LONDON: An incendiary cartoon published by a Qatar-backed news website that shows US President Donald Trump and two Arab leaders apparently summoning the devil has been widely criticized online.
The cartoon, by US-based illustrator Katie Miranda, shows Trump, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi around a crystal ball, in a scene inspired by a real-life photocall during the inauguration of an anti-terror center in Riyadh earlier this month.
But the cartoon, published on Wednesday, shows the devil and an “underworld” below the leaders gathered around the crystal ball, with the line “we have been summoned!” and demons rejoicing at death and “more dead kids!”
It was published by the London-based website Middle East Eye, which despite claiming to be independent and having “no political master,” is widely believed to be backed by Qatar.
Many social media users slammed the publication of the cartoon. One pointed out the irony of the criticism leveled against the three leaders, who had met to inaugurate the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology — nicknamed “Etidal,” or “moderation” — which aims to promote moderation and counter the spread of extremism.
Saudi Twitter user @Alshega criticized the cartoon for making fun of the Etidal center, which was launched earlier this month during Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
Another user, from the UAE and who tweets @uae_12G, slammed the cartoon for mocking Saudi Arabia and the Arab and Muslim countries that participated in the Riyadh Summit. And another, tweeting @SBAlketbi, said that Qatar continues to show disrespect through the Middle East Eye website, which is edited by David Hearst, a former foreign correspondent for The Guardian.
Some of the Middle East Eye’s output is perceived by some as being in line with Doha’s stance on certain issues. The Trump “devil” cartoon carried a disclaimer saying the views expressed “do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.”
A former executive with Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV network was reportedly closely involved with setting up the Middle East Eye, which had employed staff with links to organizations sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to a press report from 2014. Al-Jazeera said at the time it had no links to the Middle East Eye.
The website was one of the several Qatar-backed media outlets to be blocked in Saudi Arabia and the UAE earlier this month, in an ongoing political spat with Doha over inflammatory comments attributed to the nation’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
Qatar News Agency (QNA) ran comments by the country’s leader said to have been made at a National Service graduation ceremony.
The emir reportedly endorsed Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and criticized the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt for waging a campaign against Doha. Qatar later said its news agency had been hacked, although failed to provide concrete evidence of this.