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CHARLIE HEBDO; DILEMMA OF SATIRICAL JOURNAL
By: Zubair Ladan

Published January 26th, 2015


From the concept of Risqué Blackmail to Sacrilegious Laughter. Charlie Hebdo have had a tough voyage through the entrails of satirical publications.

At the beginning, the magazine was a small journal without huge readership, but one with big punch given its controversial approach to news. Soon, the pages turned on to the Olympian height of fortune. After the January 7, 2015 massacre of 12 of the magazine's most celebrated cartoonists, Google's Media fund and several donors made sympathetic pledges to the medium. Now, its weakly print run of 60,000 have incredibly leapfrog to over 5million copies.

Often, in an unbearable manner, the Paris based magazine founded in 1970 had trudges the marathon daring takedowns of religious symbol of all faith. Also, the journal have hitherto found delight in lampooning politicians, public figures, and the European mafia.

"The aim is to laugh" said Laurent Lerger, one of Charlie Hebdo's cartoonist. "We want to laugh at extremists, all of them, they can be Muslims, Jewish, Catholics. The cartoons are not intended to provoke anger. Everyone can be religious, but the acts of extremists and their believes we cannot accept".

After the bombing of Charlie Hebdo's office in 2011, Lerger posited again; "In France, we always have the right to write and to draw, and if some people are not happy with this, they can sue us and we can defend ourselves. We have to stand and resist pressure from extremists".

Advertently or inadvertently, Charlie Hebdo's inflammatory defiance particularly on prophet Mohammed (SAW) appears to be double standard. Take a look at the post attack edition or "survivor issue" which depict the prophet weeping while holding a sign saying "I'm Charlie". Isn't that a serious instance.

But on a general not, we are compelled to agree with Michaiel Kimmenas's submission in New York Times that "Modern cartoonists are simply drawing to incite reactions that pass for political point scoring". The kind of reaction that prompted violent demonstrations in the past, and now in Niger republic, Somalia, Mali, Algeria, Pakistan, Lebanon, Gaza, Iran and the rest.

Negin Farsad who co-directed the 2012 documentary comedy "The Muslim are coming" share the same perception with Kimmenas. "Our comedy focuses on mocking the people in power for them to seat up". Farsad tweeted 24hrs after the massacre of Charlie Hebdo's cartoonists. "prophet Mohammed died about 1,500 years ago, so of what benefit are they vilifying the death".

In February 2006, Charlie Hebdo made bold cover of a reprinted edition of Danish newspaper( Jylland posten) featuring the prophet on a wheelchair pushed by orthodox Jew. The caricature followed a rider poking Islamic law; "100 lashes if you don't laugh". There were similar publications by newspapers in Norway and Denmark that prompted furious demonstrations around the world.

Former French president Jacques Chirac May have signaled warning in the past. He was visibly furious reacting to the reprinted cover by Charlie Hebdo. The magazine's action, he said, was tantamount to "Over provocation". That was not the end of encapsulating dilemma for governments and the media in Europe. President Francois Hollande seams to defer from his predecessor. Hear him; "France is today in a shock of a terror attack, because this is terrorists attack without doubt, against a publication that was threaten several times and that was protected ". Without calling for restrain on Charlie Hebdo, the world leaders, with exception of president Obama gathered in paris to form "a block to show we are united", said president Hollande.

The reference point of contention here, however is the right or freedom of speech in the context of western society and between culture and religion, which are not entirely new. What is perhaps strange is the divergent methodology with which the western society focus on fundamentals of religious believes, central laws of Islam, moral respect and submission between believer and non believer.

With the largest Muslims population in Europe estimated at 4.7m, France declaration on the right of man and of the citizen should be seen upholding, while coexisting with those whose religious value are incompatible with those who chose to be liberal. I believe, freedom of expression encompass both the choice to say what you want, and also to refrain from actions of breaking terms of not just religious values but also custom and costume.

In a multicultural society, where restraint can help social, religious, and peaceful coexistence, expression of press freedom through satirical publications depicting religious figures can only enrage discontent and violence. Popular adage of Nigeria's Nupe speaking language points out that a man's eyes cannot be pinched without shedding tears. And that when a man cries he sees at the same time.

Joe Derosa, a NewYork based comedian said;"Telling jokes about any religious figure, not just Prophet Mohammed can be challenging. I've been physically threatened for mocking Jesus Christ". Also, Dean Obeidellah, an American Muslim , comedian and columnist with Daily Beast was furious over Charlie Hebdo's stance on prophet Mohammed. "I have never told jokes mocking the prophet, nor have I told jokes on Jesus, Moses, or any other religious symbol".

When a curious photographer captured Michelle Obama's mini skirt been blown up by the wind as she step up the plane, alongside president Obama struggling to cover her "subject matter", no journalist or cartoonist curled the pictures from the site it was posted. It's like a taboo for the American cartoonists to draw the president with cigaret in his hand.

Also, the Tate Gallery in London have had a dilemma exhibiting John Latham's work "God is great" which depicted torn images of the Bible, the Quran and the Talmund. One of the Jylland-posten cartoonist was even more daring, at the same time deference. He said he had "no problem urineting on the Bible but dare not do the same thing with the Quran in front of a camera".

But what about the images, paintings, and statues purporting to represent the Christ ?Douglas Anele had pondered in his perspective entitled "Facts, fiction and Christmas", (Vanguard, January 4, 2015.). On the account that there is no description of Jesus Christ in the holy BIBLE and prophet Mohammed in the holy QURAN, Douglas further revealed through Alfred Reynolds book "Jesus versus Christianity" which provided answer: "The costume of painting a fine looking tall man with long hair and a golden beard, with blue eyes and fair complexion, is pure fantasy introduced by European painters who represented Christ in the likeness of their most attractive models."

Nevertheless, early Muslims and those regarded as liberal or orthodox Muslims believed that Jesus Christ had been led astray by concerning of him not as a man but as a GOD. That is what Muslims all over the world do not want to happen to prophet Mohammed. In Islam, the notion of GOD vs any depiction of ALLAH or any sacred figure is very wrong. Thus, respectfully or otherwise, drawings of the prophet defy his teachings.

Dr. Akbar Ahmed who chairs Islamic studies at the American University reaffirmed; "The prophet himself was aware that if people saw his face portrayed they would start worshiping him", and that images portraying him in any form could lead to revering of human in view of ALLAH, which of course can lead to idolatry. "Clearly, the prophet himself spoke against such images, saying "I'm just a man".

Therefore, if the remaining journalists of Charlie Hebdo are not ready to back down from depicting the prophet, how can the Muslims world over be convinced to restrain from inevitable anger. I make bold to say that extremists are a thousand times ready to defend their faith than cartoonists who are defiance and committed to hang their lives on the peak of a pencil. I don't particularly see Charlie Hebdo as good satire. In modern world, there are those who believe publication of provocative images are cheap way to publicity.

There is no gainsaying the obvious that we are locked in a hopeless spiral of dilemma. Nonetheless, I'am convinced that beyond the challenges of terror confronting the world, there is a need for the western societies, to begin a critical reassessment of issues as it is in secular democracies and concerning freedom of speech, religious fundamentals, extremism, and so on. More so, our efforts at dealing with terrorism be reviewed compatibly with the feisty pitch expected of world leaders as far as the aforementioned is concerned.

Beyond the struggle of the civilized world against the band of extremists, journalists and cartoonists should do more by extending their pen and pencils to encompass atrocities of ISIS, prison abuses, air strikes, internally replaced persons by the gruesome activities of the Boko Haramists and so on. They should expose state murder, investigate corrupt tendencies by inept leaders, and focus on developmental journalism than mere cartoons of satirical laughter . The media is also expected to play a critical role to compliment international efforts to prevent violent extremists from continues radicalization, and recruiting individuals or groups.

Ultimately, journalists who want to continue to engage in the business of blasphemy, blackmail, or are tempt to publish materials that are clearly offensive or inflammatory will have to accept the inherent risk in today's world.

email: laffaz15@gmail.com

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