Mahadin Pleads Not Guilty & Hajjaj Offends Jordanian Christians With Cartoon

Yesterday, Khaled Mahadin’s trial began. For those who don’t know, Mahadin is being sued by Parliament for slander by way of an article posted on, a Jordanian news site. A few protesters gathered outside Parliament yesterday morning as Mahadin was pleading not guilty. I hope he’ll win this case.

Meanwhile, in other media news, cartoonist Emad Hajjaj is facing some flak from the Christian community over a caricature he published recently. The cartoon basically has the Minister of Water in one box claiming that recently polluted water gifted to us by the Israelis did not access Jordan’s drinking water supply and was instead disposed of in the Jordan River – a commentary on Jordan Valley Authority Secretary General Musa Jamaani who announced last month that the contaminated water was “discarded into valleys that led to the Jordan River.” Jamaani is currently being questioned by a fact-finding committee.

In the second box Abu Mahjoob is baptizing Tony Blair with polluted water – a commentary on Blair’s recent visit to the site.

I get the political message – Blair attempting to baptize himself in dirty waters, like Lady Macbeth trying to wash her hands of blood that refused to fade. Hajjaj was good to quickly put out a statement and defend his cartoon instead of allowing this to simmer, but I am struggling to understand what some Christians have found offensive about it. If anything the outrage should be directed at the actual issue of the government allegedly polluting this holy site. If I was told that Mecca’s holy water was polluted by the government and a cartoon depicted exactly that, I would be angrier with the obvious issue at hand.

With the Pope visiting soon and thousands of pilgrims expected to arrive at the baptism site, I would think those angry with this cartoon would have more pressing concerns.

Interestingly enough, this mini-controversy has been fueled online, with hundreds joining facebook groups against and in support of Hajjaj, while on his site, a long thread of comments hosts an ongoing debate. The inevitable comparisons to the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) cartoons are there and I find them to be a truly unfair comparison.

What do you think?


  • A typical case of shooting the messenger rather than interpreting the message properly!

    I think the cartoon is very expressive and has a strong message and I don’t find it abusive of Christianity at all .. in fact; I see it as a clear objection on polluting the holy site, and that’s what we ALL should be angry and upset for.

    As for comparing this to the really abusive infamous cartoons of prophet Mohammad; I see it as unfair and uncalled for …

  • I just posted on this before seeing yours. Maybe it will add some insight.

    I don’t see any comparison between the last controversy and this one. It wasn’t Jesus Christ Mahjoob characterized. No one is threatening to kill anyone (I hope).

    I just had a pastor’s wife visit, she said: “Mahjoob struck a nerve for us with this cartoon.” I haven’t read the comments and didn’t join the Facebook group, but may to see what she meant.

  • If a cartoon is made about an islamic religious ritual even if it’s a small non foundational one like stoning the invisible devil in Mecca (which i think is comical) most muslims will get all sensitive and be up in arms about it.

    The cartoon comically depicts baptism, priesthood and falsely indicates that all your sins are washed and you are holier after the holy dip, Christians might find it offensive. The (oh dear lord yes i believe) is a very Hollywood like depiction of evangelical and southern baptist baptisms. but it’s a CARTOON not an informative brochure

    Personally, I don’t mind any religious cartoons I’m all for freedom of speech in the name of comedy but i despise the double standard in our society that laughs its ass off over (yel3an Roma) but would get crazy mad over (yel3an Mecca) (remember that LOL). Arab Christians are more liberal than Arab Muslims but that doesn’t mean their religion should be unequally mocked because they don’t raise hell about every cartoon or joke.

    In the name of equality all religions should be fair game for any comic material.
    So to all those who don’t find it offensive stay in this position when the tables turns cause otherwise you will be hypocrites.

  • I don’t think Emad wanted to offend anyone,he is trying to bring to your attention the contaminated water we drink,it is the government that offends all of us by dumping the waste water in the Jordan’s.In my opinion, contaminating this
    river is far more offend able than this cartoon .
    Iam for mocking all religion including mine…

  • Well guys. I don’t think Imad was trying to be offensive. But hey! I am not Christian and I can’t be the judge on that.

  • Here is what I don’t understand (well, a lot! but here is what I don’t understand about this): In the Danish cartoon that muslims got upset over, the cartoon artist was trying to show how Islam (portrayed by the prophet Muhamad) was “hijacked” by terrorists meaning they commit atrocities in its name. People missed that point completely and thought the cartoonist was saying Muhamad or Islam in general was terroristic, but if they actually read (or looked at) the cartoon, they probably would agree with its message.
    It seems to me that the point of this cartoonist was also to call attention to the person, not make fun of the act of baptism.
    People have way too much time on their hands or they just look for things to get mad about. I guess that’s true of every religion.

  • I don’t see the cartoon as offensive at all, it’s only that people and government in this country are alwats afraid to face the truth! I love Hajjaj

  • @maha: while i disagree with your interpretation of the caricature, i agree with your reasoning.

    @neighbor: looking at those danish caricatures it was quite obvious that what you just argued wasn’t at all what they wanted to show. even for people who completely opposed the reaction acknowledge that they were indeed offensive.

  • whats interesting is theres no thread about this on the mahjoob forums .. at least not that i know of .. plenty of threads about haykal though .. an issue u have chosen to ignore so far on your blog .. any thoughts on that?

  • The caricature was a little offensive. I read Hajjaj’s explanation, and I believe him when he said that he didn’t intend to offend anyone, but he’s not sorry about offending anyone, the proof is that his cartoon is still there on his website.

  • @mo: “plenty of threads about haykal though .. an issue u have chosen to ignore so far on your blog .. any thoughts on that?”

    lol you say that is if I made a conscious decision if not a concerted effort to ignore it 😀

  • ok maybe the wording was not the best .. what i meant to say is that you haven’t said anything about the whole haykal drama .. i don’t know if that was intentional or not

  • I do believe in freedom of speech, emad wanted to reach everyone by this cartoon and i guess he did in the right way.

  • All you hypocrites that say you believe in freedom of speech then accept the Danish Cartoon, or is it only a beilef you stick to when it offends what you call “kufaar”?

    All I can say to this blog and to Hajjaj is Bravo, well calculated. SHAME ON YOU.

  • Okay, when I first saw the cartoon, I was most offended by the fact that it just isn’t funny (and he usually is). Although, I don’t find it overly offensive, I do find it to be an untenable double standard. Either everything is fair game (all religious sacraments from all religions) or all are protected. Someone, somewhere needs to get the idea that if the minority highlighted in the cartoon finds it offensive (which most do), it’s offensive. Intent aside. Either we judge all such attempts by intent or simply agree that freedom in this way is untenable in this society and refrain from religious cartoons period.

    The double standard is what I actually find most troubling, not the cartoon, not the intent. I think some serious introspection is called for. But then again, I’m not boycotting anyone or anything. I tend to expect the double-standard…

  • Nas:

    Let me ask a question. If there was a cartoon of a Muslim leader conducting the ritual Wodoo’ (washing up before prayers) using urine instead of water would you be offended?

    If the answer is yes, then now you know how Arab Chirstians would feel. Bottom line, I find it truly sad that some muslims are commenting that they believe it is not offensive

    This double standard need to stop. This is yet another example of persecution and the irony is not seen.

  • @mo: no, not intentional. frankly, i just didn’t find it interesting.

    @AC: i don’t think your analogy fits. you just threw some thing on the fire in hopes that it would turn in to a meal. to make your analogy more accurate it would have to be the saudi government declaring that the contaminated water it got from israel was discarded of in the zamzam well in mecca, and then feature omar bashir absolving himself in its water. in that case, i would find the fact that the government did that to be offensive, and bashir’s absolution to be hypocritical. a waste of my time, energy and focus would be attempting to funnel my outrage in to whether the cartoonist was offending Islam as opposed to whether these actions were offending my religion.

    there are two issues this specific caricature addresses here: the government supposedly leaking the contaminated water from israel in to the Jordan River (which is also religiously significant for muslims by the by), and the second issue being Tony Blair’s under-the-radar visit to the site recently. Hajjaj found a clever way of connecting the two issues that have the Jordan River as their common denominator.

    as for talk of double standards.

    i’m not going to pretend there are none. i’m sure there are. there are also double standards that muslims have to bear when living in predominantly christian communities. that being said, i don’t think this is a case of one and to insist that it is, is to actually erode the credibility of the real double standard that exists. bad analogies and words like “persecution” don’t help your cause. in other words, there are bigger fires to put out that are worthy the reservoir of water being poured on this.

    and that’s my point.

  • We have to atleast acknowledge how this cartoon can be seen as offensive. I read Hajjaj’s comment and it did not include an apology. I’m a big Hajjaj fan, always have been and always will be. But, besides explaining his cartoon, he should have (i) acknowledged how it may have been interpreted in an offensive way and (ii) apologise for not being careful enough in narrowing down the interpretation.

    And Nas, that is how a fire would have been put out much faster without compromising Hajjaj’s creative integrity.

  • “i’m not going to pretend there are none. i’m sure there are. there are also double standards that muslims have to bear when living in predominantly christian communities.”

    This tit for tat approach that you are using to justify a wrong is nothing short of pouring fuel on the fire. Just because you believe there is a dobule standard in palces where muslims are the minority, it still does not make it right to have double standards in Jordan, does it?

  • ok ill take that as a no comment :p

    regarding the cartoon .. i dont find it offensive but then again i dont belive in baptism so i dont think im qualified to answer the question anyway

  • I tried to sit on the sidelines on this one but I finally feel compelled to say something. While I understand that perhaps Hajjaj (and Nas for that matter) do not think this cartoon is offensive, frankly that is not the issue. The issue is that a group of people whose belief system is different from that of the author found it offensive. As such, it is appropriate to apologize at least for seemingly offending them.

    Baptism for Christians is the most sacred rite. I know that Muslims don’t know that in general, but perhaps it is not a good enough reason to claim that people should not be offended. I think it is reasonable to show a certain amount of respect for each other’s beliefs and refrain from mocking them. Perhaps we should err on the side of tolerance.

    However, if we choose not to err on the side of tolerance and focus more on free speech, then should we not be open to the idea of allowing all cartoons to be shown in our papers without reprecussions. Would Muslims be comfortable with showing cartoons that are offensive to some of them but not others?


  • @arabi:

    This tit for tat approach that you are using to justify a wrong is nothing short of pouring fuel on the fire. Just because you believe there is a dobule standard in palces where muslims are the minority, it still does not make it right to have double standards in Jordan, does it?

    you are absolutely right, which is why i pointed out in the sentence that followed that context matters.

    @El3atal: you’re viewpoint is both valid and interesting. however, you are wrong in assuming muslims in general do not know about the sacredness behind the act of baptism. and i do understand that some people might find this offensive, as pretty much anything published will find a group of people who find it offensive. however, the “whys” and “hows” are important to me in this specific case.

  • Baptism is a fundamental tenant of Christianity and the Jordan river waters are the ultimate symbol of spiritual purity for Christian believers. When religion, any religion, is used to poke fun at the political content of the cartoon there is no separation of the two issues here. Using this symbolism to emphasize sarcasm of political issues is no different from using any other religious symbol of other religions which could be offensive to many, I may not practice religion myself but I will not poke fun of my religious neighbor when he is praying. As an Arab my standards of morality dictate respect for all peoples and their religions.
    Hajaj has erred, I would assume unintetionally, an apology is in order, any thing less would be adding insult to injury


  • I do hope hajjaj’s cartoon was unintentional otherwise he ought to apologize not only to the Christians, but to the whole of Jordan, it’s our only River, and using it wisely since it lies in a biblical site will help benefit the country and religious tourism.

Your Two Piasters: