Hindu anger at Zapiro cartoon

Durban – South African Hindu organisations are up in arms over a depiction by award winning cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) of Lord Ganesha, calling it a “flagrant disrespect and denigration of our glorious Hindu faith”.

zapiro oct 28

The cartoon, carried on Sunday on his website and in the Sunday Times, shows the deity holding a cricket bat and money, while Cricket SA chief executive Haroon Lorgat, is stabbed as a sacrifice to him by Cricket South Africa.

The cartoon refers to Cricket SA agreeing to effectively suspend newly appointed chief executive, Lorgat, for the duration of India’s tour to South Africa after its hand was apparently forced by the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The charge against the cartoon is being led by the South African Hindu Dharma Sabha, which is expected to lay a formal complaint on Monday with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities on Monday.

Ram Maharaj, president of the Dharma Sabha, said he had been inundated with calls from angry Hindus across the country.

He said Lord Ganesha was the most revered of all the Hindu gods and to depict him with money in his hand was “totally disrespectful”.

“This fallacious cartoon is sacrilegious and trivialises and undermines Hindu beliefs in particular and faith in God in general.

“It has the potential of fanning the flames of religious discord and division and impacting negatively on inter-faith harmony, social cohesion and nation building.

“Whilst cartoonists have the right to freedom of artistic expression, they must always act in full cognisance of the fact that all rights carry concomitant responsibilities,” he said.

Maharaj said they wanted Zapiro to do what was right and were willing to accept an apology.

“In the week where we celebrate Deepavali that calls on us to forgive we will be happy with them saying sorry and removing the cartoon,” he said.

President of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said the cartoon showed a total lack of respect for religious beliefs and sensitivities.

“We will be writing to the Sunday Times editor demanding an apology. I want to know what Ganesha has to do with cricket. The fact that Lorgat is Muslim makes it even more confusing.”

Trikamjee said Lord Ganesha was a symbol of protection.

Head of the SA Tamil Federation, Pauline Naidoo, echoed similar sentiments.

She said they were appalled by the cartoon.

“Hinduisim does not advocate greed or violence. This cartoon is a mockery of our religion,”she said.

Shapiro said could not comment as he was travelling. He promised to respond via e-mail later on Monday.

Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt, could not be reached for comment on Monday morning.

Dr Thillay Naidoo, a retired religious studies lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said he understood the point Zapiro was trying to make, but said there were other ways he could have done it without using a sacred Hindu God.

“One should never mock religion. Religion is very sensitive matter, not just in South Africa, but around the world. He should have never gone that way. He should withdraw the cartoon and apologise. I wish he has the sense to do that,” Naidoo said.

The cartoon ignited a spirited debate in cyberspace on Sunday with people slamming Zapiro.

Classical Bharatha Naytam dancer Verushka Pather said: “This is very disappointing. Especially coming at a time when everyone and all organisations are creating the spirit of Diwali, moving from darkness into light not the other way around.”

“This is disgraceful of Zapiro! How can we object,” said Ashwin Singh.