The French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which was the subject of an attack that left twelve staff members and two police officers dead in January 2015, is once again in the limelight – this time for the sort of controversial cartoon the magazine has become known for. The offending cartoon depicts a grown-up Aylan Kurdi – the Syrian child whose drowned body became an iconic image that sparked global sympathy for the refugee crisis – chasing after and attempting to sexually assault a woman. The caption reads: “What would little Aylan have become had he grown up?
Ass groper in Germany.” The image is not only tasteless, disrespecting the memory of a child killed under the worst of circumstances, but also reinforces the xenophobic narrative that has been circulating since the sexual assaults that took place in Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve – a narrative that demonizes refugees seeking asylum in Europe as dangerous sexual predators. This narrative, as Muftah editor Heather Hartlaub wrote, is misguided, since sexual assault was a problem in Europe long before the recent influx of refugees:
The attacks on New Year’s Eve are being used as leverage by citizens and politicians who want to slow or ban the steady tide of refugees coming to Europe. Instead of falling into their trap, we must focus our attention fully on the rape culture that continues to persist in the West, despite centuries of advances in women’s rights.
This is not the first time Charlie Hebdo has published distasteful cartoons featuring Kurdi, as Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani wrote for Muftah back in September. Beyond their tactless and disrespectful nature so soon after the child’s death, Varkiani pointed out the bigger problem with these cartoons, namely, that “if Aylan had survived, and if his family had somehow made it to France, Charlie Hebdo would be responsible for helping to create the environment of racism, discrimination, and bigotry that the Kurdi family would have faced, as do many Muslims in France.” The Washington Post has compiled some of the reactions on social media to the latest Charlie Hebdo cartoon, which many see as overstepping the bounds of basic human decency, and can be read here.