Friday, October 03, 2008

Who will bell the Sheikh?

[From my Metro Now column]

Watching the cartoon show Tom & Jerry as a child, I was firmly in the cat’s corner. Though supposedly the villain of the piece – because he was always trying to make an afternoon snack out of cute little Jerry Mouse – Tom had to suffer one indignity after another. Over the course of several episodes, he was (among many other things)
pounded to pulp by a mallet, drilled full of holes, sliced into fine pieces by something resembling a salami shredder, and brutally electrocuted until his brain exploded inside his skull. Of course, he reconstituted himself within a few seconds each time – cartoon cats will do that – but this was still violence of a raw, primal nature, and it was difficult not to feel sympathy for its victim. “That vile rodent needs to be put away for good,” I would mutter to myself, shaking my fist angrily at the TV screen.

I was six years old at the time, but it seems the Muslim cleric Sheikh Muhammad Munajid – who is an adult – feels exactly the same way about Mickey Mouse. Here is a man so cheesed off with cartoon mice that he has launched a fatwa against Walt Disney’s iconic creation, insisting that “Mickey must die”. His case is that rodents are generally disgusting little creatures, “steered by Satan”, and that depicting them in cartoon form has the effect of making them seem cute and lovable. Watching Mickey Mouse has a corrupting influence on little children, who will soon turn to devil worship, and then God is screwed. Or something.

On this evidence, I feel sure the good cleric would not have approved of Jerry either. Also, given his squeamishness about rats contaminating people’s food, I don’t see him encouraging the continuing existence of Remy, the rodent protagonist of the animated film Ratatouille, who serves as chef in a restaurant kitchen. Or Anatole, the mouse from Eve Titus’s children’s books, who works in a cheese factory. Nor would he think highly of Stuart Little
, who is adopted by a human family and eats at the dining table with them.

But I wonder how the Sheikh would feel about another comic-strip character, namely Rat in Stephan Pastis’s excellent Pearls Before Swine. Rat is the opposite of everything that Mickey Mouse stands for. Whereas Mickey – despite a short fuse – is basically good-hearted, a gallant boyfriend to Minnie and a fond master to Pluto, Rat is misanthropic and frequently cruel in thought, speech and deed. He mocks his friends. There’s nothing cute and sweet about him. Any little child reading Pearls Before Swine would immediately conclude that rodents are not nice people. This manner of negative rat-representation in popular fiction should go down well with our Sheikh.

The point is that instead of playing Pied Piper to all fictional mice indiscriminately, the cleric should examine each scuttling pest on its own merits; he might then find a few that would endorse his own views. I propose that copies of every comic strip, story and cartoon show that has ever featured a mouse be sent to him as soon as possible. Going through them should keep him occupied for a few years, which will be a good thing for all concerned parties – mice and men.


  1. You forgot to mention the comedy
    'Mouse Hunt'. :-)

  2. By the way , I clicked on the E-mail subscription thing and found out that the feedburner thing has a sense of humour. After enlisting there was a message , 'we can't wait for your click , which of course was for subscription'. Also the closing message was - no new entry no e-mail for you.

  3. Karthik: there's a whole list of fictional rodents here. Haven't even heard of many of these. Wonder if the Sheikh has.

    Shwet: not sure if that subscription thing is working. I added it yesterday and subscribed to it through two of my email IDs, but haven't received any new-post notifications yet.

  4. Haha! I remember Mind Your Language's Ali talking about how much violence he was seeing on TV lately, and then mentioning that it was esp. on Tom & Jerry :)

  5. I think there should be a compulsory reading session of H2G2 to the Sheikh - he would then understand that he is the rodent and not rats :)

  6. What about the "rodents" from Art Spiegelman's Maus? I bet the good Mullah will find the Joos (sic)=Mice another good reason for a fatwa. ;)

  7. This cleric, Raj Thackeray, Bal Thackeray, Bajrang Dal, fruitcake evangelists - I have no idea how to have a conversation with these people.

    Should we tell Bal Thackeray all South Indians or Muslims are not bad, should we tell Raj Thackeray our constitution allows any Indian to live and work anywhere, should we tell this cleric you cannot have a "workable" fatwa against a cartoon character, should we tell evangelists there are other ways, other than theirs to reach god.

    Where do we start?

  8. I live in freakin' Disney Land, watch mickey's glorious art work every so often..sort of dislike rats..But duh ! I was never able to make that connection with Satan..Argh !! Our IQ must be lower than the mullahs.

  9. so glad to know that there are others who thought the cat got a raw deal. the cheek of that doggone underdog! but even as that smug mouse is winning unsuspecting hearts, the Mickey-mocking Sheikh might already have made it to the state dept's long list of FTOs.

  10. I'm quite intrigued by the media habits of the religious leaders and the upholders of our values and morality.
    Ulema in India are reading tabloids in which they see Salman Khan doing ganpati puja. Bajrang Dal watches MTV. Sheikhs are watching cartoon network. Nope. won't do.
    Media corrupts and in the greater interest of society, these visionaries should boycott all forms of media and lead us, by example to the path of purity.

  11. All my life, I have felt really really really sorry for Tom- in fact that is why I stopped seeing Tom and Jerry- I used to get so miserable at bechara Tom's haalat and all the awful things that happened to him (while everybody was laughing around me).
    Glad that somebody else also feels (felt) the same.

  12. Wow, one banal post and more such thoughts follow. Metro Now really has a lot of columnists. Jhoomur Bose, Jabberwock etc etc.

  13. Liked the "mice and men" touch:)

  14. ROFLMAO..
    that Sheik is goona go into over drive issuing fatwas as animated films are the next big thing :)))