Jains Decry Violent Depiction

Perth, Australia March 7, 2006 -- The latest religious scandal involving a drawing deemed to be offensive by a religious group has arisen. World media attention has now shifted to the back blocks of Perth, Australia where six year old Abigail Tuckerbag, a student at Coolabah Billabong Primary School in Perth, has sparked international outrage from Jainists across the globe with her drawing "Jain and dead cow".

This crisis follows directly on the heels of protests by Muslims last month with regard to controversial drawings first published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten depicting unflattering caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Many other Western newspapers soon followed suit, further antagonizing the Muslim world and selling a record numbers of newspaper in the meantime.

According to Coolabah Billabong Primary School Principal, Matilda Jumbuck, "Her drawing has been blown completely out of proportion."

School sources familiar with the incident stated that Abigail and her class had been on a field trip to a local slaughterhouse to see where hamburgers came from. It was during this visit that Abigail's best friend, Jane Swagman, was allowed to make the initial incision into the cow hanging by its hind quarters in order to bleed the cow to death. Apparently this image of Jane stabbing the cow stuck in Abigail's mind and she soon found the time to make the drawing that eventually found its way onto the school's website. The school contends that little Abigail did not know the proper spelling of her best friend's name and that, to their knowledge, it was not intended to be an untoward statement regarding the beliefs of the world's almost 4 million Jains.

"I seriously doubt that Abigail has much of any feelings, either positive or negative, toward Jains or Jainism," Ms. Jumbuck said.

Jain and dead cow
Abigail Tuckerbag's controversial drawing

Whether Abigail intended to or not, the feelings of many of the world's Jains have been hurt. Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, has its roots in South Asia, but has spread from India with expanding communities in the North America, Western Europe, Africa, the Far East and elsewhere. Jainism stresses the spiritual independence and equality of all life, not just humans, with a strict adherence to vegetarianism and a particular emphasis on non-violence toward any form of life.

While being non-violent by nature, Jains are upset with this recent depiction. Vikram Pradeem, of the Jiva Center for Self-Control and Vigorous Asceticism in New Dehli said, "Jains have been misunderstood, misinterpreted and misrepresented for far too long. First, the Nazi's take the swastika, one of our holiest symbols, and make it represent something evil, Now a little girl in Australia makes a mockery of our non-violence toward living creatures." Mr. Pradeem concluded, "I do not know what we will do, but this is just too much."

Arup Banjup, a Jain who works as a street sweeper in Bombay, says he has almost been tempted to take out his frustration, "I am so very, very…what's the word? Angry. Yes, I am so very, very angry at how people think we are cow killers that I thought of taking a handful of cow dung and throwing it at the Australian Consulate." However, Mr. Banjup decided against undertaking this barely violent act since, as he put it, "I was concerned about accidentally injuring one of the flies that were enjoying that particular pile."

The Australian government has been proactively attempting to communicate a message of tolerance and regret to the Jain community after having witnessed how the Danish authorities mishandled the Muhammad situation a month earlier. The fervor of the "Muhammad Crisis" died down once Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen finally be came involved and pointed out the irony to the Muslim world when he stated, "You have been lured into a publicity stunt for the cause of "press freedom" that has led to countless homemade Danish flags being burned by angry protestors across the world for the sake of Western media outlets to make even more money."

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard adeptly took both sides of the issue saying, "We stand by the right of our school children having the right of expression, but we do not condone the blatant insult of the sacred beliefs of foreign religions."

Most nations and observers have remained quiet with regard to this latest religious misunderstanding with the only notable exception being the American television evangelist, Pat Robertson who was quoted as saying, "This innocent girl has drawn what God almighty has put into her sweet heart. He will smite the Jains!"

The girl at the center of the controversy, Abigail Tuckerbag, was unavailable for comment as it was her nap time.

By Raoul Thibodeaux, Avant News Staff Writer

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