Last year, an issue arose in France around an attack against magazine Charlie Hebdo, a relatively obscure publication that was known for its satirical cartoons. The resulting attack resulted in a wave of outrage with the hashtag #IAmCharlie and#JeSuisCharlie trending, causing much discussion about free speech and its boundaries.
Those discussions are back this year, as Charlie Hebdo has decided it was appropriate to publish a cartoon based on the tragedy of the drowned Syrian refugee child, Aylan Kurdi. The cartoon suggests it was good that the 3 year old died because he would have simply grown up to be a sexual offender, in light of some attacks in Cologne, Germany, where the alleged sexual offenders were also immigrants.
Charlie Hebdo published the picture a week after the first anniversary of the attack on the magazine, where 11 people were left dead and 11 others were injured. I shouldn’t need to say how this is a blatant and sickening cry for attention and publicity: the cartoon depicts a child dead and face down in the sand with a caption reading:
“What would little Aylan have grown up to be? Ass groper in Germany”
The cartoon that caused the attack last year was a depiction of the prophet Mohammed, and was not their first depiction of the prophet; they had published others including one showing the prophet about to be decapitated by a member of ISIS for apparently being an infidel, and another showing him to be gay. Having looked through several of these images and articles, the public reaction seems pretty consistent: that such ‘satire’ isn’t worth the consequences they unfortunately suffered.
Very few people mentioned that these depictions were an incredible insult to many people, bearing in mind that, in accordance to Islam, the prophet should never be depicted in any way out of respect. The reaction to the cartoon of Aylan, however, is quite different. Most feel it is distasteful and racist, but of course there are those who claim the opposite…
Hebdo – ‘What would little Aylan have grown up to be? Ass groper in Germany’. Don’t be apalled you just don’t get it pic.twitter.com/LIYJEYjydy
— Nesrine Malik (@NesrineMalik) January 13, 2016
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) January 13, 2016
Respectfully, the truth seems clear here: Charlie Hebdo are out of line – and were in their previous cartoons depicting Mohammed too. They’re proving themselves to have an appalling attitude that speaks of a frightening lack of human connection, which seems to be becoming more and more prevalent these days. Perhaps not everyone understood the disrespect caused by the Mohammed cartoon, and whilst launching a terror attack on the publication is never justifiable, perhaps this new cartoon that more people can relate to – and therefore feel offended by – will open some eyes.
This was someone’s child, running from war and horrors that no-one should have to experience in this day and age. He had nothing to do with what happened in Germany, and though satire is all well and good, Charlie Hebdo have a habit of making cartoons overly-reliant on racist stereotypes. Any who study history are aware of the propaganda used by the Nazis showing Jews with giant noses or of American propaganda showing black people with coal black skin and giant lips – and we find that abhorrent. Yet we stand in solidarity with a magazine that does basically the same thing, even after the devastating attacks that occurred?
Free speech is great, yet it comes with responsibility; it should be used with respect, honour and common manners. Above all, it should be used with an understanding of the consequences that can arise if what is said is found to be offensive. This isn’t about political correctness, this isn’t about being soft and pandering to anyone: this is about a dead child being used to push sales. Frankly, it’s disgusting. #IAmNotCharlie. #JeNeSuisPasCharlie.