Silencing "Opus"

The Washington Post and two dozen other papers declined to run two comic strips that could maybe, possibly, perhaps somehow offend some Muslims, somewhere, perhaps.

Published August 26, 2007 3:25PM (EDT)

We're proud to host Berkeley Breathed's "Opus" every week, but especially this week and next: At least 25 of the newspapers that normally print the comic strip, and probably more, have declined these two, at least partly out of fear that Lola Granola's latest spiritual journey -- dabbling in Islam and adopting its conservative dress code for women -- could be offensive to Muslims. Sadly, one of the papers that isn't printing the strip is the Washington Post, though the Post's syndication service, Washington Post Writers Group, distributes Opus. (The Washington Post actually ran the strip online, though it was hard to find, but not in the paper.)

According to Editor and Publisher, some papers were concerned that the strips were sexually suggestive -- Lola's boyfriend Steve makes a joke about things he's "not getting" because of her conversion -- but the anxiety seemed to stem mostly from Breathed's making radical Islam "the hot new fad on the planet," as Lola says. Washington Post Writers Group Executive Sales Manager Karisue Wyson told E&P some papers "won't publish any Muslim-related humor, whether pro or con. 'They just don't want to touch that,' she said."

I thought the strip satirized loopy American seekers who customize world religions for their own needs, not Islam. But either way, it's cowardice to shun the strip. And newspapers wonder why they're dying?

By Joan Walsh

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