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Cartoonist sorry for Sikh slur

Washington, Oct. 19 (PTI): A cartoonist who offended Sikhs in the US by associating them with Osama bin Laden in her caricatures has apologised, saying her “insensitivity to the Sikh situation was idiotic and unfortunate”, and clarified that she meant no harm.

Carol Lay’s cartoon depicting a Sikh as “Randy bin Laden, Osama’s no-good cousin” sparked an uproar in the Sikh community here with a legal team of the United Sikhs Organisation accumulating more than 2,500 signatures on a petition demanding a public apology.

Lay did remove the cartoon from her website after the backlash but later tried to make light of the controversy and put up another cartoon on the site titled Field Guide to Turbans, in which she illustrated the different kinds of turbans worn.

“Lay’s attempts to make a connection between a Sikh man and the world’s biggest fugitive, especially by using remarks such as ‘a shady character’ and ‘Osama’s no-good cousin Randy bin Laden’, amount to stereotyping and are likely to trigger more misdirected behaviour and hate crimes against Sikh Americans,” the legal team said.

The Sikh community had been a target of attacks since September 11, and a US court recently handed down a death sentence to a man who shot down a Sikh after mistaking him for an Arab a day after the terrorist strikes.

“I wouldn’t go as far as to call it an apology. We’re happy that she took down the cartoons and we’re happy that she recognises that they were distasteful. We would like a better apology, but we’re happy with what we got,” Harneet Singh, the United Sikhs’ legal adviser, told the India-West newspaper.

While Lay apologised for both cartoons, she said she had been flooded with thousands of hate mails, some of which threatened her safety, and appealed to the United Sikhs to withdraw the petition.

A copy of the petition was also forwarded to the Hartford Courant, a Connecticut newspaper that published the cartoon.

In an e-mail to the India-West, Lay contended that her target in the original strip was California governor Gray Davis but said her attempt was “too complicated”.

“A couple of Sikh readers understood what I was attempting and saw that I did not intend to harm Sikhs but did so accidentally. I don’t consider the strip successful because it offended many, and I have had to explain it. Any strip that needs to be explained is a bad cartoon. It was a pleasure to remove it from my site — I hope I never see it again,” Lay said in her e-mail.

In its press release, the United Sikhs appealed to all Sikhs to be considerate and respectful in all forms of communication, saying hate mail and threats are not only anti-Sikh behaviour but continue the cycle of mistrust and miscommunication.

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