Student journalists at the College of DuPage ran 12 controversial political cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, including the one that sparked riots worldwide, saying they wanted to provoke discussion.
As the Courier newspaper was missing in action on the Glen Ellyn campus Friday, that was a difficult task. Batches of the free paper wound up in garbage cans and recycling bins as detractors sought to get the paper out of circulation.
“Some people literally put them in their cars, took them and left,” said Kristina Zaremba, the Courier’s 21-year –old editor-in chief.
The decision to run nearly a full page of the controversial cartoons — in color — was sparked by a speech May 1 by political cartoonist Scott Nychay titled “Drawing Fire: A discussion of the Art of Visual Satire and the Muslim Cartoon Controversy.”
His presentation — by all accounts — included little about those cartoons, and he did not distribute them.
“In order to cover the event properly, we (felt we) would have to show the cartoons,” Zaremba said. “We wanted to objectively present the cartoons so people could make their own decisions.”
They asked representatives of the Muslim Student Association and the International Education Office to provide input and published it alongside the cartoons with an explanation of the editorial board’s decision. No one from the association could be reached for comment Friday.
Zinta Konrad, who heads the International Education Office, opposed the publication of the images that first ran in a Denmark newspaper last October.
“I’m sorry that it happened,” she said Friday. “I hope something good comes from it.”
So does Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of the Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Students contacted him this week when they heard the newspaper was publishing the cartoons.
He advised them to take a three-pronged approach: Don’t be confrontational as the student journalists have a right to freedom of expression, and confrontation gives the issue unwanted publicity; request equal access to explain “our stance on Islam”; and set up a town hall meeting where Muslims and non-Muslims can get to know and understand each other and discuss the issues.
“What we have done in the past with the cartoon situation … is we have taken the approach to make the best out of it through education,” Rehab said.
College President Sunil Chand released a statement Friday in response to the situation.
“I deeply regret the decision made by the editorial board of the Courier … to publish controversial cartoons. Most major newspapers, including the New York Times, chose not to publish the images due to their questionable nature,” he said.
“In publishing the images,” Chand said, “the Courier did not reflect the values, aspirations and commitments of the College, and certainly not of myself, its President. College of DuPage will always be a place where inclusiveness, respect and empathy are upheld”