September 24, 2022

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A controversial cartoon published in New Brunswick’s largest French-language newspaper is prompting pushback over how it portrays Muslims. 

The cartoon, published in the Aug. 17 edition of l’Acadie Nouvelle, shows a caveman dragging a woman by her 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, who works at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said the cartoon spreads harmful stereotypes about Canada’s Muslim community. (Submitted by Lina El Bakir)

Lina El Bakir, the organization’s Quebec and francophone community advocacy officer, said she was appalled to see the illustration.

“We thought that kind of stereotypical and harmful imagery was something of the past and as a country we were past that,” she said. “and that’s really frustrating.”

El Bakir said the cartoon is being circulated and is iimpacting the Muslim community across Canada.

“It feeds into a narrative that is destructive,” she said.

Newspaper explains

Francis Sonier, the Acadie Nouvelle editor and managing director, declined an interview but said in a statement the cartoon was in response to a news story about the Taliban.

Paryse Suddith said she felt shame as someone who is half-Acadian when she saw the newspaper’s cartoon of the day. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

On Aug. 16, the paper published an Associated Press story about life in Afghanistan one year after the return of Taliban rule. The article was accompanied by a photo showing fighters holding guns and celebrating their return to power.

The next day,  l’Acadie Nouvelle published the cartoon by Marcel Boudreau. 

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.

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“The cartoon aimed to denounce the behaviour 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 activists in Moncton held a news conference on Tuesday to speak out about the cartoon.

Paryse Suddith, a lawyer with the non-profit Old River Productions and Legal Services, said she felt “shame” after seeing it was printed as the newspaper’s cartoon of the day.

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“People are going to think that people who wear turbans are all violent and are always oppressive against their wives,” Suddith said. “Is this the kind of message that the Acadians want people to think that we think? 

“The image to me was Islamophobia.”

Suddith said she has requested a meeting with Acadie Nouvelle editors to discuss the cartoon.

Quite disgusted’

Inda Intiar, a Moncton resident, said she was initially shocked and angry to see the illustration had been published.

“I also felt quite disgusted,” she told Shift NB. “I just feel there’s so much conversation about all of these lenses of anti-racism, equity inclusion, yet here we are with a cartoon like this getting published.”

Intiar wrote a letter to the editor in response and is arranging a meeting with the newspaper’s editors. She said her biggest concern is that the cartoon contributes to existing harmful narratives.

“People have so many different lived experiences and I think we have to be not just respectful of that but also mindful of the impact of the work that we publish,” she said.

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