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The Middle East as Seen Through Foreign Eyes

Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

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Image Problem

Image Problem

Published by “Cox & Forkum,” an editorial cartoon series drawn by John Cox and written by Allen Forkum, this image shows a “Mr. Mohammed”—presumably the Prophet Muhammad—and his camel meeting with a public relations team to discuss a perceived “image problem” resulting from the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon controversy and the subsequent international public backlash among some Muslims. The two public relations representatives explain to Mr. Mohammed that the cartoons are the least of his worries because through the “research” they conducted for their client, they have discovered that “Islamism” is already closely tied to “terrorism,” “theocratic tyranny,” “subjugation of women,” persecution of moderate co-religionists, and an irrational fear of Western culture.  Accompanying this list of familiar negative stereotypes is the more subtle characterization of the Prophet Muhammad as the exclusive spokesman for “Islamism,” a term which refers to extremist Muslim political movements, and a disassociation of the personage of Muhammad from the “moderate Muslims” whom the Islamists persecute. Thus, to qualify as a “moderate,” a Muslim must somehow distance him- or herself from the ethical example of the Prophet, which directly informs Islamist radicalism.

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

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