x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai newspaper says sorry for Prophet companion cartoon

The Dubai-based Emarat Al Youm has run a 'clarification' after the Foreign Minster, Sheikh Abdullah, demanded an apology for a cartoon that denigrated a companion of the Prophet.

DUBAI // A Dubai based newspaper has apologised today for publishing a cartoon that was regarded as denigrating a companion of the prophet.

"We would like to apologise for publishing the cartoon drawn by cartoonist Imad Hajaj, particularly those segments the readers considered offensive to the companion Wahshi," the Emarat Al Youm newspaper, owned by Dubai Media Incorporated, said.

The apology was issued after the Foreign Minster, Sheikh Abdullah, demanded an apology for the cartoon published on Wednesday. The cartoon contained two images, one captioned "Syrian drama", the other "historical drama".

In the first image, Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian president, is depicted as throwing a spear at Hamza Al Khatib, a 13-year-old boy tortured and killed by Syrian authorities last year.

The other image depicts Wahshi, a former slave, killing Hamza, the Prophet's uncle, with a spear - an action for which he was freed by his master and later forgiven by the Prophet after his conversion to Islam.

Both images bear the sentence "Wahshi killed Hamza". "Wahshi" means "a brutal person".

However, the paper said the use of historical events was a common practice in media organisations as it gave the cartoonist the space to express his ideas. It added that the use of imagination and exaggeration was legitimate and acceptable.

"We understand the feelings of the readers, who were provoked by this comparison, as he converted to Islam at a later stage and due to his role in the battles carried out by Muslims," the clarification says.

However, the paper goes on to explain that the comparison in the cartoon was not intended to be between two people, but was more an effort to capture the act of killing in both cases and its effect on the human soul and even in the soul of the prophet, where he told Wahshi after he converted to Islam; “You killed Hamza, Can you not show your face in my presence”, the same pain which was felt by people over the boy Hamza.

The cartoonist wanted to use this historical moment to indicate the brutality of what is happening in Syria, it said. "We assure the reader that irony and sarcasm on historical or religious personalities has never been the paper's approach. We would like to apologise for publishing it..." the newspaper said.

It is not clear if the newspaper will face any repercussions considering Sheikh Abdullah had tweeted that the paper should be held liable even after apologising. "Apologising does not drop the public right to claim from Emarat Al Youm," he tweeted early on Thursday morning, referring to a legal term where a court case cannot be dropped except by the Public Prosecution.

WIssa1@thenational.ae