Aylan Kurdi a sex offender? Why I am not Charlie and I can never be one

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Abhishek G Bhaya

Can mocking the tragic death of an innocent toddler, by any definition, be described as humour or satire?

Well, Charlie Hebdo has done precisely that in its latest edition. What’s worse is that the magazine has ‘concluded’ that the little baby may have grown up to become a potential rapist!

The French satirical magazine, notorious for its controversial cartoons, has now published one that depicts drowned Aylan Kurdi – the three-year-old Syrian child whose death last September triggered a global wave of sympathy for migrants – to be growing up as a refugee committing sexual offence in Germany.

Title ‘Migrant’, the cartoon features in the inset a sketch of the famous photo of Aylan’s still body lying face down on a Turkish beach, while showing a pervert chasing a woman, with the caption asking: “What would have become of small Aylan if he grew up?”

“Someone who gropes asses in Germany,” it adds, referring to the multiple acts of sexual assault blamed on Arab migrants in Germany’s Cologne and other European cities on New Year’s Eve.

Cartoon of Aylan Kurdi depicted as a future sex offender by Charlie Hebdo
Cartoon of Aylan Kurdi depicted as a future sex offender by Charlie Hebdo

Evidently, the cartoon has provoked sharp criticism and outrage on social media around the world, but more intensely in the Arab world, with many calling it offensive, racist and downright Islamophobic.

Queen Rania of Jordan
Queen Rania of Jordan

Jordan’s Queen Rania found a unique way to hit back at the Charlie Hebdo cartoon on Saturday – she posted a counter-cartoon on Facebook and Twitter depicting Aylan alongside an older child with a backpack and finally a doctor. The Queen added the caption: “Aylan could’ve been a doctor, a teacher, a loving parent.”
‘I am not Charlie’

Cartoon of Aylan Kurdi posted by Queen Rania
Cartoon of Aylan Kurdi posted by Queen Rania

Many are now questioning whether those from around the world who tweeted #JeSuisCharlie (#IamCharlie) in solidarity with the magazine – after the deadly January 2015 terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris – would feel the same way in light of the cartoon.

While I condemn the deplorable killing of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in that January 2015 attack, I also maintain that ‘I am not Charlie, and I can never be one’.

This was a case of two wrongs. While those who committed the act of terror must be denounced in the strongest possible way, it’s also true that there’s nothing admirable about the way Charlie Hebdo go about spreading hatred and intolerance.

What Charile Hebdo does is certainly not journalism. I would call it ‘insultism’. Does freedom of expression gives anyone the freedom to abuse? Will someone explain it to Charlie Hebdo?

In the garb of such freedom, the magazine had been consistently attacking and insulting religions and races that they perceive as being ‘ideologically different’ from the ‘Western identity.’

The modus operandi of the magazine is to propagate hatred in a bid to extract an equally, if not more, hateful reaction from the target communities. And in doing so, Charlie Hebdo mostly resort to exploiting the fears of the European far-right. It is hardly surprising that Muslims and migrants have been their main targets in recent times.

The latest cartoon is another example of Charlie Hebdo toeing the political line of the far-right fanning on the prevailing anti-migrant and anti-Arab sentiments in Europe at the same time.

While Aylan’s still body lying face down on the Turkish beach, was the most moving image of last year, making Europeans more sympathetic towards migrants leading to the opening of borders to Syrian and African asylum seekers; the current cartoon attempts to wipe out the perceived ‘losses’ by harping on the morbid fears against the very refugees, who are now dubbed as ‘Rapefugees’ by the far-right.

Violent blowback

The weekly magazine has become notorious for its edgy, provocative approach since it began publishing in 1970. In recent years the publication has gained an international profile for drawing violent blowback from Muslim extremists angered by its irreverent approach to their religion.

Photo of Aylan Kurdi that shook the collective conscience of Europe
Photo of Aylan Kurdi that shook the collective conscience of Europe

Earlier this month, a day ahead of the anniversary of the 2015 terrorist attack on the publication, Charlie Hebdo printed a million copies of a special edition with a cover that caused further offense to the religious. It depicted a bearded man, representing God, splattered in blood and carrying an assault rifle over his shoulder. The headline read: “One year after: The assassin is still out there.”

Even before the 2015 terror attacks, which killed 12 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the magazine was the target of a terrorist attack in 2011. Both were presumed to be in response to a number of controversial caricatures of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) it published.

In 2011, the magazine’s offices were destroyed by a gasoline bomb after it published a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). In 2006, it had reprinted controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that originally appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten — a move that was described by even the then French President Jacques Chirac as an ‘overt provocation.’

So, henceforth, think twice before you declare: #IamCharlie

(The author is a Gulf-based Indian journalist)

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