Is Charlie Hebdo Mocking Aylan Kurdi or Europe?

Published: 16 September 2015

Region: Worldwide

Je_suis_or_Je_ne_suis_pas_CharlieFrench satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon picturing a dead Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi and the message “So near his goal…” In the same cartoon there is McDonald’s clown sign promoting “two children’s menus for the price of one”. But who and what is the target of this cartoon? Aylan Kurdi whose death on a Turkish beach, as many claim, changed the sentiment and attitude of most of the media towards the refugee crisis? Or does Charlie Hebdo attack Europe and its hypocritical, consumerist values and the way it deals with refugees such as Aylan?

Refugees have already been in a focus of Charlie Hebdo which published another cartoon entitled “The Proof that Europe is Christian”. It shows a little child drowning while a man, supposedly Jesus, stands on the water saying: “Christians walk on waters… Muslim kids sink.”

Once again in mainstream and social media there is a debate on freedom of speech and the purpose of satire, several months after the attack that killed 12 of Charlie Hebdo staff prompting worldwide protests defending freedom of expression.

Morocco World News, Turkish newspapers The Daily Sabah and British tabloid Mirror are amongst those publications which believe that the tragic death of a Syrian boy was mocked by Charlie Hebdo. Morocco World News accused Charlie Hebdo of “hiding behind freedom of speech”, but journalist Sunny Hundal claims that “this is exactly what free speech looks like”.

“This idea that Charlie Hebdo was mocking Aylan’s death isn’t based on fact but on sheer ignorance. In fact, the magazine is clearly exposing the hypocrisy of European indifference to Syrian deaths. The Jesus cartoon is making a mockery of the far-right rhetoric about keeping Europe Christian. It is a satirical magazine; it would be ridiculous to read it at face value,” wrote Hundal in the article for the Independent.

On the other side, French magazine could face legal actions. “Charlie Hebdo is a purely racist, xenophobic and ideologically bankrupt publication that represents the moral decay of France,” tweeted barrister Peter Herbert, adding that Society of Black Lawyers which he chairs, might consider reporting the magazine as incitement to hate crime and persecution before the International Criminal Court.

Many users of social media also condemned the French magazine accusing it of poor taste, disgrace and racism. “Dear #CharlieHebdo: you have the right to be offensive, it’s not a duty … Did you really need to mock a dead kid?” wrote one Twitter user, reports Los Angeles Times.

Others asked if anyone still wants to declare “Je suis Charlie”. But others believe that Charlie Hebdo does not mock the death of a Syrian boy, but the Europeans’ attitudes towards Muslims and refugees.

“Taste is always in the eye of the beholder. But these cartoons are a damning indictment on our anti-refugee sentiment,” believes Maajid Nawaz, founder of the think-tank Quilliam, reports the Independent.

“The McDonald’s image is a searing critique of heartless European consumerism in the face of one of the worst human tragedies of our times. The image about Christians walking on water while Muslims drown is (so obviously) critiquing hypocritical European Christian ‘love’. Fellow Muslims, not everything and everyone are against us, every time. But if we keep assuming they are by reacting like this, they will surely become so,” says Nawaz.