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The New Yorker Magazine’s Obama Cover “Satire”

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Both Obama and McCain didn’t find it funny. You? Funny? Offensive? If offensive, to who? As a Muslim, what does this cover say about you, to you? Of course, few care about how the Muslim caricuture is part of the parody, alongside flag-burning and terrorism. But we care… what say you?

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Amad

    July 14, 2008 at 1:44 PM

    They forgot a big bushy beard for Obama. Rookie mistake.

  2. Ahsan Sayed

    July 14, 2008 at 1:59 PM

    Just another way stereotypes against Muslims are fed. Its not funny, And a sick way to present satire. I expected better from the NEW YORKER. The interesting thing is though no matter who tramps on who the liberals or the republicans, the Muslims seem the fear-factor everyone plays on.

  3. Hassan

    July 14, 2008 at 2:06 PM

    There should be a lota in the picture too.

  4. Siraaj

    July 14, 2008 at 3:59 PM

    Not offended – it’s simply showing how the right wing side of politics is trying to attack obama and family.

    1. Michelle obama as a black panther (hates america)
    2. Fox news terrorist fist bump
    3. obama’s photo op shown everywhere
    4. American flag being burned (no lapel pin)
    5. Osama / obama mis wording (obl pic in background).

    Siraaj

  5. Faiez

    July 14, 2008 at 4:05 PM

    Freedom of Speech

  6. Amad

    July 14, 2008 at 5:12 PM

    But Siraaj, here’s the issue. For most Americans, what you say makes sense. But look at what they are mocking. Why is Muslim “looking-dress” in the same league as OBL, flag-burning, terrorism, etc. It’s the connections that this ad draws that bother me. Furthermore, it perpetuates that being a Muslim is REALLY a slur, and so this slur must be lampooned, like the other slurs. I mean they could have added a beard… they could have put a hijab on Michelle, etc. It would have pushed the same sort of stereotypes.

    And FYI to New Yorker… Another graveN error: kharijite-jihadis don’t hang picture of OBL; in their perverted sense of selectively accepting what Islam represents, photography is likely forbidden, and hanging photos is definitely a no-no!

  7. Amad

    July 14, 2008 at 5:24 PM

    See this statement in Huffington: “Anyone who’s tried to paint Obama as a Muslim, anyone who’s tried to portray Michelle as angry or a secret revolutionary out to get Whitey, anyone who has questioned their patriotism — well, here’s your image.”

    So, the negative portrayals include: Obama=Muslim, Michelle=revolutionary, Obama=unpatriotic.

    See where I am going with this?

  8. Suhail

    July 14, 2008 at 5:31 PM

    Photography is not forbidden by the ” perverted karijites” whatever you meant by that. Shaikh Albani also disliked Photography as well as many other ulema from the other madhabs have disliked it or even prohibited it. I think wise use of language is better than making slurs because there are many many scholars who have disliked and prohibited Photography. Also i would say that the word Jihadi itself isnt a good word to use. Jihad is a one of the most beloved deeds in the eyes of Allah. We should try to use other words rather than using the same vocublary as the kuffar and making as if Jihad itself is a slur.

    Before giving lecture to New Yorker we should learn to respect our own Shariah.

  9. Amad

    July 14, 2008 at 7:27 PM

    Br. Suhail, you could just have asked me to clarify, and I would be happy to respond :) Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind appropriate lectures :)

    Actually, if you reread my sentence, I used the term “selectively” accepting Islam. So, I am well aware that photography is a matter of ikhtilaaf… I too refuse to take a picture with the “regular” camera. I did not mean that the kharijites were doing something wrong in this matter, but that they would take some things and make them big, while taking big things and making them small. This is of course one of the signs of the khawarij, as we know from history (if my memory serves me well on this account) like murdering a pregnant woman who they believed had left Islam, but taking great care about where one date that they ate came from (i.e. not taking other’s property).

    I hope that this clarifies your concern.

    Good point on the “jihadis”… though what should we call people who go extreme in this regard without giving it proper due, like OBL and his crew? I guess we could just call them extremists or where appropriate, or just kharijites, and not sully the word.

  10. inexplicabletimelessness

    July 14, 2008 at 11:08 PM

    Why must they always assume the worst? For example, they could’ve shown Obama as a Muslim who is praying, reading Qur’an or giving charity. But the fact that they showed Obama and his wife as “radical jihadists” shows, unfortunately, how much the public’s perception of Islam is twisted.

    A satire, by definition: ” the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. ”

    Well, if they are trying to “denounce” this “folly” through “sarcasm” I actually think this is making matters worse by embedding this image into the minds of the masses who already are not clear that Islam does not promote terrorism….. ! Ah!

  11. Siraaj

    July 15, 2008 at 12:59 AM

    Actually, I have to disagree with you Amad – the caricatures were not chosen at random – all those caricatures are specific incidents or talking points of the right wing media – the New Yorker’s goal was to simply put it all together at once and show you what the right wing media is trying to portray him as.

    For example, the Muslim looking dress is his photo op when he was dressed in the somalia outfit that has been making the rounds all over the internet (it’s on this website as well). I don’t think they’re trying to attack Islam, I think they’re trying to show all the different tactics the right wing media is using.

    Is Islam a smear? In the political arena, it is a smear to be supported by Muslims, or to be the Muslim candidate.

    Siraaj

  12. Ulysses

    July 15, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    Free speech in America. Acclimate yourself or be miserable.
    It has been done throughout US history to anyone and everyone in the public arena and this is no exception.

    Why fear the possible misperception of Muslims by this image? The people who would take this cartoon as anything other than a a cartoon are truly sub-intelligent, regardless of religion or faith or belief or anything. Get over it.
    I could not care less who gets mocked, Obama, McCain, Bush, the whole lot… I am an American and I do not fear cartoons. But I guarantee, I am ever vigilant of those who do.

    I think I am going to start an Obama comic strip. I wonder who’ll try to stop my freedom of expression….

    Good day.

  13. Amad

    July 15, 2008 at 12:19 PM

    Ulysses, freedom of speech has limitations, we all know that. It has to be done in a responsible way. Would you support the freedom of speech of a cartoonist who wants to poke fun at the holocaust? If you do, then you would be in the minority.

    Just like there is freedom of speech to publish garbage, we have freedom of speech to voice our displeasure with it. Even the candidates did.

  14. Amad

    July 15, 2008 at 12:22 PM

    Amad – the caricatures were not chosen at random – all those caricatures are specific incidents or talking points of the right wing media – the New Yorker’s goal was to simply put it all together at once and show you what the right wing media is trying to portray him as.

    Siraaj, I agree that they were not random. And I also agree that these are talking points of the right-wing. But when you agree with them that this being a Muslim is a slur, and perpetuate it, then that’s a problem. Its a nuanced point, but I expect more from liberal outlets.

  15. Siraaj

    July 15, 2008 at 12:34 PM

    Free speech in America. Acclimate yourself or be miserable.
    It has been done throughout US history to anyone and everyone in the public arena and this is no exception.

    Why fear the possible misperception of Muslims by this image? The people who would take this cartoon as anything other than a a cartoon are truly sub-intelligent, regardless of religion or faith or belief or anything. Get over it.
    I could not care less who gets mocked, Obama, McCain, Bush, the whole lot… I am an American and I do not fear cartoons. But I guarantee, I am ever vigilant of those who do.

    I think I am going to start an Obama comic strip. I wonder who’ll try to stop my freedom of expression….

    Good day.

    I guess you’re also in favor of freedom to misunderstand posts? It was not about Obama being attacked – it was about attacking Islam the religion and caricaturing its adherents, and disagreeing with that.

    By the way, disagreeing is also a part of freedom speech – maybe you missed that point as well. Protesting with one’s voice, typing up a blog post, etc, all are perfectly legitimate and civilized (according to your own standards) forms of exercising one’s freedom of speech.

    If you’re so bent out of shape about people who hate freedom of speech, start with the hypocrite staring you in the mirror.

    Siraaj

  16. Nirgaz

    July 15, 2008 at 1:42 PM

    I think its not offensive when you look at what their point was…all the right-wing attacks combined look ridiculous and thus prove how false they are…(by the way, my grandma, a conservative Christian from the south is convinced that Obama is everything depicted in this pic…)

    Personally I am more upset that Obama doesn’t say that even though he is not a Muslim its not a bad choice for someone else. Instead he just denies his affliation and is quiet, giving the impression that he wants to distance himself so much from Muslims and Islam as not to be “guilty by association”…

  17. Ulysses

    July 15, 2008 at 6:13 PM

    Siraaj, Dude, that’s cool. The only thing bent here is the stem on my hookah headed to my mouth. Understand, have no qualms with protesting this or that. I am protesting too. I am going to make my own cartoon (perfectly legitimate and civilized) strips and post them. Protesting all the protests against those protested against. (!?!?!?!) Already finished one today after I saw the NYT foolishness. What attack on Islam the religion and caricaturing its adherents? I saw no one hurt. no rioting, no blood. And, as the Dutch would probably agree, everyone is fair game. I am in certainly in favor of that level of freedom of speech. On the other hand, Christians have a fit any time someone throws a crucifix in a jar of urine and calls it art so I guess I can see your point about a religion and its followers feeling attacked.
    Now, why do you say I hate. C’mon, that’s plain double-talk. Free speech double talk, and inaccurate. I really must publish this stuff and see if I get an official cease and desist order for being so outright offensive from DNC, The GOP, The Christian Coalition, CAIR, The JDL, and anyone else with an agenda to hide .
    Siraaj,
    That ain’t hate. That’s Entertainment!

    Thanks for the inspiration. I “Hate” You.

  18. Hala

    July 15, 2008 at 7:27 PM

    I’m with br Siraaj on this one. It’s called a satire- they’re almost always misunderstood. It looks like sarcasm to me. They’re clearly mocking the right-wing perspective on the senator and his wife.

  19. Siraaj

    July 16, 2008 at 12:48 AM

    Understand, have no qualms with protesting this or that. I am protesting too. I am going to make my own cartoon (perfectly legitimate and civilized) strips and post them. Protesting all the protests against those protested against. (!?!?!?!) Already finished one today after I saw the NYT foolishness. What attack on Islam the religion and caricaturing its adherents? I saw no one hurt. no rioting, no blood. And, as the Dutch would probably agree, everyone is fair game. I am in certainly in favor of that level of freedom of speech.

    So you’re saying that you’re against the laws in Europe which make punishable a person’s denial of the holocaust? And yes, that was my point in my initial post, I did not see this as an attack against Islam or Muslims, simply a dig at Republican propaganda.

    Siraaj

  20. patb

    July 16, 2008 at 12:53 AM

    You guys/gals are a bit oversensitive. In US politics everyone gets mocked.
    I think Michelle is pretty hot but she can have an attitude and that combined with a fully auto weapon is scary.
    She actually looks like she could handle a weapon, Obama, OTOH would probably hurt himself.

  21. inexplicabletimelessness

    July 16, 2008 at 3:05 AM

    Here’s what Obama said:

    “You know, there are wonderful Muslim Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things,” the presidential candidate told CNN’s Larry King. “And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it’s not what America’s all about.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080716/ap_on_el_pr/obama_new_yorker

  22. Amad

    July 16, 2008 at 8:48 PM

    Inexplicible, jak for reporting that comment. Thank you Obama for finally making an effort to talk about how this is affecting Muslims. Credit where credit’s due.

    And folks, this is an IMPORTANT quote from Obama. Do we think Obama just woke up all of a sudden and decided to respect Muslims again?? No way. My bet is that Obama’s campaign senses the displeasure Muslims are feeling and that Muslims may just not be the easy vote they were imagining. All the posts about Obama and the hijab, the McCain support, etc on MM, and on many websites slowly coalesced to become the slightest of pressures on Obama’s campaign. They are watching. And you can bet they don’t want the Muslim vote slipping away. That is why I insist on Muslims not being a quiet front, and taking all the crap thrown our way. Until we dignify our presence, and show the value of our votes, no one will care.

    So, don’t be afraid to criticize and ASK for your rights as American citizens. Let Obama know that if he wants our vote, he needs to respect our vote. I know some people have said that Muslims just want the politicians to start respecting us, while we have done nothing in the communities. There is truth in part of the statement. In that we haven’t done enough. But the right to vote is a FUNDAMENTAL right that all Americans have (in addition to the right of fair legal procedures, and the right to interstate travel). So, we don’t need to fulfill some prerequisites in order to vote. Our voting leverage is something we cannot be afraid to show off.

    P.S. See this on politico and dailykos (esp. the comments that show how one statement can open the floodgates of common sense and a sense of respect for Muslims). Also see this from Bloomberg.

  23. Hassan

    July 16, 2008 at 10:13 PM

    Finally Obama showed some leadership. And this is exactly why it is so important for people running for position of influence to be bold, so that rest can follow them. And no doubt all recent events perhaps made Obama realize that he can no longer stay quite on this matter. This is definitely good sign, and good start, and lets hope he treats muslims in America with respect even if he does not agree us on issues.

  24. isa

    July 17, 2008 at 9:05 AM

    All the posts about Obama and the hijab, the McCain support, etc on MM, and on many websites slowly coalesced to become the slightest of pressures on Obama’s campaign. They are watching. And you can bet they don’t want the Muslim vote slipping away. That is why I insist on Muslims not being a quiet front, and taking all the crap thrown our way. Until we dignify our presence, and show the value of our votes, no one will care.

    You guys are that popular and influential?


    I know some people have said that Muslims just want the politicians to start respecting us, while we have done nothing in the communities. There is truth in part of the statement. In that we haven’t done enough.

    That statement is all true…..Muslims never had to face what other religious and ethnic groups have faced in this country, but when something small happens there are many Muslims who wine and complain about their rights when they never or hardly ever gave back to their respective community.

    Why? because so many of our Muslim brothers and sisters live with and work with a large segment of society who has hardly ever faced racism. So when you live amongst those kind of people you pick up their bad habits (the me myself an I mentality) and they tend to look down at others in society like blacks and hispanics.

    Look at other groups who have gone through serious oppression or injustice in this country and see that group ( majority of them) wanting to better their communities. The Muslims who have the thousands of miles away its all the jews, America, and Muslim leaders mentality can learn from these groups.

    Allah knows best

  25. ibnabeeomar

    July 17, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    isa – i think amad’s comment – in context – is indicating more that websites/blogs in general (mm obviously being included) can help to play a small impact on these issues. i dont think this particular comment was as you are taking it.

  26. Amad

    July 17, 2008 at 1:57 PM

    The words “slowly”, “coalesce”, “small”, “many other sites” all imply this to be a collective effort. Like drops of water becoming an ocean. We are not an ocean… Just a drop (or two :) ). Please read in context, as br. Omar mentioned.

    I don’t disagree with what you ar saying br.isa, all I am saying is that these r two separate issues, and community works can’t be pre-req to voting. Also under the law, we have the right to protest (better word than whine) and we should. That doesn’t stop us from doing the other “minority works”.

    Jak.

  27. Derelict of Dialect

    July 18, 2008 at 2:00 AM

    Obama is Tabligi!!! Amad – The prohibition of photography is an accepted position held by more than just fantics. Also, knowing just how attention hungry the OBL types are, I doubt they harbor any reservations at all towards using photography to futher their goals.

  28. Amad

    July 18, 2008 at 8:35 AM

    Ugh… Bro, I NEVER said that the position against photography is only held by fanatics. Sh. Bin Baz rh, also didn’t allow it. I remember sh. Ibn Uthaymeen being 1 of the “big 3” to permit a limited version of it. My point was of how messed up priorities can be. It is similar to the big joke “me and my girlfriend only eat zabihah”… So of course zabeehah is not a fanatical position, but relative to the “girlfriend”, its a joke. I can’t make this any clearer.

  29. moon

    July 18, 2008 at 12:21 PM

    Amad…..upsetting people again…………..you’re getting good at this LOL!!!!

  30. Amad

    July 18, 2008 at 3:54 PM

    I must have special talents to have what I say be misunderstood, even after clarifications! :)

  31. ibnabeeomar

    July 18, 2008 at 5:41 PM

    I must have special talents

    you’re so full of yourself.

  32. moon

    July 18, 2008 at 5:52 PM

    need i say more….i think not!

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