A Second Look at the Second Extra Cartoon.--

In an earlier post, I asked for those with special expertise to examine the text accompanying the second extra cartoon of Mohammad, the one depicting him as a demon pedophile. I wondered whether the lettering suggested the possibility that the original language of the author of the cartoon was Arabic, not a Western language using the Roman alphabet. Andrew Sullivan, Betsy Newmark, Michelle Malkin, and ABC's Jake Tapper have spread the call, as have other bloggers here, here, here, and here.

From the following picture, I deleted the actual drawing of Muhammad as a demon pedophile, retaining just the caption above the crude drawing:

(click to enlarge)

Reading through the comments so far to my earlier post, no true expert graphologist has come forward, but several people with at least some knowledge of Arabic writing and calligraphy have weighed in. The most interesting comment so far comes from E.S., who says he/she is not a graphologist but has "a little experience in English and Arabic calligraphy and typography":

I noticed a few interesting things about the writing that may indicate that it isn't the product of a native speaker.

1) If you look at the lowest horizontal stroke on the first capital E, it is a curved or squiggly line. This is characteristic of the arabic character "sukkund" which is denotes a glidle (sp?) stop. These symbols are used extensively in old texts in the Arab world including the Quran.

2) Many of the letters have too many strokes, and are thus inefficient. Over time native speakers develop proficiency in writing quickly and use less strokes per letter on average. Looking closely at the first M of the last line it has four strokes. Most native speakers would make it with two or three. Also notice on this M that the strokes don't match up correctly. This indicates a lack of familiarity with the structure of the letter.

3) The cross strokes on the E's and F's seem to be drawn from right to left. The "ink clumping" you notice on some of the letters is formed when the author keeps the pen on the paper for too long without moving it. It often indicates hesitation in executing a stroke. If you look at the E and F in the word "Profet" the ink clumping is on the right hand side of the letter indicating that the person put pen to paper, considered the stroke momentarily, and then pulled the pen from right to left across the page. This is also inefficient in writing Roman letters because the movement across the page is from left to write, so cross strokes from right to left slow down the production of the letter. (Also interesting is the large amount of ink wasted on the beginning of the uppermost crossbar on the E in "Paedofile." It appears that this stroke went from left to right [note the ink clumping on the left of the letter]). This is consistent with the idea that the person is an Arabic writer since the long delay would indicate a discomfort with the left-to-right stroke.

4) The u in "Muhammed" appears a great deal like the Arabic Laam (one of the most common letters as it is part of the arabic AL meaning the). If you notice the right side of the letter is longer, this is what an individual Laam looks like, almost like a Roman capital J. Also note that a native writer of Roman based letters would not make the right side larger as it is inefficient in writing a full word. There is no need to bring the pen that high if you're going to move on to the next letter.

5) Finally as a general matter the letters do have a more "drawn" feel than usual native Roman-based letters. The cross strokes have the slant of calligraphy fonts, especially those used in Arabic. This is indicated by the sharp points on both ends of the cross which indicates that the pen was held at an angle. Most Roman letter writers without calligraphy experience hold their pen straight, which results in "block" letters and not angled letters. Finally the curves on the D's are tapered which indicates holding of the pen at an angle, and experience with "drawn" letters. These same curved shapes are common in the arabic letters Jeem, Haah, and one other that I am not even going to attempt to transliterate but comes from the back of the throat.

I hope that others — with even more extensive knowledge — will come forward to assess the evidence in the text accompanying the "demon pedophile" cartoon.

I think this is a little bit silly - handwriting analysis of this type may easily fail when the writer may be attempting to "write stupidly".

In my opinion, contributes to the drawn feel of the item, as well as the use of extra strokes to make up several of the letters. Moreover, note that only one of the three E's has a curved bottom line.
2.11.2006 6:19pm
Kovarsky (mail):

i don't get it. so somebody deliberately made the cartoon to look like a forgery? some sinister dane hell-bent on making it look like the muslim work was making it look like the danes were insulting them?

or are you just saying somebody was fooling around?
2.11.2006 6:35pm
Isn't the cross bar in the "A" in the Muhammad drawn from left to right?

I don't think this type of analysis is silly. Having some experience with handwriting analysis in connection with determining whether documents offered as evidence in lawsuits contain forged signatures, it's entirely true that determining how quickly the writing is done, and where and how often the writer pauses when writing the signature is one of the few most significant facts in determining whether or not a signature is forged.
2.11.2006 6:41pm
What are the thin squiggles on the right?
2.11.2006 8:06pm
Fat Jeff (mail):
That is Arabic handwriting, JohnAnnArnor.
2.11.2006 8:46pm
magoo (mail):
From the previous post (characteristically without a comment section): "Here is yet another reason to disdain Prof. Cole…"


My goodness. Is this was passes for reasoned discourse at GMU and VC? What has happened to the civility requirement?

Prof. Cole's remarks referred to European colonialization of predominantly Muslim countries, and the attendant oppression. If he's overstating the case, argue the merits, but please don't tell your readers to disdain him. There's enough hate in the world already.

David, Jim, Eugene, David Post -- Do any of you count an Arab or Muslim among your friends? There is a certain one-sidedness (dare I say "narrow-mindedness") that shows through on these posts. Once you figure out exactly which of the cartoons is fraudulent, you might consider opening your hearts to the reasonable voices on the other side of the debate (yes, believe it or not, there are Muslims who are not committed to violence as a way of life). It is possible to understand them without necessarily agreeing with them.
2.11.2006 8:56pm
[post deleted by moderator]
2.11.2006 9:02pm
A Heroic Citizen:
I'm sorry, but would someone out there please just try to write an upper-case E from right to left? While you're at it, do an R and an F too. Come one, guys. Even if this person were used to writing right to left, that doesn't mean they would write something in the Latin script that way. I actually do write and speak Arabic and you have to write it right to left. The formation of the letters won't permit anything else. The same is no doubt true for Latin letters.

Any of you who speak Arabic and think this must have been written by someone who writes right to left better get off your computer and crack open EMCA or Al-Kitab or whatever other Arabic textbook you used because you really don't know jack. There are LOTS of letters in Arabic that are written left to right: independent jimm, haa, khaa, parts of the saad, daad, taa, DHaa, 'ayn, 'ghayn, internal kaaf, fathaa and shaddha. Not to mention numbers three, six, and nine. And while Arabs always write sentences from right to left, they always write multi-digit numbers from left to right. If they want to write twenty-six, they don't write 62. They write 26 the same way they do, so this theory that they're somehow "not used" to writing left to right is total BS.

And on top of all that, most Muslims in Demark don't even speak Arabic. They speak Turkish (which uses our script).

Believe me, there is absolutely NOTHING to this. All this idle speculation is just the incoherent ramblings of people who have no idea what they're talking about desperate to be the one to "uncover" the next scandal.
2.11.2006 9:18pm
A Heroic Citizen:
[duplicate post deleted by moderator]
2.11.2006 9:18pm
A Heroic Citizen:
[This post responds to one deleted by the moderator.--MODERATOR.]

And no, NO WHERE in the Qur'an does it even mention Ayisha, the nine-year old girl Barry is probably referring to. The Qur'an is largely silent on the life of Muhammad; facts like that are probably derived from the literally tens of thousands of hadith, or sayings and actions attributed over the centuries to Muhammad by others.
Now I wonder how many examples of so called "pedophilia" I would find if I checked out the Old Testament! Obviously, twenty-first century Americans are ill-equipped to pass judgement on tribal societies hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.
2.11.2006 9:25pm
Nobody Special:

Google gave me that link when I was looking for background on the pedophilia charges.

Check out the cartoon at the bottom (in black and white). Even if the current cartoon is a forgery, it's pretty clear that there are people out there who would produce a similar one.
2.11.2006 9:34pm
A Heroic Citizen:
Exactly, Nobody Special. NONE of the verses on that page are from the Qur'an. They're all from Hadith. Historically, most Muslims have taken the hadith of Bukhari pretty seriously, but placing something like that, written well over a hundred years after the death of Muhammad, on the same level as the text of the Qur'an is a bit like putting Thomas Aquinas on the same level as Paul's Epistles. And as long as we're talking about Paul's Epistles, check out 1 Corinthians 11:5. And unlike ibn Bukhari, Paul does claim to speak for God: 2 Corinthians 12:11.
2.11.2006 9:51pm
Omar Zapata (mail):
I think A Heroic Citizen is right. I had forgotten about the things he mentioned. Again, anything I said before was just fun speculation ("Encyclopedia Brown" like someone said). Anyway, Citizen has a point and the whole idea of tracing the handwriting may be a bad lead, or at least a bad idea.
2.11.2006 10:21pm
anonymous coward:
Does--or rather should--it matter in the slightest if the "fake" cartoons were drawn by a native Arabic speaker or not?

There have no doubt been offensive-to-everyone cartoons drawn both by Arabic speakers and non-Arabic speakers at some point. So the hell what? They weren't published in a European newspaper and they are probably considered quite stupid and disgusing by most non-Muslim Europeans or Americans. (Not that there's anything terribly wrong with stupid and disgusting; some of my best fact, all of my best friends...)
2.11.2006 10:49pm
Re the post about Juan Cole and anti-Semitism.

I wonder, from time to time, why not just cut the cr**, call a spade a spade, eliminate the ambiguity, and call it Jew-hating.

After all, how many Muslim cartoons contain a hooknosed bloody "Zionist" as opposed to a hooknosed bloody "Jew."
2.12.2006 12:27am
With respect to the actual topic of the Lindgren post - I thought we learned from the Rathergate Bush National Guard Document fiasco that document examiners had to look at the original document to make their determinations.
2.12.2006 12:31am
Paolo Sepi (mail) (www):
Under the MSM NBC "fake but accurate" standard, I really don't see why we are quibbling over who drew this cartoon. Muhammed was historically a violent jew-hating pedophile. And pointing this out (except perhaps the jew-hating part) is enough to get you executed in much of the Middle East.
2.12.2006 12:46am
Light David Maleski (mail):
Where the original author wrote, "glidle (sp?) stop", as it seemed he was unsure. The actual word he is referring to is a "glottal stop" which is similar when saying "oh-oh". This is also used in Hawaiian to a great extent and is considered a letter in the language called an 'Okina (represented before the O).
2.12.2006 1:54am
Heroic Citizen, what's your aim here? Who brought up Christianity?
2.12.2006 2:10am
A Heroic Citizen:
You're probably right to call me out. I wish I hadn't brought up Christianity; I'm not a practicing member of any faith but I also have nothing but respect for all religions. It was a cheap shot on my part.

That said, though, I think we're all a little too quick and too desperate to somehow ground everything we dislike about certain Muslims in the Qur'an. After all, it would just be so simple and satisfying if the source of Muslim rage and Muslim violence was in the Qur'an. Then we could isolate it, analyze it, remove it from the equation. But beware simple and satisfying answers.

The post I was responding to was removed, but it talked about the belief that the Qur'an says Muhammad was a pedophile (it doesn't). By explaining that one of the Islamic practices we find most disgusting (the mandatory veiling of women) actually has an exact parallel in 1 Corinthians, I was trying to suggest that all texts, be they the Qur'an or the Bible, have things that every generation must understand and reconcile anew. Those of you that are religious Christians can with every justification believe the Bible to be infinitely superior to the Qur'an, but that doesn't mean we have to allow people who've NEVER actually read the Qur'an themselves to just make up out of whole-cloth passages to suit their preconceived notions of what the essence of Islam is. A religion of over a billion people cannot be so easily reduced, and anyone who tried to reduce Christianity to a simple set of aphorisms would meet from me an equal disdain.
2.12.2006 4:14am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):

Actually, it is often possible to prove that a document is a fake without seeing the original. For example, some counterfeit money can be proven counterfeit just from a xerox: for instance if the picture is facing the wrong way, or the serial number has the wrong number of digits, or E PLURIBUS UNUM is misspelled, or a hundred other details that would show up on the xerox as well as the original. On the other hand, even if the xerox of the bill shows a flawless example of the genuine thing, the suspect bill could still be counterfeit if the ink is the wrong shade of green, or the paper is the wrong thickness or has the wrong watermark — again, there are dozens of details that could give away the fake.

What is impossible is to prove something genuine without seeing the original. Actually, I doubt that you can ever prove something genuine. All you can do is check out all the details very carefully and presume that it is genuine if there is nothing wrong with it. There seems to be a 'presumption of innocence' for documents as well as people. A totally-competent fake should be indistinguishable from a genuine document.

Of course, it helps to have an original to compare the fake with, as in my example. Even in 'Rathergate', there were genuine Texas Air National Guard memos that could be used to determine the 'house style'. With cartoons by unknown persons we have no such luxury. Unless the original turns up, that is, as in the case of the other cartoon, where the porcine Mohammed turned out to be a Frenchman participating in a pig-squealing contest. I hope he's enjoying his new-found fame, and not getting any death threats.
2.12.2006 8:49am
Anyone know what the Arabic text noted on the right says?
2.12.2006 12:30pm
Ken Lammers (mail) (www):
Heroic Citizen (in conversation with the 2.11.2006 9:18pm post)

I also write, read, and speak Arabic. It is not total BS to say those who primarily use Arabic are not used to writing left to right. Yes, certain Arabic letters are written left to right (particularly in an alphabet chart), the vowel markers are as well (including the kasra) and the numbers 6 and 9 are written left to right (never seen anyone write 3 left to right). However, when written as part of a word most of the letters you cite are not except saad, daad, taa, DHaa, and kaaf (and not many people spend their days writing in alphabet form). Even these letters, when hand written by a native speaker, are affected by the direction of the script. I can remember more than once translating handwriting and mistaking a sa'ad or da'ad for an 'ain or 'gain because the writer came from the right, swooped up where the middle of the letter would be, curved his loop up - in the direction he was writing - rather than right, and had a vestigial (or nonexistent) tail.

After a couple days looking at this, I agree it was probably written left to right; you are correct that some of those letters would be very difficult to do right to left. I still say that the "i" looks like an intial form alif with a fatha and that the letters have forms in them which look like they were written by someone used to writing Arabic.

The shallow "C" curve found in many of the letters which I described in my first post is something which has been prevalant in Arabic handwriting I've seen. I don't know if this is a feature of Arabic script or writing in cursive from right to left; I've not studied cursive in another right to left language. I suspect it might be unique to Arabic script because of the omnipresence of the initial alif. Look at the arabic on the cartoon and you can see slight versions of it on the initial alifs.
2.12.2006 1:28pm
Ken Lammers (mail) (www):
The Arabic text says:

"This is the Prophet Muhamed that rapes children."

The last word also has implications of helplessness and weakness.

The word used for Prophet is Nebi rather than Rasoul. I find that interesting but not necessarily dispositive of anything. Both mean prophet. Rasoul (Messenger) is the word used to describe Muhamed in the statement of faith (la illah ila Allah wa Muhamed alrasoul Allah) and Nebi either comes from naba (to go far away / contradict) or is - more likely - an imported word from Hebrew: Navi (prophet). I've discussed the difference with some Arabs and been told that Rasouls (Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhamed) are higher than Nebis. However, I've heard Muhamed called Nebi plenty of times without anyone acting as though it was unusual.

I also find it interesting that Muhamed's name is written without PBUH. Many, if not most, Muslims who are strong in their faith will not write the name without writing after it "sala Allah alehu wa salam" or initials representing that phrase. It basically means "The blessing of Gad upon him and peace" (usually translated in English as Peace Be Upon Him - PBUH).

Much like the Latin letters, the Arabic is written simply. I suspect this was to insure clarity rather than from a lack of expertise.
2.12.2006 1:49pm
I still don't understand the poinf ot this endeavor.

First, the cartoons were definitely not made by the cartoonists who published the other drawings. We already know that. So somebody created them to help fuel the controversy. Is it really more shocking if the person who tried to fuel the controvery is middle-eastern rather than European? If anything, wouldn't it be more suprising if whatever person tried to egg on the controversy WASN'T Muslim?

Second, its not as if proof that the writer was not a native speaker of a european language would somehow cause people upset about the cartoons to feel that they're being manipulated. If anything, the most predictable outcome is that rioters will groudlessly blame Jew for the fake cartoons. After all, all the evidence people are presenting to support the notion that the drawer first learned a semetic script provides just as much evidence that the drawer's first language was hebrew as it does that it was arabic.
2.12.2006 3:31pm
jpaulg (mail):
I think it is the right path to tread, which is trying to identify the person responsible for the cartoon. Simple logic indicates that the best way to do that is to narrow down the potential pool of suspects.

One thing that I have noticed though is that left handed people often try to construct their letters right to left when using block capitals. Obviously it would take someone far more informed than I to differentiate between someone who tried to write right to left through indoctrination and habit than someone who was doing so because of their left handedness.
2.12.2006 7:22pm
Jeff Hall:
Good heavens, I've just examined my own block printing and discovered that my original language is Arabic, too. I should put that language on my resume.
2.12.2006 10:33pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Glad the left-handedness came out. As a lefty, it was a great pleasure to write Arabic, as for once my sleeve wasn't dragging through the ink!

In English, many of my connectors and strokes come from the right, not the left as righties make them.

The "analyses" of the handwriting strike me as futile, if not a little silly. How's about if the writing was done by an Arab whose primary language is a Western one, who only writes Arabic faultily through lack of practice? Lots of those about, even in the Arab world.
2.13.2006 9:25am