Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

M&G meets with Muslim leaders

A meeting between Muslim leaders and the Mail & Guardian after the publication of a controversial cartoon has left M&G CEO Hoosain Karjieker proud of the community and the process followed to reach a resolution.

M&G statement on Prophet Muhammad cartoon

The newspaper has undertaken to refrain from publishing any images of the Prophet Muhammad while reviewing its editorial policy in terms of religious matters, after a meeting with Muslim leaders from a cross-section of organisations, and interest groups.

The meeting at Channel Islam in Johannesburg on Wednesday followed a failed court attempt by the Muslim Council of Theologians to stop the newspaper from publishing a Zapiro cartoon on May 21.

The cartoon depicted the Prophet Muhammad reclining on a psychiatrist’s chair bemoaning his followers’ lack of humour. It referenced the uproar in some Muslim communities over the Everyone Draw Muhammad Day campaign.

While interest in the incident has been high, with traffic volumes doubling on the M&G website, there was no violent backlash. Karjieker was particularly impressed with the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), which called on the community not to boycott the newspaper.

“It’s been very good,” said editor Nic Dawes. “I think a discussion that has been simmering quietly has been brought out into the open. Ultimately we’ve reached a very South African solution.

“I’m delighted actually.”

Represented at the meeting were leaders from the MJC, the Muslim Council of Theologians — or Jamiatul Ulama — and the Somali Association of SA, among others.

“It was a tough meeting but the level of engagement was very mature,” said Karjieker. “It was on a level we haven’t had before as a community or a paper.”

Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, or Zapiro, flew from Cape Town to attend the meeting. He refrained from commenting, saying that his follow-up cartoon in the M&G‘s next edition on May 28 would explain his thoughts. Dawes said the cartoonist, who has won awards for his cutting depictions, said his cartoons have angered many — including his own community.

“I think Zapiro made a clear statement of his principles as a cartoonist and satirist,” said Dawes, pointing out that Zapiro’s secular values meant equal treatment of everyone.

But both Zapiro and Dawes were adamant about distancing themselves and condemning the Islamophobia that has characterised some of the Facebook campaign.

Karjieker pointed out that the discussion, while tough, would open the space for further issues that people can talk about “using the paper as a forum”.

A statement was issued however, saying the M&G regretted “the harm caused by the publication of the cartoon and apologises for the effects thereof”.

Friendly terms
Dawes said the meeting ended on “genuinely very friendly terms”.

He said the new policy would be “informed in consultation with religious leaders from all major faith communities,” and ultimately by the constitutional values of freedom of expression and our own values as a newspaper, of social justice.

Present at the meeting were about 21 people, including MJC representative Achmat Sedick, who had previously denounced death threats against Zapiro.

While rejecting the cartoon, the MJC called death threats against the cartoonist “un-Islamic”, saying such threats had no place in the religion or society, the Cape Argus reported.

“It only implies that Muslims lack the intellect to resolve disagreements through proper dialogue and communication, which is far from the truth.”

The statement was in keeping with Dawes’ own view that “no cartoon is as insulting as the assumption Muslims will react with violence”.

The newspaper invited community leaders and ordinary readers to continue communicating their devotion both online and to the newspaper.

“We have learnt an enormous amount since the publication of the cartoon about the depth of reverence in which Muslims hold the Prophet.”

Muslim leaders were compiling a combined statement at the time of publication and were unable to comment immediately.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Family wants clarity on SANDF soldier killed in friendly fire...

Corporal Simanga Khuselo join the peacekeeping mission in the DRC to save money to build his family a home

SA soldiers have been fighting in a distant land for...

Troops were sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2001 as part of the UN peacekeeping mission that became an offensive against rebels

More top stories

Despite inflation risks, the monetary policy committee keeps rates on...

Inflation rose well beyond the Reserve Bank’s midpoint target in August

Sasol commits to net zero ambition by 2050, triples 2030...

But Sasol shouldn’t rely on natural gas a transition fuel, say civil society organisations

ActionSA wants pro-poor, business-friendly metros

Branding itself as a corruption busting party, ActionSA said it will establish dedicated independent forensics units in each of its municipalities, with the mandate to investigate all potential corrupt activities

‘We are focused on the local government elections,’ ANC tells...

The organisation has sent another letter to staff members saying that salaries for July, August and September will not be paid on 25 September

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…