Charlie Hebdo, Alan Kurdi and the Freedom of Speech

Twitter has been buzzing with people reacting to Charlie Hebdo’s latest attempt at satire. The French magazine published a cartoon implying that Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who was the subject of the now famous photograph that circulated the media last summer, would’ve grown up to be like the men involved in the assaults that took place in Cologne on New Year’s eve. While the cartoon has mostly received negative feedback, we should still be glad for its existence.

Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon has taken the image of the drowned Alan Kurdi and attached to it the text that could be translated from the French as: What would little Alan have grown up to be? Underneath is an image of two men with ape-like faces with their hands extended chasing after women who are desperately running away with the text: Gropers in Germany. The entire comic appears under the title of Migrants.

Many people are outraged, saying that according to Hebdo’s cartoon all immigrants are sexual harassers. Others on the other hand say that Hebdo is simply satirizing the swaying public image of an immigrant. Whatever Charlie Hebdo’s intentions may have been, its cartoon has failed as a satire on an international level seeing as nobody seems to find it particularly funny. However, comedy is cultural, meaning that a French satirical magazine, which has the French as its target audience might have a humour that simply does not open up to us foreigners.

Nevertheless, it was of poor taste to include a fairly recently deceased boy as the subject of the cartoon. The family of Alan has now been informed of Charlie Hebdo’s stunt and his father confessed to Sputnik News: “What they did is horrible; it is an outrage to the memory of my son.” Death has always been greatest adversary but even more so when it is the death of a child. This was simply way too soon and way too poignant.

But even then we must remember why we were upset about the tragedy that hit Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market only a year ago. While we may criticize Charlie Hebdo’s comics, we (with Charlie Hebdo included) should always be able to express ideas that might not be considered politically correct. Only in that way can a democracy establish itself. Whether we will agree to consume the said comics is an entirely different matter.


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