At MuslimGirl, we got our friend, bonafide street artist and activist Sam Romero, to help us reimagine what a Charlie Hebdo cartoon about Baby Aylan Kurdi should look like.
I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that free speech was to be used to advocate against government corruption and for equal rights and social justice and other silly things like that.
My mistake. Apparently, the West protects its right to “free speech” so that we can mock dead children who have washed up onto shores during their tragic search for a safe life. I got it now.
In a truly distasteful manner, Charlie Hebdo has now published two cartoons ridiculing the death of Aylan — may God rest his tiny soul — and the other children of Syria who were forced into becoming refugees. Both images were drawn by — and I use this term lightly — “artist” Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau.
The first page of the cartoon depicts a headline, “Welcome, migrants,” and features a grotesque drawing of the lifeless 3-year-old face down in the sand with the French caption, “So Close to the Goal.” Above what is clearly supposed to be Aylan’s body, is a billboard that advertises a “2-for-1 McDonald’s Happy Meal” with the smiling face of the Mickey D’s clown and the words, “Two children’s menus for the price of one.” Distasteful image below. Sorry in advance for the rage you’re about to feel.
But wait! There’s more. As if one cartoon wasn’t enough, Hebdo published another – this time with the headline, “The Proof that Europe is Christian.” The cartoon portrays a drowning child with their legs in the air and a man, poorly resembling Jesus walking on water beside him. The caption says, “Christians walk on water… Muslim kids sink.” Tacky image below. Sorry again for the added rage.
Just eight months since the terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris that claimed twelve lives, the publication continues to put out controversial cartoons, but this was a new low. What has become of the world today that a photograph of a lifeless child who died because he was fleeing a violent war becomes comedic ammunition for a “political cartoonist”? Some have taken to Twitter in an effort to rightfully criticize the publication claiming that these images are more offensive than the religious cartoons they have previously released. Others have simply asked, “Where are your #JeSuisCharlie signs now?” with a link to the two covers.
On the other hand, others – some even belonging to the Muslim community – have defended the cartoons. Maajid Nawaz, founder of Quilliam, interprets that the image with the billboard represents “heartless Western consumerism in the face of one of the worst human tragedies of our time.” Nawaz carried on to defend the second cartoon, claiming that the image of “Christians walking on water while Muslims drown is (so obviously) critiquing hypocritical European Christian ‘love’.” It’s a brilliant interpretation, and one we’d be eager to believe, but is it Hebdo’s intended message?
I think Hebdo – given their past with the Muslim community and their fetish of offensively drawing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – would have made just a tiny bit more of an effort to clearly relay their message of European criticism if it was actually what they meant to say. We are desperately trying to make sense of these cartoons. We want to believe they’re actually some type of “meta” dig at Europe in their own offensiveness, because it’s hard to imagine that someone could do something so inhumane as to mock a dead toddler; but, the ideology behind the cartoons unfortunately represents an entire subset of Europe and its rampant racism. It’s because of European policy that kids like Aylan are dying in the first place: the extremist measures they have taken to intercept refugees as they try to enter European countries.
In any case, shouldn’t dead children just in general be off limits, or is it less offensive when they’re brown? Can we maybe take into consideration the grieving father who lost everything that gave meaning to his life? The millions of other refugees who have suffered loss at the hands of Western greed and displaced reactionary anger for Western events? Have we become THAT desensitized? Have you made up your mind on how to feel about this yet?
Either way, here’s what we have to say to you, Charlie.
Illustration by Sam Romero
Photos via Morocco World News