Charlie Hebdo: Tool for propaganda?
CHARLIE Hebdo strikes again. This time, the French magazine that is desperately trying to cling onto the title of king of controversy published a cartoon of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian refugee, suggesting that had he grown up, he would have been one of the sexual assaulters in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve.
Charlie Hebdo is supposedly taking a jab at the alleged link between the spate of sexual assaults during the New Year celebrations and the influx of migrants into Germany.
"Based on testimony from witnesses, the report from the Cologne police and descriptions by the federal police, it looks as if people with a migration background were almost exclusively responsible for the criminal acts," said Ralf Jaeger, interior minister from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Hundreds of women have supposedly filed complaints of harassment against men who look like a North African or an Arab.
According to Charlie Hebdo, this is "satire".
Apparently depicting a dead toddler, washed up ashore a beach in Turkey, as a future sex offender is supposed to drive home a point.
One may wonder, what point is Charlie Hebdo trying to make with what seems like character assassination and racism?
If the objective is to deliver a meaningful political statement, why do it in such a tasteless manner - that could be misinterpreted as xenophobic and which seems to echo the right-wing anti-migrant, anti-Arab rhetoric?
Why confuse the masses if the supposed message of the cartoons is so righteous?
And, most importantly, why is a dead refugee child the object of mockery?
Just last year, Charlie Hebdo, keeping in line with its "controversial" image, published a cartoon depicting Aylan Kurdi's dead body under the caption "So close to his goal…"
A sign on the beach, with a character that resembles Ronald McDonald, says: "Promo! 2 kids menus for the price of one."
Defenders of the cartoon said it was meant to "mock the West's handling of the refugee crisis".
Again, if the whole point is to highlight the role of world leaders in creating and failing to manage the refugee crisis, why on earth isn't David Cameron, Francois Hollande, Viktor Orban or Bashar al-Assad being turned into a caricature?
Why is the lifeless body of a toddler who died trying to flee his war-torn homeland being satirised?
Many have started to question whether Charlie Hebdo has a far-right political agenda - one that is conveniently masked behind terms such as "controversial".
If Charlie Hebdo does in fact have such anti-migrant, Islamophobic political leanings (which wouldn't be surprising given the terrorist attacks it came under last year), don't adjectives such as "controversial" only help disguise/minimise the dangerous motives behind its cartoons?
If these are actual attempts to propagate toxic political views, we, along with the media, should probably stop calling Charlie Hebdo "controversial" and call it out for what it is - a hateful tool of propaganda.
This isn't the first time that the French magazine has raised the debate about "freedom of speech" (a term that has become distorted, politicised and self-serving).
Why is the criticism and disapproval of the caricature of a dead Syrian refugee seen as a "curb on the freedom of expression"?
Are hate speech and free speech the same?
But this is where Charlie Hebdo cleverly manoeuvres its way out of this quagmire.
Hiding behind the veil of "satire", it seems to steer clear of incriminating itself of propagating toxic political agenda.
In an article titled "After Cologne, we can't let the bigots steal feminism" in New Statesman, Laurie Penny questions as to why violence against women isn't a much bigger deal when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators of sexual assault.
One in three German women and 35 per cent of those above age 15 (exceeding the EU average) have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
And around 40 per cent of German women claim they have experienced unwanted touching or kissing (also higher than the EU average of 29 per cent).
So why are we suddenly acting like violence against women in Germany didn't exist until the arrival of "Arab-looking" migrants?
This is not at all to trivialise the horrific sexual assault against women in Cologne, but can we stop pretending, as Penny so astutely points out, that the right wing suddenly cares about rape culture?
The same fanatics who continuously attempt to police the woman's body - restrict the right to abortion and deny women their full reproductive rights - are suddenly raising a hue and cry about sexual assault because it pushes their agenda of anti-migrant policies.
By shamelessly capitalising on the interlink between the influx of migrants and the incident in Cologne in its latest cartoon depicting Aylan as a potential sex offender, Charlie Hebdo not only serves the interests of those like Marine le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front who has warned France of the "giant migratory wave".
It also endorses the Orientalist view that sees the West as "superior" and more cultured than the East - insinuating that the "savage" Middle Eastern men are more likely to sexually assault women than the white men.
As public outrage poured on social media over Charlie Hebdo's latest cartoon, the best responses were those that hit back with scenarios of Aylan growing up to be something much more different.
Many posted a cartoon of Steve Jobs, whose father was a Syrian migrant, suggesting Aylan could have grown up to be a "new international inventor".
Queen Rania of Jordan joined in on the conversation, posting a cartoon on Twitter, saying: "Aylan could've been a doctor, a teacher, a loving parent…"
But the only response worth remembering is that of the dead toddler's father who wept when he saw the cartoon of his son.
"I appeal to this magazine and to the world, and urge everyone to respect the memory of all the dead children.
"Do not reopen the wounds of their loved ones as they continue to bleed," said Abdullah Kurdi, who will forever be haunted by the two-year-old's lifeless body.
THE DAILY STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK