In the wake of the atrocious murder of Charlie Hedbo’s journalists by Islamist fundamentalists which led to #Jesuischarlie, it is sad that some people have chosen this horrendous time to falsely accuse the magazine of the very thing it stands against; Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Misogyny.
As Libby Nelson wrote in Charlie Hebdo: its history, humor, and controversies:
Charlie Hebdo is known for its cartoons, which are often raunchy and provocative, whether they depicted the Prophet Mohammed or portrayed the Pope performing holy communion with a condom.
Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, who was murdered in the attack, described the newspaper’s positions in 2012 as left-wing, secular, and atheist.
Below are 5 different crowds that are getting it wrong and why.
1- The “Charlie Hebdo is racist and sexist” crowd
The context of Charlie Hebdo’s Parodies/cartoons is easily understood by the French but not easily understood by outsiders, unless they are conversant with French politics. Some of these cartoons can be viewed and understood under the piece What are some of Charlie Hebdo’s most famous cartoons?
At first glance, these cartoons might appear racist, sexist, and ill-thought-out, but after reading the contexts, this is usually not the case.
So, “What was the context of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon depicting Boko Haram sex slaves as welfare queens?”
This is what Libby Nelson has to say:
Charlie Hebdo covers often combined two unrelated stories to make a satirical point. In the context of the magazine’s leftist politics, this seems to be about spoofing not Nigerian trafficking victims, but French welfare critics, who have argued that France should cut welfare programs to prevent immigrant women from exploiting them. The cover, in this view, seems to say, “Hey, welfare critics, you’re so heartless that you probably think that even Nigerian sexual slavery victims are money-grubbing ‘welfare queens.
This is what French people have to say about it on Quora
This cover is mixing two unrelated elements which made the news at about the same time:
– Boko Haram victims likely to end up sex slaves in Nigeria
– Decrease of French welfare allocations
In France, as in probably every country who has welfare allocations, some people criticize this system because some people might try to game it (e.g., “welfare queens” idea). Note that if we didn’t had it there would probably be much more people complaining because the ones who really need it would end up in extreme poverty.
Charlie Hebdo is known for being left-wing attached and very controversial, and I think they wanted to parody people who criticize “welfare queens” by taking this point-of-view to the absurd, to show that immigrant women in France are more likely to be victims of patriarchy than evil manipulative profiteers.
And of course if we only stay on the first-degree approach, it’s a terrible racist and absurd cover.
As Adrien points out in his answer, it was neither the first nor the last time Charlie Hebdo used this kind of “satirical news mixing”, and had no “preferred target”.
it’s easy now for non-French observers to imagine Charlie Hebdo as a right wing, racist, anti immigrant publication because of the fact that they have only seen covers about fundamentalist Islam.
The reality is, Charlie Hebdo is a far left, pro-immigrant publication, of which many contributors have been members of anti-racist organizations.
As the other answers have mentioned, this cover is simply the combination of two news stories to make a provocative joke. This is a very common occurrence in Charlie Hebdo front pages.”
On the cartoon depicting the Justice Minister, a black woman, as a Monkey.
In November 2013 a cartoon in Charlie Hebdo depicted the Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is black (not literally African, specifically she was born in French Guiana), as a monkey. This has been a very popular image to share on Twitter as evidence that Charlie is a racist publication.
As the other answers have mentioned, this cover is simply the combination of two news stories to make a provocative joke. This is a very common occurrence in Charlie Hebdo front pages.
The first clue that all is not what it seems is that the cartoon was drawn by Charb – the editor himself. He was a Communist, and his girlfriend’s parents were North African. A funny kind of racist. Next you have to note that the text next to that cartoon says “Rassemblement Bleu Raciste”. This is a play on “Rassemblement Bleu Marine”, the slogan of Marine Le Pen’s national front, and the tricolor flame next to it is the party logo.
So, what you then need to know is that the cartoon was published after a National Front politician Facebooked a photoshop of the woman in the cartoon as a monkey, and then said on French TV that she should be “in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government”.
French Far-Right Politician Compares Justice Minister To Monkey
The cartoon is literally saying the National Front are racists. I’m genuinely not sure whether propagating the imagery is or isn’t a useful way of mocking the FN, but turning an antifascist cartoon into evidence of racism based on no understanding at all takes some real pathology.
As a black woman and a Nigerian, I do not find these cartoons racist or sexist. I understand that other people including Blacks might find it racist. The point is, we are all entitled to our opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts. Facts do not change simply because our opinion does not match the facts.
Even if after understanding the context and the parody and we still think it is inappropriate cartoon, Racism is still not the word to describe the problem (if any). Unfortunately, even when presented with the context, the “Charlie Hebdo is racist/sexist” crowd has failed to accept they got it wrong.
2- The “We don’t support their murders BUT blah blah blah” aka ‘Blame the victim’ crowd
This crowd specialises in throwing around sentiments followed by accusations such as-
“I don’t like that they were murdered but they had it coming”
“I am not saying I agree with their murders but they should not be so controversial”
“They did not deserved to be killed but they knew what the stakes were”
This crowd gets so much on my nerves because in them I see every hater who sends me hate mail or warns me to stop posting my views on Religion, Skydaddy, their paedophile prophet Mohammed or their Blue eyed, blonde Jewish saviour, Jesus.
This crowd starts by piously stating that they don’t agree with the killings but always follow it with the inevitable BUT. I find it very distasteful when people use ‘BUT’ to place part of the blame on victims. For example, we are familiar with those who when commenting under a rape case, spew such rubbish as:
“I don’t support that she was raped BUT she should not have followed him home,”
“I am sad that she was raped BUT she should not have worn that short skirt”
“I am not saying she deserved to be raped BUT she should not have been drinking”
Also, if I was attacked in my home by burglars, the last thing anyone should say to me is
“You should have invested in the latest security system!”
The word ‘BUT’ only helps place part of the blame on Victims and that is inappropriate. The only people responsible for rape are the rapists, the only people responsible for burglary are the burglars, and the only people responsible for murders are the murderers. The victim does not share any part of the blame.
I can’t help but think that if I was ever murdered for my views on Religion or my advocacy for LGBT rights, the BUT crowd would be privately pleased. After all, they think I had it coming. They have sent me warning mails to desist from talking negatively about religion or face the consequences. They would probably quote the many times they left comments on my social media to advise me in ‘good faith’ to stop ‘attacking’ religion. No doubt while offering their condolences to my family, they would not be able to resist adding amidst crocodile tears, “I saw it coming, I warned her but she did not listen, that is why she was murdered, if only she listened”
This kind of attitude indirectly gives legitimacy to religious fanatics. It promotes censorship. Worse still, these in ‘good faith’ advisers truly believe that no one should mock Allah and their precious prophet. Some of them also secretly agree with the Quran’s prescribed punishment for blasphemers. The difference between them and those who actually carry out this commandment is just a matter of the type of trigger they are brave enough to pull in public.
Murdering an unbeliever in cold blood in the name of God is not the only hallmark of religious fanatics.
When believers refuse to render help to people who speak out against Religion or deny them employment opportunities simply because well, thou shall not mix with unbelievers, they are religious fanatics.
When religious believers support the criminalisation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals while spuriously quoting from the bible or quran, they are religious fanatics.
These ‘moderate’ believers are part of the problem because in their own way, they endorse religious fanaticism.
3- The “#JeSuisAhmed , I am not Charlie”crowd
Charlie is not a person; it is a magazine. A magazine that had its staff murdered for refusing to be cowed by offended terrorists despite the many threats it receives daily. Charlie Hebdo’s indefatigable spirit was what those religious fanatics wanted to break. The attacks, the outrage, the solidarity are all about refusing to give in to intimidation. It is about Freedom of Speech, Liberty and the right to offend.
The death of Ahmed Merabet, like every other victim, is tragic. Ahmed, just like the other cops, was simply responding to a call of duty. However, in an attempt to take away from what Charlie Hedbo stands for, the #JeSuisAhmed crowd was quick to declare that:
- Ahmed was a Muslim
For all we know, he was a closeted atheist!
- Ahmed was defending people who offended his faith
Again, they assumed that Ahmed not only had a faith but also was offended by Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons. With this assumption, they imply that Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons offend ALL Muslims.
- Ahmed died defending the right of Charlie Hedbo to offend even though he did not agree with them
The #JeSuisAhmed crowd created this story of a French Muslim cop who although was offended by Charlie Hedbo, chose to die as a brave martyr defending the right of the cartoonists to Freedom of expression. Nothing in the video clip of the unfortunate death of this police officer implies what the #JeSuisAhmed crowd is propagating. The cop was just answering a call of duty, he was not even afforded the time to draw his gun before he was shot down by the terrorists. He probably did not know the cause of the brouhaha. Ahmed was a victim of the terrorists, and the terrorist hated what Charlie Hedbo stands for and killed people for it. Ahmed is part of Charlie Hebdo story, not outside of it.
#JeSuisCharlie is not a competition about whose death is worse or more deserving of a hashtag. It is not about a single individual as #JeSuisAhmed is trying to be, but about our collective empathy, strength, and defiance in the face of this tragedy. It is no longer just a Charlie Hedbo tragedy but a national tragedy that has awakened global solidarity. The attempts by #JeSuisAhmed crowd to distance themselves from #JeSuisCharlie are unconvincing, unnecessary, and unfortunately divisive.
4- The “What about the other side (insert: West/IRA/Christian)?” crowd–
This crowd is infuriating in their lopsided argument. For example, immediately the news of the attack broke and I posted about it on my wall, some immediately left comments blaming everyone but the terrorists. This particular commenter epitomises all that is wrong with this crowd.
“What goes around comes around the west have committed untold acts of terror against the Arab world especially France with Libya…..you have to wonder when all this bloodletting will stop, what a messed up and dangerous world we live in no thanks to the Western powers”
Talking of religious fanatics Bush claimed God told him to invade Iraq, go figure……We should ban all organised religion, shit started with the crusades, they used it to colonise Africa and enslave our people and the violence continues……smh
He topped it with
this violence is a never ending cycle everybody is to blame.
No, we are not all to blame; the terrorists who went on a killing spree to avenge Allah are to blame.
He went ahead to inform me
Yemisi the only problem I have with your reasoning is that Xtianity is just as bad as Islam in my book, they are just as violent and fanatical as each other in my book, think George Bush and the IRA.
I wonder why some people think when Islam is called out, Christianity gets a pass mark and vice versa. It is possible to point out the ills of a particular religion without giving the other a pass mark. And one should be able to discuss a specific religion without someone screaming “What about Islam?” or what about Christianity?”
A post breaking the news about the atrocious murders of innocent people in the name of Allah should not be turned into an avenue to list the ills of George Bush, IRA or the Westboro Baptist Church. There is a time and a place for everything, this is hardly the time to play the compare, contrast and score game. The “What about the other side?” remark only serves to distract from the particular ill under discussion. In fact, trolls use it just to muddle up discussions.
I have always stressed that Religion is a deadly cancer. When I call out religion, I mean all organised religion and their Skydaddy, and as we know, Islam and Christianity have a common Skydaddy, the Abrahamic God. I post generally about religion, ALL RELIGION, however when a post is about a tragedy caused by a particular religion and its fanatics, it is not appropriate to scream “But what about Bush, Christians, Western power, IRA” or whatever else people use to shift part of the blame from the murderers.
This is not the time to entertain a modicum of justification for heinous acts against humanity. It is a detracting trolling attempt aimed at ‘indirectly’ justifying such acts by trying to generalise this particular atrocity with the “What about those other people” rhetoric.
5- The “Islam is peaceful, those terrorists are not real Muslims” crowd–
Of course they are real Muslims, if anything they are the real Muslims, after all, they are the ones that are dutifully following to the letter, the words of Allah as espoused in the Quran.
Part of this crowd also encourages the ‘Real Muslims’ to take back Islam. Really, take back Islam? What is there to reclaim? If you take away the Holy book that commands these atrocities, what is left of Islam?
In this day and age, it should not be about reclaiming any religion; it should be about doing away with religion and all superstitions that beget atrocities. In fact, I strongly believe children should be protected from having holy books forced on them by religious parents. We often protect children from books and movies containing violence and unsuitable materials, yet we allow religious parents to force-feed children those violent Quran and Bible stories.
In the name of respecting religion, we expose vulnerable children to harmful lies and tales of hell-fire. They learn about discrimination when taught the myths of the chosen race, why women should be submissive to men and how non-virgin wives should be stoned to death. We sow the seed of homophobia when we speak about the wrath of God towards men who lay with men and we germinate fear and kill their quest to question when we scare them with divinely prescribed punishment for blasphemy. We should protect children from such atrocious teachings. If we don’t want to breed a future generation of religious fanatics, we must seriously think about protecting future generation from religious indoctrination.
When a religion provides a hiding place for bad people to commit atrocities, that religion deserves no respect. Religion provides excuse for evil people to carry out deluded activities, however, an excuse for evil is itself evil. We should be doing away with religion, not reclaiming it.
In conclusion, if you belong to any of these 5 crowds, don’t be afraid to break free because #JeSuisCharlie.