During the weekend, Montreal Gazette newspaper published a controversial cartoon by Terry Mosher showing a woman in niqab, covered from head to toe with the slit space for her eyes depicted as prison with jail bars and locks.
The cartoonist, however, contends that he drew the cartoon to encourage discussion over the issue of veil, which started off in Nov 2009 when a Muslim woman refused to remove her veil in a French class in Montreal.
Speaking to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mosher said, "In the (Montreal) Gazette this morning, there is actually an editorial in support of the woman, and yet my cartoon is against it. So that is part of the discussion and I think that's a very healthy thing."
Two weeks ago the Muslim woman, Naima Atef Amed filed a petition with the human rights commission in Quebec province for violations of her religious rights. Amed, a mother of three and a new immigrant to Canada, had reportedly refused to sit with male students around a U-table for conversation skill development classes.
The authorities at CEGEP de Saint-Laurent claim that they did everything to accommodate the woman's demands. The college said that they allowed her to sit in the front row and also made suitable arrangements for her to make presentations comfortably.
While Canadians reacted strongly against the woman's insistence to wear the niqab, Muslim leaders have spoken otherwise. Montreal Muslim Council leader Salam Elmenyawi has opined that the cartoon was 'distasteful' and lashed out at the cartoonist by questioning his intentions.
Cartoons, Islam and Controversies
This is not the first time a cartoon has led to major controversies. Last week, a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist was foiled when Irish police arrested seven people working on the murder. The cartoonist had invited the ire of his murderers for putting Prophet Muhammad's head on the body of a dog in a cartoon.
In 2005, a Danish newspaper created a huge stir when it printed cartoons showing Prophet Mohammed carrying a bomb in his turban. They were even reprinted in Jan 2010 by a Norwegian daily as the cartoons hit the headlines again after a Somalian man tried to kill the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.