SYDNEY, N.S. – Sean Casey says if you focus on the beards and turbans in his recent editorial cartoon in the Cape Breton Post you’re missing the message.
The freelance artist wanted to make a comment about the recent terrorist attack in Norway, but his decision to depict two al-Qaida-like terrorists sitting on a pile of skulls marvelling news of the bombing in Oslo and massacre on the island of Utoya, July 22.
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Anders Behring Breivik confessed to setting a bomb off outside the office of Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, and going on a shooting rampage at summer camp for the youth wing of the ruling Labour Party.
Breivik, 32, is a far-right conservative who wanted to wage war on Islam and multiculturalism in Norway killed 77 people: eight individuals in the bombing and 69 at the camp on Utoya.
“The West can’t walk around with their chin held high and saying ‘You know it’s not us,’” Casey says.
“Religious extremism can show up anywhere. al-Qaida and the Taliban don’t have a monopoly on religious extremism.”
He says the cartoon isn’t meant to point the finger at Muslims, but specifically terrorists.
“There’s a pile of frigging skulls that they’re sitting on, drinking tea and reading the newspaper. I felt that pointed out that these weren’t regular folks.”
Some readers of the Cape Breton Post and members of the Muslim community beg to differ.
“My question is why the cartoonist linked (the attacks in Norway) with the beard, with the Muslims, with Osama bin Laden,” Masooud Chauhdry, a senior member of the Cape Breton Muslim Society, asks.
“Evil people are everywhere,” he says.
“That’s why my objection is why he has linked and given the impression to the world there are some other evil people are like Muslims.”
People commenting on the Cape Breton Post’s website have likened the drawing to “hate propaganda” and said the image is “insulting to those who lost friends and relatives.”
But Tom Ayers, the publication’s editorial director, defends Casey’s choice and his freedom of expression.
“It’s the artist’s interpretation of a news event,” Ayers says, “and people can feel free to disagree with it.”
He says a reasonable person could look at the picture and discern that it’s just one interpretation of the events.