Political Cartoonists Talk Shop at U.N.

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Political cartoonists discussed the power of their pens and brushes at the United Nations on Monday and the pressures they face — highlighted by the Muslim outrage over a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.

Cartoons “can encourage us to look critically at ourselves, and increase our empathy for the sufferings and frustration of others,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in opening remarks at the gathering. “But they can also do the opposite. They have, in short, a big responsibility.”

But they all agreed they must pay attention to the current political climate.

“It is a new challenge for us,” he said.

Carsten Graabaek said he accepted “with some trepidation” the invitation to speak Monday as one of the 40 Danish cartoonists originally contacted by the newspaper to depict the Prophet Muhammad.

“I think cartooning is about what goes on on Earth and freedom of speech is a worldly affair, a secular affair, whereas the prophet and respect for the prophet and the ban on drawing or painting his likeness is a spiritual matter,” Graabaek said.

“I don?t think you should incite people, just to incite them,” he said, “and I think that?s what the Danish cartoonists, or editors, did.”

An exhibition of more than 200 cartoons about the Holocaust opened in August in Tehran as Iran ?s response to the Danish cartoons.

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