Newspaper Cartoon a Hate Crime, Islamic Group Claims

CBC News, May 8, 2008

Police in Halifax are investigating a complaint about a political cartoon that some members of a local Islamic group claim is a hate crime.

The cartoon, published April 18 in the Chronicle Herald newspaper, depicts a woman in a burka holding a sign that reads, “I want millions,” and she says, “I can put it towards my husband’s next training camp.”

The cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon is a reference to Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal, a woman from Nova Scotia whose husband was arrested in 2006 in an anti-terrorism raid. Qayyum Abdul Jamal was released from jail after charges against him were stayed on April 15.

Zia Khan, director of the Centre for Islamic Development in Halifax, said the cartoon goes beyond what can be considered free speech.

“You would not put a native American Indian with feathers and say I need money in order to cull white people’s heads. You wouldn’t do that. This would be libellous,” he said.

Khan’s group called police on April 21. He said the group also filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, a hate crime is committed to intimidate, harm or terrify an entire group of people to which the victim belongs. The victims are targeted for who they are, not because of anything they have done.

Dan Leger, the Herald’s director of news content, said the cartoon does not take aim at all Muslims.

“The whole purpose of that cartoon was to comment on the outrageous demands of this individual for compensation long before any hearing into her case had ever been held,” he said.

In an interview with the Herald before the cartoon ran, Jamal said she wanted to sue the federal government for what her family has gone through and told the reporter, “I want millions,” Leger noted.

“[MacKinnon] depicted her exactly the way she looks and used her own words, and that’s the genius of cartooning that you’re able to do that,” he said.

Leger said he first heard of the Islamic group’s concerns when the newspaper was contacted by police.

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