Prophet caricature controversy: Newspaper gives unconditional apology

Writer with ‘noble intent’ becomes a victim; wonders whether Muslims will abide by the spirit of his article or restore to the very stereotypes which he was challenging in the public imagination of Islam.

By Staff Reporter,

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Hyderabad: The publication of Prophet Mohammed’s caricature in a local Telugu Newspaper, Andhra Parabha owned by The New Indian Express Group is snowballing into a major controversy after Muslim political parties upped the ante and filed criminal cases against the editor and the author of the article.

On the complaint of MIM general secretary Ahmed Pasha Quadri to Additional Police Commissioner (law &order), Jubilee hills police station under whose jurisdiction Andhra Prabha office is located registered a case under Section 153(A) for ‘promoting enmity in groups on ground of religion’ and 295(A) for ‘deliberate or malicious acts intend to outrage religious feelings’ under the Indian Penal Code. Another political party MBT has also filed a similar complaint.

Click here to see the Clipping of Andhra Prabha.

The article titled ‘Mahopakari Mohammed Pravakta’ (Mercy for the mankind Prophet Mohammed) published on May 1 from Hyderabad, carried on page 12, had the image of old bearded man with Turkish features.

After getting under heavy criticism from various quarters of the Muslim community Andhra Prabha tendered unconditional apology in Urdu and Telugu in all its editions on May 2.

With title ‘Appeal to Muslim brother’ the apology from the newspaper stated, “In the newspaper Andhra Parbha the article which was published in the praise of Prophet Mohammed the image which was used in the article was used without the knowledge of the editorial. And editorial is concerned over the issue. We accept complete responsibility regarding this and express our deep regret and assure that this kind of mistake will not repeat ever. Andhra Parbha respects the sentiment of Muslims. According to the principles of Islam publishing of any kind of caricature of Prophet Mohammed is prohibited but due to a mistake the caricature was published in the article. It was not some planned incident. Accepting Prophet Mohammed to be the Helper of Humanity, to spread the teachings and message of Prophet Mohammed on Friday special article was published. Editorial of Andhra Parbha in the future will take care that sentiments of Muslim brothers are not hurt, not only this but principles of Islam will also be given respect.”

Andhra Prabha apology
Andhra Prabha apology

When contacted Andhra Prabha office to get their version on the controversy, Madhuri, assistant to Telangana Editor, informed that Editor is out of station and that was the main reason that such a goof up occurred. She said that a new intern edited the column and added the image; adding that they have initiated action against her. “It was an honest mistake on part of new recruit, we have already extended our unconditional apologies to Muslim community in all the print editions,” she said.

Sheikh Mehboob resident of Bhadrachalam in Khamam district, who wrote the article speaking with, pleaded his innocence in the whole controversy. “I am associated with Jamat-e-Islami and write for its Telugu journal ‘Gitorai’. I also write Friday columns in several Telugu dailies including Andhra Prabha for many years highlighting noble things of Islam in an attempt to remove lot of misconceptions about our religion in other communities,” Mehboob said.

“When I saw the image, I was shocked to the core and immediately rang the editor and registered my strong protest. In turn editor assured me of unconditional apology to the community. In my writing experience, this is the first time such an incident occurs which has left my whole family perplexed,” the author said.

A scared Mehboob who is now facing criminal investigation for no fault of his, said he is receiving threat calls. “I have already met ASP Badrachalam and informed him about the situation and how I am getting dragged into the controversy. It was the mistake solely of Andhra Prabha and they have already apologized for their awful act,” he said.

Mehboob said he is group IV employee of the Government and have hand to mouth existence. In spare time he writes columns to spread the message of peace of Prophet Mohammed. In a fix now, he wonders whether Muslims will abide by the spirit of his article or restore to the very stereotypes which he was challenging in the public imagination of Islam.