The Washington Post is among at least 20 newspapers, including these, which are under fire for refusing to publish a "Non Sequitur" cartoon alluding to the Prophet Mohammad.
Wiley Miller, whose cartoon appears in close to 800 newspapers, said he was not surprised by the papers' decisions because editors are "petrified" to run material containing the Prophet's name.
The spiked "Non Sequitur" cartoon, which had been scheduled to appear earlier this month, shows a park scene with a skateboarder, a cyclist, frolicking children, a giraffe, and a hippopotamus. An accompanying caption reads: "Picture Book Title Voted least Likely To Ever Find a Publisher. Where's Muhammad?"
It's an obvious play on the "Where's Waldo" books. Miller said he intended the cartoon to be a satirical reference to the international furor that followed the 2005 decision by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to publish editorial cartoons depicting Muhammad. Violent protests followed throughout the Muslim and Western worlds, resulting in more than 100 deaths.
Miller said Post editors failed to grasp that the Non Sequitur cartoon in question was intended to satirize newspaper editors who were intimidated by threats against news organizations and staffers over depictions of Mohammed.
"[Editors] didn't see the satire was on them, of being petrified to run anything related to him," Miller said. "But this whole thing has just gotten so silly over the years. It's something I can't lay off. It's my job as a satirist to point out the stupidity in the world. And the editors fell right in line with proving how stupid it is."
Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander reported that the paper's Style section Editor Ned Martel decided to yank the cartoon after consulting with others, including Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli. Martel suggested the cartoon was "a deliberate provocation without a clear message."
Alexander disagreed, calling it "a powerful and witty endorsement of freedom of expression." The Post's decision to not to publish it "can be seen as timid. And it sets an awfully low threshold for decisions on whether to withhold words or images that may offend," the ombudsman added.
Read Alexander's op-ed here.