Well now we know what Charlie would do. Charlie Hebdo have just published their first post atrocity edition and they have (again) depicted the prophet Muhammed on the cover. Now let’s be clear, in my view they have every right to do what they want. We should also be clear that we all know that the depiction (in any form) of the prophet is deeply concerning to Muslims. This is nothing new. So we have to ask ourselves why did they do this? Did they want to reach out to the Muslim community in an honest gesture of goodwill? Did they hope to open dialogue about religion and its place in a modern secular state? Did they want to honour their dead colleagues and the other victims of the shooting?
If they had truly wanted to do these things they would surely have found away of doing so without insulting and offending the sincere beliefs of Muslim people around the world. They could have done many things that would have achieved these aims without insulting anyone at what is a very sad and difficult time for all involved.
We are also continually assured that Charlie Hebdo is not a racist, anti-Islamic, homophobic, sexist etc publication. We are told repeatedly that it is an ‘equal opportunity’ offender poking fun at the establishment in all its forms. If Charlie Hebdo really was the anti establishment, non racist, truly satirical publication we are continually told it is, they could have published a front page condemning the millions who claim to support Charlie Hebdo, but have in fact never bought a copy. They would have condemned the world leaders who arrived in Paris claiming to support freedom of speech in France but are happy to persecute journalists in their own countries. They could even have been super brave and made fun of their deceased colleagues, that would have shown that truly nobody was beyond their reach and that they really do not care who they offend in their quest to speak freely.
But instead they went for the soft target, again. They published a cartoon that was offensive and insulting and that far from bridging the gap between the ‘us’ and the ‘them’, can only increase antagonism suppress rational discussion and further divide already fractured communities.
Trans people are easy targets. Often we stand out, some of us look frankly ridiculous, we believe we have a right to express ourselves as we wish, whether it be by getting sex reassignment surgery, doing our best to look and behave like a women every so often or wearing stockings while we fantasise about having sex. This right of expression exists and we should be free to pursue whether someone understands us or not. Similarly religious people are free to express themselves whether it be by wearing a crucifix, shaving their heads or wearing a head scarf. No one should be targeted for holding sincere beliefs no one should have their beliefs made fun of. Nobody should interfere with our right to express our beliefs and identities in any way that does not negatively impact on others.
Charlie Hebdo has depicted homosexuals negatively in their publication, as well as taking aim at religious people of all sorts. I do not know whether they have ever poked fun at the trans community but given that we are such an easy target I am sure they will have done so, or will do so in the future. What makes this worse is that they hold themselves out to be intellectual people defending the liberty to express yourself as you wish, but in so doing they make fun of people who are often unable to defend themselves. They presume to have no respect for authority yet do not mock authority figures using Charlie Hebdo for their own ends. They thus mock the weak, defer to the strong. In so doing they help form public opinion and drive prejudice.
I hated play ground bullies (who knew no better) when I was at school I despise them more when they are adults, particularly when they claim to be intelligent, emotionally mature activist publishers. They should know better, they have a powerful role in society that they are abusing. Charlie Hebdo is a playground bully, sadly the playground has just become the world stage.