A positive caricature of the prophet Mohammed in a West Bank Palestinian newspaper on Sunday sparked a wave of protests on the social networks and prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to set up a committee to investigate.
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On Tuesday, even before the panel completed its work, Al Hayat al-Jedidah, the paper that published the caricature, apologized and said those responsible for its publication would be suspended. The paper, which receives support from the PA, didn’t name them.
The drawing was removed from the newspaper’s website and the cartoonist, Mohammed Saba’neh, posted a statement and apology on his Facebook page.
He said he never intended to hurt religious readers’ feelings. He said he wasn’t trying to depict the prophet himself, something many Muslims consider sacrilegious, but rather to show the light and love that Mohammed brings to the world.
Saba’neh has recently published drawings depicting Islam in a positive manner. One shows a figure from Islamic State pouring dirty water on a sun, which was to represent Islam.
But that did not spare him the current protests. Nor did the fact that he was arrested and jailed in Israel in 2013. He was arrested after he issued a series of drawings on the condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, although the Israeli military said he was detained for contact with figures hostile to Israel in Jordan.
Last month more than 20,000 Palestinians turned out for demonstrations in Hebron and Ramallah against the depiction of Mohammed on the cover of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.
Palestinian security forces didn’t prevent the protest, which was organized by the religious Al-Tahrir party.
The protesters, whose numbers exceeded the total numbers that demonstrate against the Israeli army and the occupation every week in the West Bank, also criticized Abbas, who participated in the Paris solidarity march after Charlie Hebdo’s staffers were massacred.
The Palestinian Authority’s quick response to Saba’neh’s caricature appears to indicate that officials are concerned about the power of conservative Islamic forces in Palestinian society.