A controversial cartoon published in New Brunswick’s largest French-language newspaper is sparking backlash over the way it portrays Muslims.
The cartoon, published in the August 17 edition of Acadie Nouvelle, shows a caveman dragging a woman by the hair. Below is an illustration of a man wearing a turban and carrying a gun, using a leash to drag a woman wearing a burqa.
“Evolution?…” is written above the cartoon.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims issued a statement calling the cartoon Islamophobic and said it spreads stereotypes that “fuel widespread hatred.”
Lina El Bakir, advocacy officer for the organization’s Quebec and Francophone community, said she was dismayed to see the illustration.
“We thought those kinds of stereotypical, harmful images were a thing of the past and as a country we were past that,” she said. “and it’s really frustrating.”
El Bakir said the cartoon is circulating and impacting the Muslim community across Canada.
“It fuels a destructive narrative,” she said.
The newspaper explains
Francis Sonier, editor and general manager of Acadie Nouvelle, declined an interview, but said in a statement that the cartoon followed a report on the Taliban.
On August 16, the newspaper published an Associated Press article on life in Afghanistan a year after the return of the Taliban regime. The article was accompanied by a photo showing fighters holding guns and celebrating their return to power.
The next day, Acadie Nouvelle published Marcel Boudreau’s caricature.
Sonier said the cartoon was removed from the website because readers pointed out a lack of context. The news article was only available in the print edition.
WATCH / Woman describes being ‘devastated’ after seeing offensive cartoon
“The cartoon aimed to denounce the behavior of the Taliban in a specific region of the world, Afghanistan. Nothing else,” he said.
Boudreau could not be reached for comment.
Activists speak out
Local Moncton activists held a press conference Tuesday to speak out against the cartoon.
Paryse Suddith, a lawyer with the non-profit Old River Productions and Legal Services, said she felt “shame” after seeing it being printed as the newspaper’s cartoon of the day.
WATCH / Lawyer explains why newspaper cartoon hurts Muslim community
“People are going to think that people who wear turbans are all violent and always oppress their women,” Suddith said. “Is this the kind of message Acadians want people to think we think?
“The image for me was Islamophobia.”
Suddith said she requested a meeting with the editors of Acadie Nouvelle to discuss the cartoon.
Moncton resident Inda Intiar said she was initially shocked and angry that the illustration had been posted.
“I also felt pretty disgusted,” she said. NB Quarter. “I just feel like there’s so much conversation about all these anti-racism, equity inclusion lenses, and yet here we are with a cartoon like this being released.”
Intiar has written a letter to the editor in response and is arranging a meeting with the paper’s editors. She said her biggest concern was that the cartoon would contribute to existing damaging narratives.
“People have so many different lived experiences and I think we need to not only respect that, but also be mindful of the impact of the work we publish,” she said.