Cartoon Controversy in Chapel Hill

By February 10, 2006

A political cartoon in a student newspaper is triggering protests on campus.
UNC-Chapel Hill’s Muslim Students Association is demanding an apology after a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed appeared in the Daily Tar Heel newspaper.
“It’s very disrespectful, and I find it racist,” said student Rafsan Khan, a Muslim. “I find it discrimination, too.”
Similar cartoons have incited violent riots for the last week around the world. Muslims held protests around the world Friday, denouncing cartoons they say defame Mohammed. Muslims believe it is forbidden to portray any images of the prophet. Many news organizations will not show the cartoon.
The Muslim Students Association’s response to the cartoon was published in today’s Daily Tar Heel. It says the paper was insensitive for running the depiction of Mohammad, but newspaper editor Ryan Tuck says he had a reason for printing the cartoon. He issued a statement on his blog, explaining his decision to run the cartoon, but offered no apology.
“They asked for a public apology, and the statement is half of that,” Tuck said. “We’re not apologizing for printing the cartoon. I do personally to any caller, letter-writer, anybody that comes in.
“We’re not attempting to offend a certain ethnicity, race, or religion. It just so happens in this case that one was offended, and we did know that going in.”
Tuck defends the cartoon and the freedom of expression, saying it is a newspaper’s job to spark dialogue, to provoke, and to challenge. But Muslim students on campus like Aisha Saad feel that job could have been done without using such a controversial cartoon.
“That’s what made it more of an injury, because there’s no remorse or reasoning behind it,” Saad said.
There was no official response from the chancellor’s office on campus, but the Daily Tar Heel is a student-run newspaper. Tuck says he received feedback from all over the country Friday. Some has been supportive.

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