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Charlie Hebdo’s Poisonous Pen

(8 Feb) The death toll from the two devastating earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria on Monday has reached at least 9,638, according to authorities. Turkish disaster management agency SAKOM reported the death toll has risen to at least 7,108, with 40,910 injured. In Syria the number of casualties has been reported at least 2530.

In the midst of the worldwide outpouring of solidarity with the people of both countries, the French satirical cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo sparked global outrage when it saw fit to release a cartoon mocking the devastation and loss of life.

The ‘Cartoon of the Day’ was posted on Twitter, depicting damaged buildings, piles of rubble and an upturned car with the caption “Earthquake in Türkiye,” written above the cartoon, “No need to even send tanks” at the bottom.

Charlie Hebdo’s tweet has had over 11 million views and 500 retweets, many twitter users leaving furious comments on the disrespect shown to the victims of the earthquake and the disregard for the trauma of the affected populations.

This disgraceful and insensitive cartoon is just the latest outrage committed by the magazine that has a history of mocking Islam and Muslim personalities. In 2006, the magazine first published a series of highly offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) which were followed up with another series in 2012. In 2015, in response to the cartoons, the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo were attacked by two French-Algerian brothers, killing 12 people.

Not even dead children have escaped the poisonous pen of Charlie Hebdo. When the 3-year-old Kurdish-Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi washed up dead on the Turkish shore in 2016, the magazine drew a picture of the dead child with the caption at the top of the drawing reading: “What would little Aylan have grown up to be?” That question is answered at the bottom: “Ass groper in Germany”, reflecting the crude and unfounded assumption often perpetrated in right-wing media, that refugees grow up to be sexual predators.

Just this month Charlie Hebdo launched a competition asking its audience to draw an offensive picture of the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and advised that a cartoon of Khamenei should be the “funniest and meanest” possible. It is also involved in a feud with Turkish President Erdoğan and in 2020 published a vulgar cartoon just days after Erdoğan called for a boycott of French products. He did so, whilst questioning President Emmanuel Macron’s sanity for promoting a drive against so-called Islamic fundamentalism. At the time Erdoğan said he had not personally seen the Charlie Hebdo cartoon because he did not want to “give credit to such immoral publications.” Furthermore, in his speech to party lawmakers Erdoğan added “I am sad and frustrated not because of this disgusting attack on me personally, but because of the impertinence taking aim at our prophet we love more than ourselves.”

The latest cartoon mocking the devastation has provoked huge condemnation from many politicians and public figures. Türkiye’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalın, posted on Twitter. “Modern barbarians! Drown in your anger and hatred.”

Abdurrahim Boynukalın, a Turkish politician and London representative of the AK Party commented how “they show no limits in their pursuit of controversy”. Charlie Hebdo has sunk to a new low with their latest display of utter disrespect and disregard for boundaries. They show no limits in their pursuit of controversy, always ready to exploit tragedy and suffering for their so-called “satire”.

Sapience Institute CEO Hamza Tzortsis profoundly captured the outrage of millions when he posted on twitter ‘This is an example of the death of civilization in secular France. The place where the only thing that is sacred is the rejection of what is sacred. The deification of the ego. Secular France represents the death of dignity, it symbolises the demise of what makes us human.’

Even former supporters of the magazine voiced their disgust at the latest cartoon. Sara Assaf for example, responded by saying that she was withdrawing her support for the magazine. “Je ne suis plus Charlie” (I am no longer Charlie), she wrote, in reference to the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) adopted by supporters of the outlet after the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters.

Moreover, referring to the 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters Alexandre Boisson, a former member of the SDLP bodyguard service to two French presidents from 2002 to 2011, posted on Twitter: “My colleague Franck Brinsoloro (RIP) died to protect you. If your pen becomes murderous and leads to sacrificing other colleagues from the SDLP, you have to appear in court for incitement to hatred.”

However, while Charlie Hebdo’s staff cower behind France’s freedom of expression laws when gleefully insulting Islam and other religious and political figures, they have also been shown to be pathetic hypocrites. In 2008 the cartoonist Sine (Maurice Sinet) wrote in an issue of Charlie Hebdo, where he cited a rumour that the son of Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean Sarkozy was intending to convert to Judaism in order to marry his fiancee, the Jewish heiress Jessica Sebaoun-Darty. In the column Sine commented ‘he’ll go far, this lad’, leading to complaints of antisemitism. Sine was then ordered by his editor to write a letter of apology or lose his job. In response the cartoonist said he would rather ‘cut his own balls off’ and was subsequently fired from his job. Sine did later win 40,000 Euros in damages for wrongful termination from Charlie Hebdo.

We are currently witnessing the unstoppable rise of Islam in the west and the equally rapid decline in the moral values of secular western societies. Islamic values are often in opposition to secularist ideals. The concepts of honour and dignity that radiate from orthodox Islam are considered as archaic and regressive. For this reason, any aspect of Islamic identity and Muslim populations in general are subject to caricature and ridicule by Western media in an attempt to dehumanise Muslims. By ‘otherising’ Muslims and Islamic values, the secular West seeks to unify itself ideologically against Muslims. Freedom of expression is their favourite weapon, but it is ultimately morally and ideologically blunt.

Tariq Kurd

Tariq Kurd was born and grew up in Hertfordshire. His family is originally from Halabja, Kurdistan but due to periodic migration currently reside across the Baluchistan region.
He has a BA Hons. in History from the Open University. Besides English, Tariq can speak Baluchi and Brahvi, he is also conversant in Persian and Pashto.
His has an eclectic range of interests including military and tribal history. Tariq lives in London and is currently studying Islamic apologetics through the Sapience Institute.

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