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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 10/ 3/2010

'Muhammad' does -- and does not -- appear in today's 'NON SEQUITUR' comic

By Michael Cavna

Depending on what newspaper you take, you may or may not see today's "Non Sequitur" comic that's captioned, in part, "...Where's Muhammad?"

Some newspapers chose instead to run a Sunday replacement strip featuring the recurring character Obvious-Man. So what was the editorial thinking behind the choice?

"I have absolutely no information on why any of the editors chose not to run it," "Non Sequitur" creator Wiley Miller tells Comic Riffs. "All I can do is surmise that the irony of their being afraid to run a cartoon that satirizes media's knee-jerk reaction to anything involving Islam bounced right of their foreheads. So what they've actually accomplished is, sadly, [to] validate the point."

"Non Sequitur" is syndicated by Universal UClick. The syndicate's Sue Roush tells Comic Riffs that about 20 newspapers inquired about the option of a replacement comic but that as of Friday, Universal UClick did not know which papers would actually use the surrogate comic.

"Both of the papers I get that carry comics, the Portland Press Herald and the Boston Globe, ran the substitute," says the cartoonist, who goes by "Wiley." "Really disappointing."

The caption to the single-panel comic -- which depicts a cheery, slightly surreal park scene -- says: "Picture book titled voted least likely to ever find a publisher...'Where's Muhammad?' " The cartoon was one of the "most favorited" Sunday on the syndicate's website, where readers on the comments thread were mentioning where they had -- or had not -- found the "Muhammad" strip in their local papers.

The Washington Post chose to run the "Where's Muhammad?" comic in its online edition but not in its Sunday print funnies, running an "Obvious-Man" replacement. Spokeswoman Kris Coratti said The Post had no comment on that decision. Update: Style Editor Ned Martel tells Post ombudsman Andy Alexander that he chose to pull the cartoon after conferring with Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli and others because "it seemed a deliberate provocation without a clear message." He adds that "the point of the joke was not immediately clear" and that readers might think that Muhammad was somewhere in the drawing.

"Non Sequitur," launched in 1991 by the Washington Post Writers Group, has won National Cartoonists Society division awards for Best Comic Strip and Best Comic Panel. Prior to creating "Non Sequitur," Wiley Miller was an editorial cartoonist at the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record and the San Francisco Examiner.

Update: This isn't Wiley's first cartoon commentary on artistic depictions of Muhammad potentially being fraught. In 2006, a "Non Sequitur" strip pictured a sidewalk Muhammad caricaturist with the caption: "Kevin finally achieves his goal to be the most feared man in the world..." (which sparked a total of zero reader comments on the syndicate's website). A Malaysian newspaper initially faced government punishment for running the strip.

Wiley said that in addition to the editorial decisions over today's comics, he had concerns that an outside newspaper-service printing company may have decided on its own to substitute the "Muhammad" strip. At press time, Western Color Print could not be reached for comment.

Wiley's "Muhammad" comic comes in the wake of this year's "South Park" controversy over satirizing Muhammad; Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris's poster art in support of "South Park" having spawned "Everybody Draw Muhammad! Day"; and such illustrators as Norris, Lars Vilks and Kurt Westergaard having been placed on a death-threat list by Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi.


MOLLY NORRIS UPDATE: U.S. Muslim leader defends rights of both 'Draw Muhammad' cartoonist, targeted cleric al-Aulaqi

By Michael Cavna  | October 3, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip  | Tags:  Non Sequitur, Universal UClick, Wiley Miller  
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I am very sad to see that the terrorist have, in fact, won the war on the courage, resolve, and integrity of the American heart.

If the Washington Post is afraid to run a highly innocuous comic strip on the fear of retribution by those who would choose to take offense, then I cannot help but wonder what stories of real substance might also be suppressed.

Please be assured that I will be calling my Washington Post distributor and canceling my weekly subscription.

This is a sad day in American journalism.

Michael Mayer
Gaithersburg, MD

Posted by: valerie11 | October 3, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised anyone cares what WP chooses to run on the comics page. Courage was never a newspapers target.

On a separate topic, my local paper chose BIG NATE to replace CATHY and ran an article about the cartoonist in the Sunday edition.

Posted by: schafer-family | October 3, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

pretty lame on the post's part to succumb to fear of radicals.
i not only question the fear-based decision; i question the editor's sense of humor since he said the joke was not apparent. i thought it quite funny.

Posted by: cbccard | October 11, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

This was a sad and craven response by the Post. The next time Glenn Beck or the Right to Life community chooses to get indgnant, I assume the Post will again get weak in the knees.

Apparently, standing up to Attorney general John Mitchell is a lot easier than standing up to a bunch of street thugs.

Posted by: 8iorek | October 12, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

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