Egyptian cartoon

Life before death refers to a sort of online argument between a Swedish and an Egyptian cartoonist.

This is a pretty wierd story all round. What is it about Scandinavians and cartoons about Islam? How is that the Islamic world seems to be poring over Northern European newspapers and art shows?

I live in only slightly-less-Northern Europe and I couldn’t get my hands on a Norwegian or Danish or Swedish newspaper without getting on a plane.

And if I could, I couldn’t understand a word without some very serious Babelfishing.

Oh, I guess I’d just have to look at the cartoons then.

Which may explain why the Islamic world is on a hair-trigger with regard to any Scandinavian artworks that involve men with beards. For Freya’s sake, they could just stop having the Nordic press delivered every day and there wouldn’t be a problem.

One completely irrelevant thing about this debate is that the Egyptian lad is a genius cartoonist. The Swedish lad is outclassed here. (Yes, I AM too lazy to check the names and I want to sound a bit like a football commentator on this one) So, in my too-sceptical way, I thought. “Maybe this cartoonist is playing with the blogosphere to get some well-deserved exposure for his work”

I mean, if you are a cartoonist in the Islamic world, it must be difficult to go about your daily work of cartooning without offending someone. Then you look at the vast international exposure that comes to cartoonists from small Nordic countries that you probably never heard of before for doing a few uninspired but religiously offensive funnies.

Wouldn’t you say “I want some of that sweet fame”? You can’t actually produce an offensive-religious cartoon yourself. (After all, Salman Rushdie’s still in hiding well over a decade after writing an “offensive” novel and he lives in the non-Muslim world and has lots of wealthy and powerful friends…) But you can produce a cartoon that is meant to offend a Scandinavian cartoonist.

OK, the international cultural impact is a bit diminished by the Swedish lad being bowled over by the gratuitously offensive genius of the Egyptian lad’s cartooning and wanting to buy the work.

But it still sort of works. Those of us who would never have seen the Egyptian lad’s drawings have all seen them. And (despite some vitriolic abuse on their quality in the comments on Life before Death) we can all see he’s a world-class artist.

Give him a job on a Swediish newspaper, please. That’s got to be the perfect way to distribute your cartoons throughout the Muslim world.

And the Swedish lad strikes a blow for the Nordic good-natured rationality that we all love. Win win, really.

3 thoughts on “Egyptian cartoon

  1. One completely irrelevant thing about this debate is that the Egyptian lad is a genius cartoonist. The Swedish lad is outclassed here.

    To be fair, Lars Vilks isn’t actually a cartoonist, which explains the quality of his drawings. He’s a conceptual artist, and his drawings of Mohammad were meant as a critique of the Swedish art community – it’s a very internal affair. As I think says on the egyptian blog somewhere, Vilks actually considers that very blog a PART of his artwork! Because everyone’s reactions to his drawings are part of it… I guess. I don’t really get artists. 😉

  2. It is part of the genius of the artist that he expects and welcomes return criticism. In a way, he is an ambassador for Western values, by demonstrating the very principles he stands for. Even if this is a shameless self-promotion, I still think it’s a good demonstration and something that will teach the Muslims a thing or two about what real tolerance means.

  3. Oh yes. I really hope the whole story is a piece of art.

    It would express so much about knee-jerk Islamic responses, media manipulation, the characterisation of all Muslims as fanatics, intolerance and tolerance.

    That would make the whole event a beautiful piece of conceptual art. In which case, I appreciate the ambiguity. So, probably erring on the side of optimism, I am treating it (provisionally ) as some sort of situationist art.

    And I sort of hope that the Egyptian cartoons were created by the Swedish artist or vice versa.

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