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Cartoonist arrested over harmless play on name Mohammed

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediately release of Arifur Rahman, a cartoonist with "Aalpin", the daily newspaper "Prothom Alo"'s weekly satirical upplement. He was arrested at his Dhaka home on 17 September 2007 over a cartoon that was a play on the name Mohammed. The government's press department said the cartoon "hurt religious sentiments." All copies of the supplement were seized. "Prothom Alo" apologised and fired the supplement's deputy editor.

"The play on words had no intention of attacking the Prophet," Reporters Without Borders said "It was a joke about a cultural custom. The government should not yield to pressure from extremist leaders who are trying to politicise the case. Rahman should not be made a scapegoat. He must be freed."

The cartoon appeared on page 6 of the 17 September issue. Entitled "Name", it made harmless fun of the custom in Muslim countries of putting the name Mohammed in front of one's given name. The drawing was accompanied by this dialogue:

- Boy, what's your name?
- My name is Babu.
- It is customary to put Mohammed in front of the name.
- What is your father's name?
- Mohammed Abu.
- What is that on your lap?
- Mohammed cat.

Religious leaders have called for the cartoonist to be severely punished and for "Prothom Alo", one of the country's leading dailies, to be closed. Copies of the newspaper have been burned outside one of the capital's mosques.

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