Kathleen Parker

So there's this caveman, see, and he goes to his outhouse in the middle of the night, slams the door and, noticing the aroma therein, says: "Is it just me or does it stink in here?"

Get it? Of course you get it. In America we call this bathroom humor. Little boys have been giggling about outhouses and their accompanying olfactory assaults since, well, caveman days.

No doubt Johnny Hart's recent "B.C." comic strip depicting same got lots of little-boy giggles from fans of his strip, which he began in 1958 when Americans still had a sense of humor.

But in a bizarre turn that makes even cavemen seem sophisticated, the panel also has provoked howls of outrage from some Muslims, as well as academics and assorted harrumphers, who feel the cartoon was a crude assault on Islam.

I know what you're thinking: How could a cartoon about an outhouse insult Islam? Let's just say it helps if you're the sort who can see subliminal sexual messages concealed in the ice cubes of liquor ads.

The strip in question featured three frames, each showing an outhouse, which is distinguished from a plain shed by the traditional outhouse symbol, which is - can you take it, Harvard? That's right - a crescent moon! The crescent moon is also shown hanging in the sky just outside the outhouse to indicate - Yale? Bingo! - it's nighttime.

OK, now pay close attention because this part gets tricky. Between frames one and two Hart wedged the vertically written letters S-L-A-M. Anyone? Anyone? Yes, you back there in the CAIR T-shirt.

"Quite obviously, it's a slam against Islam."

Allrighty. Anyone else? Yes, you, the young man in the cowboy hat.

"What the heck's he talking about, Is-lam? He slammed the dadgum door. Slam means slam."

Well, we'll just see about that. Since Hart's comic strip appeared Nov. 10, he's been the object of the sort of debate that makes one wonder whether we've been transported to an alternate, humorless universe where everything is literal.

The stink began when someone posted a comment on washingtonpost.com that the strip made no sense except metaphorically. Crescent moons, you see, are associated with Islam as well as with American outhouses. Therefore, the reader suggested, the strip - otherwise unfunny in his view - was a veiled attack on Islam.

Then CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) jumped on the bandwagon, not literally of course, and noted that vertically stacking "SLAM" between the two frames - which could be viewed as the shape of an "I" - could be viewed as signifying Islam.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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