Last January, the French left-wing satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo became a household word when 12 people including eight of its staff were massacred at their headquarters in Paris. International solidarity came in the form of the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.
Now Charlie Hebdo is coming under fire for publishing two cartoons about the Syrian refugee crisis which depict Aylan Kurdi, the deceased boy found washed up on a Turkish beach earlier this month. The first cartoon depicts Kurdi with the caption (as translated into English reading) “So close to the finish.” Behind the deceased child is a McDonald’s sign which reads, “Two children’s meals for the price of one.” The second depicts a Christ-like figure walking on water standing next to a dead child whose feet are sticking out of the water. Besides the Christ figure it reads, “Christians walk on water,” while by the dead child it reads, “Muslim children sink.” The overall caption reads, “Proof that Europe is Christian.”
I submit that if the cartoons were published by anyone other than Charlie Hebdo,it would not evoke public comment. Frankly, I don’t think the cartoonists are mocking Kurdi, but rather are mocking what they view as European hostility and indifference to Syrian refugees given what has occurred in Hungary. But I can easily see how the point could be lost on those viewing the cartoons, especially given how Kurdi’s death is still so fresh in the minds of people all over the world. As such I have no objection to people criticizing the cartoons if they see fit. It is certainly possible for the message of European hostility and indifference to Syrian refugees could be illustrated in a different manner that is far more effective. In this light, I highly recommend checking out Michael Cavna’s thoughts on the subject at the Washington Post.
Above all else, it shows that it is possible to criticize the cartoons that appear in Charlie Hebdo without killing the cartoonists. Call it the exercise of freedom of speech. If only the Kouachi brothers had used the pen instead of the sword.
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