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The Offending Opus:

Here is the Opus comic strip by Berke Breathed that many newspapers decided not to run. Why? According to this story in Editor & Publisher, it was the references to Islam, a not-so-subtle sex joke, or the combination of the two. (Link via NRO Media Blog.)

Humble Law Student (mail):
Link doesn't work
8.26.2007 11:24pm
Dave N (mail):
I thought it was very insulting to nude Amish.
8.26.2007 11:29pm
Dave N (mail):
And to (mock) quote Dave Berry, "Nude Amish would be a very good name for a rock band."
8.26.2007 11:30pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Link worked for me. Good old Salon.
8.26.2007 11:51pm
FantasiaWHT:
As I mentioned in the other thread, I don't get the furor. Lots of comics have sex jokes less subtle than that, and the muslim commentary could certainly have been a lot worse
8.26.2007 11:53pm
grackle (mail):
No problem here in Tucson where the Arizona Daily Star printed the piece as they do each and every Sunday
8.26.2007 11:56pm
Waldensian (mail):
Which newspapers chose not to run this? Is there a list of shame somewhere?
8.26.2007 11:59pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I notice there are plenty of papers usually willing to post stuff which is offensive to Christians.
8.27.2007 12:00am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
The San Francisco Chronicle had no problem with it.
8.27.2007 12:17am
Brian12:
Plenty of papers are willing to post stuff which is offensive to Christians because modern Christians are more likely to engage their voices in protest than their explosives.
8.27.2007 12:21am
whit:
i have several bloom county books and there are literally SCORES of bloom county (and i am certain - opus) comics that were at LEAST as "offensive" towards christians and had equally (or more so) obvious sex jokes.

the ONLY difference is that the same rules don't apply towards MUSLIMS when it comes to the media.

cmon, we learned this a long time ago with the prior cartoon controversy.

i have respect for the newspapers that refuse to run it and will admit its out of FEAR. but the idea that its out of respect for islam is absurd.

just admit it, guys. offending (some) christians is "safe" and it gets you props from the left for being "edgy". offending (some) muslims only gets you killed, threatened, firebombed, and labeled hateful and insensitive by the same people.
8.27.2007 12:54am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I think this may be similar to the old cachet of being banned in Boston. Could elevate trash--I mean a crummy book--to best-seller status.
More contention, please.

In the meantime, papers can decide whether they'd offend more Muslims by running the 'toon or admitting they're afraid of getting blown up by Muslims. The problem is that the latter may not actually offend Muslims.
8.27.2007 1:04am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Plenty of papers are willing to post stuff which is offensive to Christians because modern Christians are more likely to engage their voices in protest than their explosives.

That may explain why the National Endowment for the Humanities refused my request for a $20,000 grant for "Piss Koran."
8.27.2007 1:30am
Latinist:
I wonder if Islam is really the reason the strip couldn't get printed. That last joke seems a little explicit for a newspaper comic strip (though I don't read those much, so maybe I just don't know how risque they get).

Also: did anyone else find the strip a little offensive from a feminist perspective? I don't mean to start a crusade about this (wrong word, I know), but there was something about it: partly the assumption that a guy would be grateful not to have to deal with the usual flighty empty-headedness of women; and partly the gleeful look from the boyfriend as he contemplates a girlfriend who doesn't "deny a man's rightful place." But I'm not a regular reader of the strip, so maybe, if I knew the characters (e.g., if that male character is always portrayed as a chauvinistic idiot), I'd see there was nothing offensive about it.

By the way, have there been any actual public reactions from muslims or muslim groups to this strip? And is there anything about it that a muslim -- even a fundementalist muslim -- would find offensive about it?

Oh, and one last thing. At the beginning of the strip, the male character calls his girlfriend a "Muslim Fundamentalist," and she corrects this to "Radical Islamist." Isn't that backward? I would have thought the first term would be preferred by members of the group in question.

My posts here always end up longer than I intend them to be. Sorry.
8.27.2007 1:30am
Latinist:
I wonder if Islam is really the reason the strip couldn't get printed. That last joke seems a little explicit for a newspaper comic strip (though I don't read those much, so maybe I just don't know how risque they get).

Also: did anyone else find the strip a little offensive from a feminist perspective? I don't mean to start a crusade about this (wrong word, I know), but there was something about it: partly the assumption that a guy would be grateful not to have to deal with the usual flighty empty-headedness of women; and partly the gleeful look from the boyfriend as he contemplates a girlfriend who doesn't "deny a man's rightful place." But I'm not a regular reader of the strip, so maybe, if I knew the characters (e.g., if that male character is always portrayed as a chauvinistic idiot), I'd see there was nothing offensive about it.

By the way, have there been any actual public reactions from muslims or muslim groups to this strip? And is there anything about it that a muslim -- even a fundamentalist muslim -- would find offensive about it?

Oh, and one last thing. At the beginning of the strip, the male character calls his girlfriend a "Muslim Fundamentalist," and she corrects this to "Radical Islamist." Isn't that backward? I would have thought the first term would be preferred by members of the group in question.

My posts here always end up longer than I intend them to be. Sorry.
8.27.2007 1:31am
Latinist:
Ack. And I double-posted. Now I'm even sorrier.
8.27.2007 1:32am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"That may explain why the National Endowment for the Humanities refused my request for a $20,000 grant for 'Piss Koran.'"

That, or the fact that your proposal was so dated and cliched that they fell asleep while reading it.
8.27.2007 1:39am
Mark H.:

By the way, have there been any actual public reactions from muslims or muslim groups to this strip?



I don't know, Latinist, but why would that be relevant anyway?

Do we really need to gauge reaction to a comic strip, or any other published work, by the potential reaction by any group?

Well, yes our MSM does, as witnessed by this and their previous lame refusal, in concert and unanimously, here in the land of the "free and the brave", to print the Danish cartoons.

Sad days are upon us, and it will only get worse as our press continues to capitulate in our name.
8.27.2007 1:57am
scote (mail):
That was it?

I must say I'm disappointed. I expected something insulting to Islam. Instead he claim to target "Radical Islam". Seeing as how "non-radical" Islam bans dolls with faces as graven images, the Opus cartoon seems rather innocuous.

On the other hand, Breathed seems to clearly be making unfair characterizations about granola eaters, so perhaps there is something to be offended by.
8.27.2007 2:05am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I would be interested to hear why the papers that didn't run the strip didn't do so. It didn't seem offensive to me, but then I am not Moslem. Nevertheless, it seems to me less offensive than much of what Breathed has done since coming back.
8.27.2007 2:11am
Latinist:
Mark H: I didn't say it would be relevant to whether the papers should have run the strip. But it would be relevant to figuring out why they didn't. Especially since a lot of people have been blaming things on the unreasonableness and violence of Muslims, it seems worth finding out how reasonably or unreasonably, violently or peacefully, Muslims have reacted.

scote: yeah, and not only is it only about "radical muslims" -- he doesn't even insult them. Best I can tell, all he's saying is that radical muslims wear veils, scorn western culture as materialistic, and have traditional views about sex. Who would even disagree with any of those things?
8.27.2007 2:32am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Clearly, they pulled it for fear of offending the Amish, who, if they ever found out about the strip, would likely does something awful like not care one whit.
8.27.2007 2:42am
Kev (mail) (www):
The Dallas Morning News ran a completely different strip today--I'm pretty sure that it was a rerun, because it looked familiar to me--but didn't make a single comment about that fact. (Often, they will say something like "The artist is on vacation. This week's strips are reprints." That didn't happen today.)
8.27.2007 3:04am
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
The strip struck me as neither very funny, nor particularly likely to give offense to any but the most censorious. Breathed's certainly done better. On the other hand, that was my reaction to the Danish cartoons, too, and we know what happened THERE.

I'd like to know whether there's been any real outpouring of Muslim outrage in the US at those folks ("South Park"'s writers, and the much-less-well-known posters on "Islam Watch", for instance) who, whether funny or not, are being somewhat more deliberately outrageous (as in "You thought that was offensive?! I'll show you offensive!!")

r gould-saltman
8.27.2007 3:23am
John McCall (mail):
The character is, in fact, consistently portrayed as a chauvinistic idiot.
8.27.2007 3:24am
scote (mail):

Washington Post Writers Group Executive Sales Manager Karisue Wyson told E&P some papers "won't publish any Muslim-related humor, whether pro or con. 'They just don't want to touch that,' she said."

via Joan Walsh - Salon

i.e., They are afraid of offending Muslims. And people are afraid of offending Muslims because they are afraid of Muslims.
8.27.2007 4:04am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It would be pleasant to hear from Muslims that they are offended to be presumed, as a community, likely to generate, in the persons of certain young men, explosive violence when "offended".

Absent such statements, one can presume a certain satisfaction. One may be wrong to presume a certain satisfaction. But not necessarily.
8.27.2007 7:25am
A.C.:
Well, I thought it was funny. I've known a lot of ditsy women in my life, and some of them are ditsy over religion. "Fatima Struggle" was particularly good.
8.27.2007 9:01am
rbj:
Couldn't be the implied sex joke, as <i>For Better or Worse</i> has traveled that root as well. Also, <i>Funky Weinkerbean</i> has shown 2 of the characters (husband &wife) get into the shower together.

Those papers not showing it for fear of offending radical Muslims have just played into the hands of the terrorists.
8.27.2007 9:08am
Phantom:
RBJ--

Are you sure that the "For Better or Worse" and "Funky Winkerbean" strips were run in every newspaper in the country? Just because YOUR paper ran the two strips in question doesn't necessarily mean that they were run in every paper. Here, some papers chose not to run the Opus strips. Of that number, some may have chosen not to run the strips for fear of offending Muslims. That's their right. Others may have run the strips for fear of offending their readers. That's their right too!

Newspapers decide to run or not run strips all the time. For example, Scott Adams tells the story of a strip he wrote where he wanted to show a police officer shooting at a hostage taker. His strip was repeatedly rejected because of an unwritten rule that prohibits guns from being shown in the funnies. Eventually, he was able to get the strip published by turning the gun into a doughnut. That's all he did. It still shot bullets, it still went "Blam."

The point is that different newspapers may have different reasons for not running the strips. As private organizations, they have the right to say what they want. That right includes the right to NOT say things they don't want to say.

That said, I found the strip to be damned funny.

--PtM
8.27.2007 9:34am
Temp Guest (mail):
Latinist is on to something here: The real reason this strip was not always published may well have been because it offended wacko feminist sensibilities.
8.27.2007 9:49am
pmorem (mail):
I'm struggling to understand the insult. I don't see it... unless they're somehow thinking that Islamic Rage Boy would be offended by the Steve Dallas charicature. I think that's a bit too subtle, though.

I can, however, see people (particularly those who live in safe feminist bubbles) falling all over themselves to say this is an insult to Islam.

That's not exactly the same thing.
8.27.2007 10:02am
MacGuffin:
Oh, and one last thing. At the beginning of the strip, the male character calls his girlfriend a "Muslim Fundamentalist," and she corrects this to "Radical Islamist." Isn't that backward? I would have thought the first term would be preferred by members of the group in question.

Let me get this straight: You expect Lola Granola to make good sense?

Now that's funny!
8.27.2007 10:04am
NaG (mail):
Wait...shouldn't Muslims be PROUD of this cartoon? You have an element of pop culture proclaiming that a proper Islamic woman would not engage in sex before marriage. Isn't that exactly what Islamists say is the case? Didn't the book "Reading Lolita in Tehran" reference the claim (by Iranian religious leaders) that Christian women were whores who engaged in sinful premarital sex while Islamic women maintained their purity?

Heck, even if it's insulting that a dippy dunce like Lola (who lost her "purity" long, long ago) would become an Islamist, she's still spreading the "word." There's hope even for stupid white chicks.
8.27.2007 10:24am
Nick P.:
Dave N:

There is a Chapel Hill band called "Amish Jihad."
8.27.2007 10:24am
Shangui (mail):
The real reason this strip was not always published may well have been because it offended wacko feminist sensibilities.

Were that the case, then "Cathy" would never be printed, as its portrayal of women as eternally obsessed with weight and looks likely does not please feminist sensibilities.
8.27.2007 10:47am
A.C.:
As if feminists don't go on and on and on about weight and looks...
8.27.2007 10:56am
arthur (mail):
I concur with all fo the blame falling on the Muslims, and the "wacko" women, who control the newspaper industry in the United States. Obviously things woud be different if the major newspapers were controlled by Christians, or Jews, or males . . . But if they were, what would the oppressed masses at the Volokh Conspiracy complain about?
8.27.2007 11:20am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Waaal, Arthur.

You miss--deliberately, I'm sure--the legal and business, and explosive, ramifications of pissing off the Muslims and women which fall on the white male Christians and Jews who control the major newspapers.

Who did you think would fall for your implication?
8.27.2007 11:51am
rbj:
Phantom -- No, I am not sure that every newspaper that ran those cartoons printed those specific ones. However, I've lived in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Northwest and subscribed to 6-7 different newspapers. I have seen "questionable" strips run in many different newspapers, even in fairly conservative areas such as Columbia, SC (where Doonesbury is on the editorial page).

My point is, I have seen enough different newspapers running strips with implied sex in them. As well, B.C. running strips with "Fat Broad" written into it.
8.27.2007 12:15pm
SP:
"On the other hand, Breathed seems to clearly be making unfair characterizations about granola eaters, so perhaps there is something to be offended by."

Given that Lola's last name IS Granola, you don't know how true you are there.
8.27.2007 12:18pm
rhodeymark (mail):
Hmmm - and all this after I just read the following at the Wiki link for the preceding Animal Farm post:

British censorship and suppressed preface
During World War II it became apparent to Orwell that anti-Russian literature was not something which most major publishing houses would touch — including his regular publisher Gollancz. One publisher he sought to sell his book but rejected it on the grounds of government advice — although the assumed civil servant who gave the order was later found to be a Soviet spy.[6]

Orwell originally prepared a preface which complains about British government suppression of his book, self-imposed British self-censorship and how the British people were suppressing criticism of the USSR, their World War II ally. "The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. ... [Things are] kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that 'it wouldn't do' to mention that particular fact." Somewhat ironically, the preface itself was censored and is not published with most copies of the book
8.27.2007 12:28pm
NJ:
NaG: good point, that's usually the line I would take; but how about reading this, and then imagining yourself as a Moslem seeing your converts stereotyped as: ditsy Marin County whites who, lacking cultural moorings (hah) (being free spirited dopeheads) or possessing very little in the way of culture to satisfy whatever spiritual hunger (having been bred on that damned rock and roll), flail about in search of enlightenment from one set of assorted superstitions to another, convinced that whatever worldview each possesses and espouses, however authoritarian and repressive, is merely a different aspect of the Truth. (It reminded me of Madonna really; another day another religion to insult, as someone once wrote of her.) Someone might have taken it as insulting that their religious conversion, normally a momentous epiphany, is being portrayed as a 'fad,' your religion as fashion accessory really. That's my best empathy effort before coffee.

BTW What's with Steve's paunch? Did he always have that thing?
8.27.2007 12:29pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Allentown Morning Call ran the strip. Good for them.

"Fatima Struggle" was brilliant. It hints at some of the Nazi idealogy (yes I said it) underlying the radical Islamicists movement.

Many commentators have suggested the Al Qaeda movement is infected with pernicious western ideas, not unlike Hitler's. Hence, My Struggle (Mein Kampf). Fatima Struggle is thus a combination of the name of Mohammed's daughter and the title of Hitler's weaselly little book. Somehow explaining all this makes it less funny, though :)
8.27.2007 12:36pm
Sameer Parekh (mail) (www):
OK. I'm confused. I just don't get the sex joke. Call me stupid. (I promise not to get offended) Is it that she won't put out at all that turns Steve's face sour again, or because she won't commit certain specific extra-kinky acts?
8.27.2007 12:42pm
Sameer Parekh (mail) (www):
Does anyone not think that the sex joke on 8/12 is a bit more explicit than the 8/26 sex joke (that I still haven't figured out)? "focus on this pole"
8.27.2007 1:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
NG. I get it. Simple. If looked at correctly, Muslims could take everything you mention from the cartoon.
They should join the club.
BFD.
The media ought to be an equal-opportunity offender. They can write letters to the editor and/or drop subscriptions.

So, anyway, where are the Muslims who protest that American Muslims are being presumed to be potentially violent?
8.27.2007 1:17pm
carlc (mail):
In more ways than one, Islam seems to be the crybaby child of all the major religions, with, say, Judaism &Christianity tired, grey elders.
8.27.2007 1:25pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
I'm pretty sure the joke is that she'll not resist whatever the guy wants her to do.

But I usually miss these things, so.

(I didn't think the strip was particularly funny, insightful or offensive. But I also don't think jokes that rest on the notion that Mormons who have lots of kids, or don't drink, are particularly offensive or insightful, either. I rarely find modern-era humor funny, so I'm a bad judge of whether this example is "actually" funny.)
8.27.2007 1:34pm
r78:

I notice there are plenty of papers usually willing to post stuff which is offensive to Christians.


May I say, boo-effing-hoo.
8.27.2007 1:46pm
Redman:
The San Antonio Express News fishwrap ran it. As usual, no one noticed.
8.27.2007 1:54pm
wooga:
IB Bill,
I think you are jumping way too far ahead. "Jihad" - in its most benign translation, means "struggle." Perhaps the character was originally "Fatima Jihad," but that was nixed on the first edit. It's not Breathed making some clever nazi word play, but rather that the basic similarities are completely unavoidable and everyone will eventually stumble into them.

Phantom,
I heard your story about the doughnut as well. However, I don't think there really is a newspaper rule against guns in comics, as we see them all the time in all the action hero dailies (e.g., Dick Tracy, Spider Man, even Mark Trail). Oddly, there was even just this month an extended gun play story involving some pistol whipping by none other than.... The Phantom. ( see the funniest blog on the internets: the comicscurmudgeon.com )
8.27.2007 2:32pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
r78.

Precisely. That's exactly the response we should have toward Muslim complaints.

You really hit it in few words. Congratulations.
8.27.2007 3:20pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Wooga: Oops. That's certainly a simpler and more direct explanation, and no doubt true. Thanks.

One thought: We could translate Hitler's book as My Jihad!
8.27.2007 3:40pm