad, not least because, in order to achieve the cheese/Jesus pun, you have to have two cheeses, whereas there was only one Jesus. But my correspondent’s point is that the equivalent gag about Mohammed would provoke a storm, not only from some Muslims, but from much of the media. I recently watched an interesting example of this on Channel 4 News. It ran an item about Maajid Nawaz, the brave and moderate Muslim Liberal Democrat candidate for Hampstead, who had re-tweeted the now well-known ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon, saying that it was ‘not offensive & I am sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it’. Islamist activists had rustled up 20,000 signatures against Nawaz, hoping to dislodge him from his candidacy. Channel 4’s treatment of the story was an interesting case of having it both ways. Ostensibly, it was challenging Nawaz’s assailants to justify themselves, but it was also pushing the idea that they might manage to have him disciplined at a meeting with Nick Clegg the following day. (In this they later failed, though they seem to have succeeded in making Nawaz lie low for a bit.) When it came to depicting the cartoon, Channel 4 showed the Jesus half, but blacked out the Mo one, on the grounds that some viewers might find it offensive. The same news programme, I noticed, also showed a bare-breasted woman protestor, and several shots of the dead bodies of people killed by a drug gang in Mexico, without any such delicacy. So, in an odd way, the extremists achieved the censorship they sought, and the publicity.

It is hard to convey the innocuousness, indeed the charm, of the Jesus and Mo cartoon. If this column carried illustration, I would try to persuade the editor to let me show it to you. It is produced by atheists, but any believer of an ecumenical turn of mind would like it, because it shows the two men chatting pleasantly (over a pint of beer — doubly ‘offensive’ to some Muslims therefore) about matters of common interest. Given that ‘Mo’ stood in the tradition of Jesus and acknowledged him as a prophet, this fits. By the way, if offending Muslim zealots is truly the issue here, Channel 4 should have blacked out the face of Jesus as well. Since he is a prophet in Islam, his depiction is blasphemous too. In England and Scotland in the 17th century, Christian iconoclasts frequently destroyed images of Jesus in churches. How long, in the 21st century, before Muslim ones do the same?


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Show comments
  • stepkos

    “If this column carried illustration, I would try to persuade the editor to let me show it to you.”

    Completely lame, lazy and dishonest: there’s a great big “illustration” of Maajid Nawaz at the top of the column. So you, Charles, are doing exactly what C4 news did – while criticizing them for “having it both ways”.

  • scampy1

    A referendum in the EU asking should we accept muslim immigrants would get a resounding no but the weak political vermin are ignoring the problem.

  • Author

    Thanks for the kind words, Mr Moore. That pun has been around for some time: http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/08/24/name2/

    • stepkos

      Grated Stilton – a miracle!

    • Nick

      Name a big city in Saudi Arabia – Cheddar?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    “Given that ‘Mo’ stood in the tradition of Jesus…”

    .

    What kind of rot are you peddling here, lad? Yes, you bubble denizens are determined to split the baby, and bilge like the above will inevitably leak out of your frantic scribblings, so don’t fool yourself, you’re more problem than solution. Your moral equivalency oozes out like any other slime.

    There is no moral equivalency here, lad.

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lbfjpxxzMC1qcc4zuo1_500.jpg

  • In2minds

    AboveI said cartoons are not part of my culture. Well let’s not forget
    that in some Islamic countries anti-Semitic cartoons are all the
    rage, if you see what I mean. Mind you there is a fine line between
    being anti-Semitic and anti Israel. See the Guardian for more detail on this as even they get them muddled!

    • Chris Morriss

      Most middle-eastern Muslims are Semitic though. (Or were you not aware of that?)

      • tastemylogos

        The term was coined very specifically by Schlieman in the 19th century though. But ok, fair point, it isn’t exactly but if its the best you have then:

        1) You are a shallow pedant

        2) an intellectual dunce.

        Regards

        • SarahAB

          I feel you could add a 3) there …

  • Holly

    I suppose it is a case of how ‘confident’ you are, as an individual, in your own chosen religion, as to whether you find this kind of thing offensive, or not.
    The less confidence, the more aggressive, the ‘action’ to prove your chosen religion trumps other people’s chosen religion.
    Apparently this idiotic article is about pieces of cheese……And unless I have missed something, cheese does not follow ANY religion….with, or without a halo.

    • In2minds

      “cheese does not follow ANY religion” – tell that to the French!

  • kyalami

    Well the Jesus and Mo cartoons are here. Hardly offensive, unless you are determined to take offence. http://www.jesusandmo.net

  • monty61

    Well you could link to this image, Charles, so we can see what you are talking about – or is even that too much to ask?

  • ItinerantView

    “the extremists achieved the censorship they sought,”
    We live under de facto Sharia blasphemy laws because too many, are too scared of the threat of menaces that comes with them.
    ‘Rushdie rules’ according to Daniel Pipes.
    The longer it goes properly unchallenged, the harder it will be to root out.

    http://www.danielpipes.org/8913/two-decades-rushdie-rules

    • Donafugata

      It will be a long train coming but when it does it’s going to be well worth the wait.

  • In2minds

    I find anything to do with Islam offensive.

    • Holly

      I find ‘runny’, ‘smelly’ cheese absolutely offensive!
      Heaving just thinking about it.
      Going for a slice of dry toast to stop my stomach contents hitting my keyboard.
      Hand over mouth stage already.

      • In2minds

        I have reported you to the Cheese Makers Union, be very afraid

    • Graeme S

      Nailed It

  • Colonel Mustard

    Missing the point. Whilst it is not blasphemous in the Christian religion to depict Jesus it is blasphemous in the Muslim religion to depict Mohammed. That may seem strange to non-Muslims but there you are. It is not our belief system to judge.

    You have to ask what the imperative behind the Jesus and Mo cartoons is and whether it has any intrinsic value besides a deliberate attempt to offend believers of either faith by those who do not believe.

    As a Christian (but not a very good one) I have no desire to draw cartoons ridiculing atheists for their beliefs but aggressive atheism appears to want to ridicule those who choose to believe. That goes beyond freedom of choice and tolerance.

    • ADW

      “Aggressive atheism”. Please. Drawing cartoons which others find offensive is one thing. But blowing people up is quite another. If atheists drawing pictures justifies them being called aggressive, what adjective do you manage for suicide bombers and murderers?

      • In2minds

        Exactly, it’s a dull day so I think a cartoon about ‘aggressive
        atheism’ would cheer us all up. Mind you, cartoons are not part of
        ‘my culture’.

        So I don’t have a reason to demand that the police, CPS and government dance sideways to avoid offending me. And even if I was ‘offended’ I will not blow up a bus.

      • Colonel Mustard

        “Aggressive atheism”? Google is your friend. 752,000 results. Fill your boots.

        • ADW

          There are 27.4 million results for “Pigs in space” but I’m not convinced they’re real (though admittedly that’s one of those things on which I would like to be proved wrong).

          Everyone in a free society is entitled to believe in what they want, and I respect it. That does not mean, however, that they are entitled to respect for their beliefs themselves, however. They can’t ask for public money for their beliefs or exemption from the laws (criminal law, planning laws, anti-discrimination laws, and the law protecting freedom of expression) on the basis of their beliefs. That is not aggressive atheism; instead, to acquiesce to religiously-based claims for special treatment would be to give in to aggressive religion. And I’m terribly sorry, but part of the price to pay for a free society is that your feelings might get hurt by someone drawing cartoons or writing novels taking the mickey out of your beliefs, the football team you support, your local politician, your favourite clothes, music and so on and so forth.

          Hard cheese if you don’t like it; go and live in a theocracy where your precious beliefs will be taken more seriously than they deserve.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Thanks for providing an example of the aggressive atheism that you do not believe is real. You do not respect other’s beliefs or you wouldn’t have written elsewhere that you find religion “disgusting” and “contemptible”. I would never use those terms to describe my views about atheism, which is where we clearly differ.

            • ADW

              Oh come on. Respect has to be earned. You don’t earn respect by peddling fairy stories, and you certainly don’t earn it by threatening to harm apostates, or to kill a teacher over the name of a teddy bear, or to say that weather is caused by gay marriage. As I said, everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and is respect that. But if you put those beliefs forward in public then you will have to put up with others criticising or ridiculing them. That’s free speech, and too bad if you don’t like it. I am not threatening anyone with violence nor am I asking for special treatment based on my beliefs nor am I asking for those beliefs to be protected from criticism. Hence, I am not being aggressive at all. I don’t tip toe around sensitivities, but so what? This is a public forum, it’s not like I’m accosting someone on the street or barging into their home. No one has to read my comments or agree with them. You should also put my previous remarks in context, though I stand by them, of course.

              • Colonel Mustard

                The gift that continues to give.

                • ADW

                  Well thanks for your well thought out, reasoned response.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  That’s ok. Just as you have the freedom to ridicule others beliefs I have the freedom not to engage with your confrontational and aggressive diatribes.

                • ADW

                  Yep, just call my arguments names instead of bothering to answer them. I admit to being a shade grouchy, but that’s because I am fed up with the ludicrous nonsense spouted about atheists being of a piece with religious nutters, when the differences are so obvious

                • Colonel Mustard

                  I did not state anywhere in my original comment that atheists are of a piece with ‘religious nutters’.

                  I am probably as fed up as you but with gobby aggressive atheists who make up other peoples arguments in order to tear them down..

                • ADW

                  Incidentally, since Ed West has blogged about it today, who was aggressive – Salman Rushdie, or the cabal of loonies and lefties and loony lefties who either wanted him killed or couldn’t quite bring themselves to defend him?

                  I rest my case.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  No, you are extending your case well beyond the point of my comment. You are creating your own arguments.

            • ADW

              And, to clarify, I did not say I respect others’ beliefs. I respect their right to hold those beliefs, but not the beliefs themselves. Therein lies the key distinction, and the crux of my entire argument.

        • Fergus Pickering

          And Fergus Pickering gets 762,000 results I am gratified to see.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …you also picked up 316,000 results for having syphilis.

        • Chris Morriss

          When I see the phrase “aggressive atheism”, I always think of the bellicose Richard Dawkins.

        • SimonNorwich

          Religionists find that if they repeat the phrase “aggressive atheism” enough times (752,000 times, as you point out) people start to believe it. No supporting evidence or comparative consideration is required.

          It’s not surprising religionists use this tactic of repeating something so many times that people think it must be true, for it is the whole basis upon which religion is founded.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Maybe so but I’m old enough to understand what “aggressive” means and to recognise it when I see it.

            It is an observation not a tactic.

            • SimonNorwich

              If religionists always kept their beliefs to themselves and never tried to impose them on others, the word atheist wouldn’t even exist because we wouldn’t even know, let alone care about, about their beliefs. It’s only because religionists try to interfere in the lives of others that atheists exist as a meaningful group. What you may perceive as aggression, is simply a necessary defensive reaction to religionists trying to impose their beliefs on others.

              • Colonel Mustard

                Rubbish.

                • SimonNorwich

                  It’s rubbish that religionists try to impose their beliefs on others? How else do you explain that most religious people happen to have the same religious belief as their parents or the society they were raised in? Are you not aware of the penalties facing apostates from Islam, or the social consequences of those in many Christian societies when they try to lose their faith? Are you not aware of the unceasing attempts by Creationists in America in trying to impose their ridiculous beliefs on the science education system, requiring constant legal action to stop them? I could go on.

    • Fergus Pickering

      I feel I can judge anybody’s belief system, Colonel.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Well yes, you can. But many years ago it was usual to respect the beliefs of other religions when coming into contact with them. Few would go out of their way to deliberately offend other religions, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or Sikh. Strangely there was less hatred then too.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Point taken, Colonel, but it rather depends what the beliefs make the devotee do. Muslims do things not conducive to our peace, like killing soldiers in the street and setting off bombs in public places. One respects what is respectable.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Some Muslims. There are more than 1.6 billion in the world. I don’t believe all of them are engaged in the acts you mention.

            • crosscop

              That is true. However – a huge number of them support terrorism (jihad) and contribute towards it financially. Jihad is an Islamic duty and the Koran says that those Muslims who will not fight for Allah are hypocrites. All of them ( because it is an instruction in the Koran) also believe that women who step out of line should be beaten. Not one Muslim will speak against this because it is an instruction straight from Allah.
              Why should anybody respect a religion that teaches this?

              • ADW

                Religion is a “world view” just like political theories, making religious leaders no different from politicians and religious followers no different from party members. I am sure there are some otherwise nice people who belong to dodgy political parties. But if they don’t like being lumped in with criticism of those parties, they should either impress upon the party leaders to change their ways, or they should leave and join a new political party.

        • ADW

          We didn’t respect stoning people to death for adultery or apostasy or because they’d been raped. We didn’t respect widows being told to burn themselves to death. We didn’t respect a host of other beliefs either, which is what compelled a few people at least to mend their ways happily.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            I think the point being made is that if the various religions made a good faith effort to get along in society, society would make a good faith effort to get along with them. Nothing’s absolute, but that was a desire of many. And if the various religions had some unacceptable practices as you mention, then it was expected that they mend their ways, as you also mention . But that’s still all in line with the overall desire for harmony, despite some religious differences.

          • Colonel Mustard

            People are still being stoned to death.

            • ADW

              Exactly. The stoners are the aggressive ones, who deserve all the ridicule and rubbishing they receive.

  • Trapnel

    Show the cartoons.

    • Shazza

      Sharia 1 British Secular Law 0

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