UPDATED: Group hits ‘absurd’ cartoon series on Muslims, Islam; Rappler says no intent to promote stereotypes

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 May) – A media monitor hit an online news outfit for releasing a comic series that allegedly maligns Muslims and Islam.

In a statement Friday addressed to the editorial board of Rappler, the Moro Media Watch said it was disappointed by the Pugad Baboy comic series by cartoonist Pol Medina Jr. that has put Islam in a bad light.

Moro Media Watch said using the word “Islamist” in the comic storyline of “Pugadbaboy: The Girl from Persia” was “entirely wrong”.

“Do you use the word ‘Christianist’? It surely sounds absurd and wrong… just as how wrong ‘Islamist’ sounds but you tolerate releasing this comic series,” it said.

“As a relatively new media company, it is very disappointing that you reinforce flaws in journalism.

“Your comic series unjustly sow dissension and bad opinion against Muslims and Islam,” it added.

Moro Media Watch stressed that “Fundamentalists, extremists, radicals, Islamists” are not and cannot be Muslims.

It said Rappler’s comic series reinforces linking terrorism to Islam and Muslims. “What does it teach the audience especially the non-discerning ones? That it is true? Is this the opinion you want to inculcate to the readers?”

The group said the worst is the latest comic strip on Thursday, May 28, where a character says, “Lika, inom tayo dito sa likod. Amir… you will drink beer and eat crispy pata with us or I will shave your side.”

“This is an outright insult, provocation and bigotry. It means that the captive is a Muslim and he is being forced to eat pork and drink intoxicating drink.”

Moro Media Watch also cited the “wrong” use of the word “Muslim” in a headline on May 21 by Rappler to describe the proposed Bangsamoro region.

“…In your headline on May 21, 2015 ‘Bill for new Muslim region hurdles Congress committee’, may we point out that it is wrong to call the proposed Bangsamoro political entity as ‘Muslim region’. It gives impression that it is for the Filipino Muslims which is false. The Bangsamoro region is for the Muslims, Christians and Lumads,” it said.

“Furthermore, in ‘Rappler Talk: Moving on after Mamasapano’ published March 06, 2015, Maria Ressa asked Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang, ‘What lessons did the military learn as an institution in dealing with the Muslims and indigenous people, and the realistic prospects for peace at this point? How successful is the Philippines’ fight against terrorism?’” it added.

The group said the question is wrong for using the phrase “dealing with Muslims”.

It noted that other rebel groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army are not being labeled according to religion.

In a statement addressed to Moro Media Watch a copy of which was emailed to MindaNews, Rappler clarified that “irreverence” is Mr. Medina’s unique brand as a cartoonist.

“He (Mr. Medina) has poked fun at overweight people, LGBT, politicians and even nuns,” Rappler said, adding “Mr. Medina often takes hackneyed stereotypes and puts them in absurd storylines to elicit his brand of laughter.”

“Pugad Baboy’s ‘The Girl from Persia’ has a solid take on reality as well as fantasy – Muslim terrorists are based in the Philippines like the Abu Sayyaf and the Rajah Sulaiman Movement. There’s also a talking dog in the story,” Rappler said.

“The characters represent old action movie cliches set in current events,” it pointed out.

“There are good and bad Muslim characters in the storyline, just as there are good and bad Christians,” it said.

It emphasized that “as a news organization, Rappler promotes the understanding of complex political and social issues and does not tolerate prejudice nor bigotry.”

Rappler also stressed that it respects the artistic independence of Mr. Medina, a multi-awarded cultural icon.

“We enjoin Moro Media Watch to go beyond the cliches of so-called political correctness and truly be a watchdog that will promote the interest of Muslims, instead of seeing transgressors behind every cartoon.

“His comics do not reinforce stereotypes, but take up these stereotypes for all of us to ridicule and eventually understand that labels have no power,” it continued. (MindaNews)