Berlin | A provocative sketch by Der Tagesspiegel cartoonist Klaus Stuttmann, depicting Iranian footballers strapped with explosives, has thrown Germany into the imbroglio over caricatures seen as anti-Islamic. Stuttmann has abandoned his apartment following death threats; an image on the cartoonist’s home page shows him cowering beneath a manhole cover. Violence stemming from the images of Muhammad published in Denmark and the German cartoon, published on Feb 10, resulted in rioting in Pakistan as well as protests at the German Embassy in Tehran.
Stuttmann has defended the cartoon as a metaphor that pokes fun at reports that German World Cup organizers would use the military to help provide security in June. The image shows four Iranian players—stereotypically rendered, with moustaches and five-o’-clock shadows, perhaps to show them as they might appear in the minds of German organizers—with German soldiers as counterparts. The legend reads, “Warum bei der WM unbedingt … die Bundeswehr zum Einsatz kommen muss!” or “Why the German army should definitely be used during the World Cup.”
Already upset at suggestions by German chancellor Angela Merkel that her nation might support military action against Iran, diplomats from Iran wrote Der Tagesspiegel to call the cartoon an “immoral act” and to ask for an apology. The paper has refused, although Stuttmann made clear, in a statement, his intent behind the drawing:
I don’t see the Iranians as suicide bombers. On the contrary: They are athletes like all other athletes. And that is exactly why you do not need the army. I used a metaphor. However, many Iranians have misinterpreted the drawing to mean: We need the army because of the Iranians.
Adds Malte Lehming, editor of the newspaper’s comment section, “Cartoonists have to be satirical and mean.” But the integrity of the Iranian footballers is not under question, the paper says.