Pundits like to complain that there are few voices from the Islamic world that condemn terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists. I run a small business that distributes editorial cartoons from around the world. With every major attack, including the recent attacks in Paris, I see a chorus of cartoons from Arab countries condemning the terror. The pundits must not be looking at the cartoons.
Editorial cartoonists are typically the most influential voices in newspapers throughout the Middle East, reflecting the views of their readers. Newspapers remain important in everyday life in the Middle East. Editorial cartoons grace the front pages throughout the Middle East. Arabic language cartoonists are typically anti-American and anti-Semitic, but on issues of terrorism they are largely voices of reason.
I often hear politicians complain about how the war with Islamic extremists is a battle for hearts and minds and we need to step up our role in an information war that we are losing. Editorial cartoons could be a weapon on the front lines of that battle. By now Americans should see how powerful cartoons can be; clearly the terrorists see this, as cartoonists are among their primary targets. It is difficult for Americans to comprehend that editorial cartoons are important and effective in the Middle East because we view cartoons as trivial jokes, leading us to miss many opportunities . . . [MORE]
Palestinian cartoonist and CRNI representative Mohammad Sabaaneh spoke on the power of political cartoons and led a workshop in Ramallah in October. The event was sponsored by the Sharek Youth Forum in cooperation with CRNI. The workshop was organized to introduce “youth to the caricature art in Palestine and its establishment.”
Sabaaneh is a principal cartoonist at Al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper. His political cartoons have earned him the distinction of being both jailed by Israel, and suspended from his job by order of the Palestinian president. Following his five-month stay in an Israeli jail, Sabaaneh held an exhibition of cartoons about the experience and the plight of Palestinian prisoners.
At October’s Sharek Youth Forum event: “Mohammad Sabaaneh pointed to the importance of the caricature art worldwide, its role in spreading the Palestinian case and the importance of educating the youth on diverse cultures. He also assured that this art is one of the important ways to express their issues and concerns of the community and one of the ways of expression that reaches all peoples regardless of language.”
Following his presentation, Sabaaneh hosted a Q&A and discussed Cartoonists Rights Network’s “role in protecting cartoonists worldwide.”
Sabaaneh was recently profiled by the Washington Post.
Video courtesy of Daryl Cagle