Section Banner Images

The Middle East as Seen Through Foreign Eyes

Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Image Resource Bank

Image Gallery | Back Button On 12 of 15 Next Button On

The Face of Muhammad

The Face of Muhammad

On September 30, 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Prophet Muhammad in ways that perpetuated several negative stereotypes commonly associated with Muslims, such as violence, intolerance, and mistreatment of women. Following their appearance in Jyllands-Posten, the cartoons were re-printed in several newspapers of neighboring European countries and Egypt, but at first they caused little public outcry. It was not until early 2006 that public demonstrations and protests denouncing the Danish cartoons escalated, resulting in the vandalizing of the Danish embassies in Damascus and Beirut and a boycott of Danish imports by some Muslim-majority countries. As a rejoinder to this violence, political cartoons such as this one began appearing in the Western media. Evident in the Jyllands-Posten as well as this “Face of Muhammad” cartoon is the use of synecdoche where the Prophet Muhammad stands in for Islam in general or all Muslims throughout history. In this particular cartoon, the character traits inscribed on the surface of Muhammad’s skull, ordinarily hidden from view but resting just below the surface, reflect the inner psychological character of Islam’s central prophetic figure. Also, by using a skull to depict the real “face of Muhammad,” the cartoonist reinforces the association of Muhammad and Islam with death and dying. 

Next Button Off Image Problem

© 2010 The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago  |  Page updated: 12/29/2010

Contact Information  |  Rights & Permissions