Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida publication of a cartoon of the founder of Islam Mohammed last Sunday.
The investigation, illustrating the stark absence of free speech within PA-controlled areas, comes less than a month after Abbas took part in an anti-terror and freedom of speech rally of world leaders in Paris following the lethal attack on Charlie Hebdo, after the satirical magazine ran cartoons of Mohammed. Abbas's presence struck many as odd, leading to a hilarious series of photo-bombed pictures.
The cartoon that sparked Abbas's investigation was in fact very positive towards Mohammed – in it a man in a robe is seen straddling the world, reaching into a heart-shaped pouch to sow "seeds of love," above the caption "our prophet, Mohammed."
Abbas was quoted in his WAFA news agency as saying it is "necessary to take deterrent measures against those responsible for this terrible mistake," reports AFP, noting that Islam bans any depiction of Mohammed, giving him divine status similar to Allah in being beyond representation.
Mohammed Sabaaneh, who drew the cartoon, told AFP it was "misunderstood," but did not elaborate.
In a Facebook page post, he said he was trying to defend Islam "using the same methods as those who seek to insult the prophet – cartoons."
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida apologized for the cartoon on Tuesday, saying it had also launched an internal investigation. It also denied the figure was meant to be Mohammed – despite the caption naming him directly.
Trying to play off the contradiction, a member of the paper's editorial staff told AFP that "Sabaaneh wanted to show through the drawing the grains of tolerance and love of Islam, incarnate as a man. The aura of light around him in the cartoon is the legacy left to Muslims by Mohammed."
The cartoonist told AFP in an interview last month following the Islamist terror attack on the satirical magazine in Paris that the attacks were despicable, saying "you have to react in kind, combating idea with idea, cartoons with cartoons – not through murder."
Abbas's investigation throws greater emphasis on the rampant abuses of human rights conducted by his regime, and likewise on the fact that he is the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah terrorist organizations.