Why is Aylan Kurdi’s tragic death satire worthy, Charlie Hebdo?

Published: September 15, 2015

The cartoons were distasteful, disrespectful and abhorred by many who are cerebral enough to appreciate satire, but not this kind.

Writers, journalists, thinkers, authors, poets, the blessed few in the seven billion and counting, are passionate about their opinions. They have commented on the society, its underbelly and the universe that surrounds it, with the global media as their audience. Needless to say, they have been persecuted for it, killed for it, awarded for it, famed for it, but most importantly misunderstood for it, in their passionate zeal and zest to be heard, they have at times crossed all boundaries of right and wrong.

Earlier this year, there was an attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris; it was a barbaric and detestable attack, and journalists were killed for voicing their right to free speech. Though I must add here that I do not support the kind of journalism Charlie Hebdo endorses; it’s offensive, and at times, plain old repulsive, but people have a right to free speech, however nasty it may be, hence if they publish the morally repugnant and call it satire, they have a right to do it, yes they do.

I recently came across a news story where Charlie Hebdo published cartoons mocking the drowning of the three-year-old Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi.

The cartoons at first sight were pathetic, but since many claimed them to be misunderstood satire, I thought I’d give them a deeper look and not just a cursory glance. I did not see anything remotely intellectual or satirical in the sketches. There were mixed reviews on it, both extreme. Many novice and so-called seasoned intellectuals thought it to be a deep satire on European consumerism, while others saw what it actually appeared to be. Following is how Maajid Nawaz, an activist, author, columnist and politician, explained the cartoons:

Sorry Mr Nawaz, but I don’t see it. Maybe I and the rest like me are just not intellectual enough to get this sort of satire. There were countless other ways to show satire marking the Syrian refugee crisis, and/or to bring attention to the tragic death of little Aylan, and the global disregard on the occurrence of this mishap.  But this was most certainly not the way to do it. The cartoons were distasteful, disrespectful, and abhorred by many who are cerebral enough to appreciate satire, but not this kind.

Nine months ago, when Charlie Hebdo offices were attacked, many people on social media changed their profile picture to, ‘I am Charlie Hebdo’. Now my response to that would be, ‘No, I was never, and will never be Charlie Hebdo’. In much the same way, I will never be a mocker, or minimise the human tragedy of native Americans at the hands of Europeans, Jews at the hand of the Nazis, 9/11 at the hands of Osama Bin Laden, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Shias, Sunnis at the hands of each other, and repulsive mockery at the hands of Charlie Hebdo.

Satire is a wonderful tool that writers use to explain a social position, but maintaining class and balance is essential when using this tool, especially when handling sensitive issues, such as the tragic death of a baby boy.

Shame on Charlie Hebdo for mocking such tragedies, and shame on us for not setting any boundaries on professional journalism. Political correctness is sometimes just a lie, some things will never be right, simply because they are just so wrong, and mocking dead children is one of them.

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • ajeet

    Bisma, Hope your heart also beats for other Kurdish children who are murdered in the Middle east by the Sunni armed groups. The cartoon is pretty low scale in what the Kurds are facing in the middle east.Recommend

  • Anon

    Why no blogs yet on fatwa on A.R. Rahman……?Recommend

  • faraz mohammed

    I agree.Shame on US.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    National Shame For France . I am enclosing another cartoon which says ” The evidence that Europe is predominantly Christian . Christians walk on water while Muslims drown . ” At least I fail to see the deep , heavy , profound philosophy of this line .Recommend

  • Haider Rehman Butt

    You are confusing Saudi sponsored fanatical groups with “Sunni” Islam. I dont consider myself belonging to any sect. But please stop all this sunni vs shia mantra.Recommend

  • jayant

    no she wont she is too busy pointing mistakes of others and in the process forgot to rectify her mistakes.Recommend

  • Critical

    hahahah…….Why did you forget India and Israel along with US to criticize…Charlie Hebdo is a French magazine…..FYIRecommend

  • Critical

    You should ask the Indian Adharsh Liberals first……because they believe that a muslim might die if he doesnt eat meat for 8 days while muslim “scholars” can shoot fatwa on everybodyRecommend

  • Melange

    But they are not mocking dead children. They are mocking the government and society’s response. This blog is so nonsensical that it doesn’t deserve the space on a newspaper. Recommend

  • Jebin

    Does nobody understand satire?
    The satire was clearly made to take the heartless Europe off its high horse
    They pronounce that they are “helping ” Syrians and doing them a favour
    Whereas in reality, they are capitalising on poor Aylan’s death!

    I’m no islamophobe and used to think every individual religion has different sects of people
    but I’ve started thinking that Muslims can take offence on anything !Recommend

  • Gada

    Why are you all so ignorant?Recommend

  • koconor100

    When you look at the McDogfood’s sign of the two for one special … think of it as the French Government saying that , not Charlie Hedbo.

    When you see the cartoon where Christians walk on water and muslim children sink , think of it as the Christians making that statement.

    Trust me, they’re not insulting the kid. Theyre insulting government and religion.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I’ll agree with you.
    Satire stops being satire when it loses all semblance of being responsible ( as in this case )….the fact that it is in utter bad taste is further adding insult to injury.Recommend

  • Golmal

    Trust A Hindu Troll To Jump In Feet FirstRecommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi

    Thank you Supriya. For calling a spade a spade. Shows your unbiased,
    straightforward persona. You are not part of the mob. You stand alone.Recommend

  • Dajjal

    “Sorry Mr Nawaz, but I don’t see it. Maybe I and the rest like me are just not intellectual enough to get this sort of satire.”

    And therein lies the problem… its not them, its you.
    Also, Just like you feel the need (and have the right) to comment/blog about everything.. so does Charlie Hebdo… They just have a different point of view. If you don’t like it… too bad.Recommend

  • Sane

    Shae on you Indians for making fun of human tragedy.Recommend

  • Sane

    Humans irrespective to their religion or beliefs must be respected. Atrocities against humans even Kurds, Syrian Refugees, Kashmiris, Hindus all are to be condemned.Recommend

  • Vegetable Man

    In Pakistan, Ignorance isn’t just bliss, its our constitutional right.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Why is Charlie Hebdo’s satire on Aylan Kurdi, blogworthy?

  • Milind A

    Its not fun dude… Its critical questioning, something which is an anathema for you…Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Satire? This is obnoxious. Where are the ‘I am Charlie’ activists now? Recommend

  • abhi

    I don’t see what is the wrong with cartoons. Cartoons are mocking developed nations’ policies where at one end they make the conditions where people have to flee their homeland and on other side they try to show off as compassionate nations offering asylum to refugees.Recommend

  • belsha .

    It’s quite staggering that even having a clear explanation by Maajid Nawaz of the meaning of these cartoons, you still pretend not to understand them. Why? What’s you’re agenda on this. How can you pretend they are “mocking dead children”?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Agreed Bisma.

    i wonder though how a mere cartoon is enough to get people in the Muslim world distracted from the fact that Muslims are being killed by fellow Muslims and there is nothing Christian about it.Recommend

  • Stratolantern

    Really, now, this is disgraceful. The cartoon is clearly mocking European apathy, I find it impossible to see it as mocking the child, you would have to have never seen a cartoon before in your entire life to mistake it as taunting the dead child. And some horrendously inaccurate and undeserved accusations are being made here. I’m in complete solidarity with the refugees and I find Charlie Hebdo to be as well. Maajid Nawaz has explained it rather well. If it’s just a matter of taste, if you find it crass, just avoid it. Don’t look at it. But to accuse them of saying something that is the very opposite of what they have said? Ridiculous. You’re just revealing a serious lack of intelligence here. Wouldn’t trust anyone this dense.

    Perhaps people are only too eager to see what they wish to see, and victimhood is just so much fun?

    and #JeSuisAylan as well.
    No contradiction.Recommend

  • Stratolantern

    I don’t fail to see the deep, heavy and profound philosophy at all. I see it very clearly. Because it’s glaringly obvious. Perhaps you’re missing something?Recommend

  • Syeda Ali

    Indeed they are insulting the government and religion but it is such a bad way of doing it. Using his pic to do this? Isn’t it a bad taste for a satire? His pic gives me shivers & I can not think of a more insensitive way to convey this mesageRecommend

  • Syeda Ali

    Your generalization…”all” tells your own ignorance & biased mind set. Wish you had an impact of education if you had any.Recommend

  • EyeoftheBeholder

    I’m curious. There was another cartoon which got widely shared on social media depicting the Aylan Kurdi’s body surrounded by a silent assmbly representing each of the Arab nations. This was clearly seen as depicting Arab apathy to the refugee crisis, and was widely appreciated, couldn’t avoid seeing it really. It’s basically the same as this cartoon, just Arabs instead of Europeans or a McDonald’s sign. So why is that different? Why is one appreciated while the other is seen as unsuitable? Is it just because its CH? If this cartoons had appeared in any other publication, would people have reacted the same way?Recommend

  • Anonymoose

    “Maybe I and the rest like me are just not intellectual enough to get this sort of satire.” Bang on, Bisma. Nail on the head. You’re not.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=1598850425736321559#allposts Supriya Arcot

    And Whatever that ‘something’ is – if common layman like me can’t understand then whats the point ?Recommend

  • Atif

    This is highly disrespectful.

    rest in peace Aylan Kurdi, we all love you.Recommend

  • Atif

    This is highly disrespectful.

    rest in peace Aylan Kurdi, we all love you.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    it’s tragedy for you, not for us.Recommend

  • Stratolantern

    You may fail to understand many many things. I doubt you understand much science, literature, philosophy, theatre, et al.
    Should we abandon all that as well? Should we drag every single human down to your level of universal mediocrity just so you feel better about your self? What an incredibly silly thing to say! Grow the hell up.Recommend

  • EyeoftheBeholder

    Well said. Ignoramuses like her are often unaware of their ignorance, because of, you know, their ignorance. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
    She ought to spend more time reading instead of inflicting her ignorance on others in this gross, illiterate manner. And that goes double for tthe author.Recommend

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/vegetarianism-ritual-killings-et-al.html Supriya Arcot

    You sure have a great vocab.Recommend

  • EyeoftheBeholder

    Thanks. It a difficult job, but someone has to do it. We can’t all be subaltern ignoramuses barely capable of tying our own shoelaces, and dragging anyone who can down to our own levels, can we?
    You can have one too. And you can also accmplish much fancier things. Like getting all this fancy ‘western’ satire and shit. Just try a little harder. Cheers.Recommend

  • EyeoftheBeholder

    Thank you very much. You can have one too. Just climb out of your ignorant, desi well. you’ll be amazed at the sort of wonders that exist outside of it. Might even stop you from inflicting your deficient standards on the rest of us.Recommend