The editor of an Urdu newspaper was arrested at the end of January in the Indian city of Mumbai for reprinting a controversial cartoon targeting Prophet Mohammad. The cartoon was originally published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after the publication fell victim to a bloody massacre at its Paris headquarters earlier this year. Shirin Dalvi, who headed the Urdu news daily Avadhnama, was compelled to appear in court after a member of a radical organization in her city filed a complaint against her. She was later released on bail.
Dalvi’s arrest came after the January 17 issue of Avadhnama carried a reprint of the January 14 cover of Charlie Hebdo, which was issued a week after a brutal terror attack claimed the lives of 12 staff members and seriously injured 11 others at the publication’s Paris headquarters on January 7.
Since any depiction of the prophet is prohibited in Islam, two masked gunmen, who had obviously been offended by Charlie Hebdo’s repeated conduct, stormed into the publication’s office to teach its contributors a fatal lesson.
Apart from Dalvi’s complainant, who is also an activist with Rashtriya Ulema Council, Urdu Patrakar Sangh, an association of journalists working for Urdu newspapers, appealed for Dalvi’s arrest as well. Reportedly, the police received complaints from several readers of Avadhnama, which has editions in seven cities across India, after which they decided to charge her for outraging religious feelings and insulting religion with malicious intent.
“She was arrested by us, produced in the court and granted bail,” said S. M. Mundhe, a senior police inspector. “We are investigating the matter.”
Speaking to the media, Dalvi explained that even if she had made a mistake by allowing the reprint to be published in Avadhnama, she had not done so with the intention of hurting religious sentiments.
“We juxtaposed it with news of the Pope’s statement where he criticized the Prophet cartoons and said freedom of expression was not absolute and religious beliefs should not be mocked in the name of this freedom,” she said. “Apart from a front page apology, I also wrote an editorial clarifying that my love and respect for the Prophet is next to none. Yet I am being harassed.”
Dalvi was sacked from her job immediately after her arrest, as Avadhnama’s Mumbai branch shut down on January 19. Since her arrest, Dalvi has been away from home and her children continue to live with their extended family.
The image of a forgiving Prophet Mohammad, on the cover of a magazine that is largely perceived as defiant yet conciliatory, is believed to have infuriated Muslims across Asia, Africa, Europe and, of course, the Middle East.
Photo Credits: Firstpost