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Moroccan Cartoonist Khalid Gueddar Detained and Questioned by Police for Six Hours

08/02/2012

On Monday July 23, 2012, Moroccan editorial cartoonist Khalid Gueddar was detained by police after Khalid reposted a cartoon which he originally created in 2009.  Depicting lingerie being thrown from a minaret of a mosque, the cartoon is a critique of an imam who is alleged to have solicited a prostitute in a mosque.  Khalid said he reposted the cartoon after reports surfaced of a similar incident.  Khalid said he was detained for six hours during which he was questioned about his website, the recently reposted cartoon, his other cartoons, and, his religious beliefs.  The police told Khalid that his cartoon insults Islam.  In statements to CRNI, Khalid and his attorney Omar Bendjelloun said Khalid’s work protects religion by pointing out transgressions by certain imams. To date no charges have been filed against Khalid Gueddar for this cartoon. 

This is not the first time Moroccan authorities have reacted to a cartoon by Khalid Gueddar.  In 2010 fines and judgments totaling 3,150,000 dirhams (approximately $414,000) were issued against both the cartoonist and Taoufik Bouachrine, the editor of the newspaper Akhbar Al Youm.  Each journalist was also issued a suspended jail sentence of four years for “attacking an emblem of the kingdom,” specifically the Moroccan state flag, and, for “failing to show due respect to a member of the royal family.”  The Moroccan royal family had taken exception to a front-page cartoon by Mr. Gueddar in Akhbar Al Youm.  That cartoon depicts King Mohammed’s cousin Prince Molay Ismail celebrating his wedding to a German woman.  The government deemed the cartoon anti-Semitic for an apparent alteration of the star of the Moroccan flag to look like the Star of David.  The Interior Ministry shut down the paper before any evidence was heard by any court.  Eventually Prince Ismail pardoned Gueddar and Bouachrine and rescinded their fines after Gueddar and Bouachrine apologized.  Akhbar Al Youm however was shut down.  The government eventually allowed the staff of Akhbar Al Youm to launch a new paper.

CRNI expresses concern over the recent detention and questioning of Khalid Gueddar.  Khalid’s minaret cartoon appears to be exactly what Khalid and his attorney say it is – a critique of a powerful religious leader’s hypocrisy.  The hypocrisy of the powerful is an appropriate subject for an editorial cartoon.  As Khalid has correctly expressed to us, “drawing cartoons with religious content does not mean that I am against religion.”  Or, as his attorney Omar Bendjelloun has put it, “Gueddar’s cartoons are the greatest defenses of religion because they denounce the dysfunction within our religion.”  The only insult to religion would be the silencing of such speech.