South African Muslim bid to ban cartoon fails

Pretoria, South Africa - A bid by a Muslim group in South Africa to stop the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad has failed.

The drawing by Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, shows the prophet on a psychiatrist's couch bemoaning his followers' sense of humour failure.

He drew it in response to a Facebook group inviting drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, which prompted Pakistan to ban the website for being "un-Islamic".

Zapiro told the BBC he did not want to be "cowed into submission".

'World Cup threat'

South Africa's Council of Muslim Theologians, known as Jamiatul Ulama, says the cartoon in South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper is offensive.

It argued in court papers that the timing could be a threat to the football World Cup.

But the High Court ruled that the cartoon had already been put into the public domain on the Mail and Guardian's website.

Some Islamic traditions ban depictions of the Prophet or Allah and worldwide protests broke out in 2006 after a Danish paper published cartoons of Muhammad.

At the time, Jamiatul Ulama successfully stopped the republication of the Danish cartoons in South Africa's Sunday Times.

'Get real'

Mr Shapiro defended his cartoon in a BBC interview.

"The cartoon is not particularly harsh it's got an element of pathos in it," he told the BBC Network Africa programme.

"It's almost an appeal to people to say, 'Come on, get real, get into the 21st Century.'"

He said that during the protests of 2006, he decided not to draw any cartoons of the prophet.

"I'm not going to do it for the hell of it , I wasn't trying to be deliberately provocative - this time round I joined an international campaign.

"And I do not want to be cowed into submission like so many people have on freedom of expression issues," he said.

The Mail and Guardian's editor Nic Dawes said "no cartoon is as insulting to Islam as the assumption Muslims will react with violence".

He added: "If we had to pull every Zapiro cartoon that offended someone, we wouldn't have any Zapiro cartoons in the newspaper."