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Protests at UNC against anti-Muslim cartoons

By Julie Southerland | March 3, 2006 | Page 11

GREENSBORO, N.C.--Protesters occupied the offices of the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill February 20 following the paper's publication of racist anti-Muslim cartoons.

The cartoons were first printed February 9 in the Daily Tar Heel (DTH), the main campus paper. When the DTH ignored calls to apologize from the campus Muslim Student Association (MSA), more than a dozen students at UNC, including MSA members, sat in at the DTH office.

The protest organizer, Salma Mirza, said they had more than 100 signatures on a petition stating they would not pick up another copy of the student newspaper until an apology was issued. However, the DTH has flatly refused to apologize, claiming that the issue is a matter of free speech.

But as an MSA letter to the newspaper pointed out, the cartoons were designed to insult and provoke Muslims. "We also ask that the DTH exercise a greater measure of responsibility by not repeating such bigoted actions," the MSA stated, adding that "any depiction of the Prophet is a known violation of Islamic theology, understood and respected throughout the world. To intentionally tag the disgraceful depiction with an implication of terrorism is unacceptable."

In Greensboro, the Rhinoceros Times, a conservative weekly, reprinted several of the cartoons in their February 16 issue and also have refused to apologize for doing so. The main newspaper in Greensboro, the News and Record, has written a series of articles on the cartoon controversy and received a flurry of letters and calls in response.

Many letters express disgust over the cartoons, but a significant minority praised the Rhinoceros Times for "having the courage" to print them and demanded the News and Record follow suit. Meanwhile, the Greensboro Muslim community has responded, with the Islamic Center of the Triad calling for weekly protests outside of the Rhinoceros Times office until the paper apologizes.

The newspaper's editor has refused--and has promised to print even more of the cartoons. Others protesting the racist cartoons include the UNC-Greensboro chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network, the International Socialist Organization and various community activists.

These protests need to be part of a national response to these cartoons, which have contributed to an atmosphere of racism against Arabs and Muslims. This is not a free speech issue--it is about hate speech used to demonize Muslims.

Write or call these two newspapers to demand apologies for printing these racist cartoons. Call 336-273-0885 to reach the Rhinoceros Times or email editor-in-chief John Hammer at [email protected]. Call Daily Tar Heel editor Ryan C. Tuck at 919-962-4086 or e-mail [email protected].

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