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Charlie Hebdo triggers outrage over cartoon on dead Syrian toddler

By The Rediff News Bureau
September 15, 2015 16:57 IST
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In January this year, Charlie Hebdo was hailed as embodiment of free speech after a violent radical Islamic backlash over its controversial Prophet cartoons left at least 12 its staffers of the French satirical magazine dead. Eight months down the line, the magazine is being slammed on social media for an insensitive cover cartoon poking fun at the death of a three-year-old Syrian refugee, whose body washed up on a Turkish beach.

Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi had drowned along with his brother and mother on September 2 when the boat they were travelling from the Greek island of Kos to the Turkish town of Bodrum capsized.

The haunting image of Kurdi's lifeless body washing up on the shores of a Turkish beach sparked renewed and ferocious debate over Europe’s response to its migration crisis and the casualties of war.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoon includes the messages 'Welcome to migrants!', 'So near his goal...,' and a McDonald’s-like promotion offering '2 kids menus for the price of one'.

A second cartoon titled, ‘The proof that Europe is Christian’, also features in the same issue. That one depicts Jesus standing on water, with the image of a drowned child next to him. The caption reads, ‘Christians walk on waters… Muslim kids sink’.

The images were drawn by artist, Laurent 'Riss' Sourisseau who survived the shooting at Charlie Hebdo headquarters despite being hit in the shoulder and has since become the acting editor of the magazine.

Divergent Views

Opinion is divided on the message that Charlie Hebdo was trying to send across using the cartoons depicting Aylan.

Many found the humour distasteful and grotesque.

On social media, users charged against the publication and criticized the particular 'sense of humor' it pretended to portray.

"Charlie Hebdo is a purely racist, xenophobic and ideologically bankrupt publication that represents the moral decay of France," Barrister Peter Herbert, who is Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers and former vice chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, tweeted.

"The Society of Black Lawyers will consider reporting this as incitement to hate crime and persecution before the International Criminal Court."

Numerous other outraged posts attacked the ‘disgusting cartoons’, while others said it was an example of how Hebdo attacked the ‘powerless’ rather than the 'powerful'.

However, there are those who claim to understand the real logic behind Charlie Hebdo's cartoo -- they say the cartoons are not mocking the dead child but are instead using the tragedy to ridicule Europe for not doing enough to prevent it.

Maajid Nawaz, founder of the think-tank Quilliam defended the magazine’s cartoon: “Taste is always in the eye of the beholder. But these cartoons are a damning indictment on our anti-refugee sentiment,” he wrote on Facebook. "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."

Image: The Charlie Hebdo cartoon that is facing global criticism

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