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Republishing the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed Drawings Is Immoral and Risky

Armand Yazdani

Posted on September 4, 2020 20:07

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After a tragic attack on the satirical paper's offices in 2015, Charlie Hebdo vowed to republish its pejorative depictions of Mohammed. Although they may be allowed to do this in France, it's both distasteful and could spark dangerous backlash.

When two gunmen clad in black and brandishing Kalashnikov rifles arrived at the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo five years ago, 17 people died. Witnesses reported that the shooters claimed they had avenged the prophet Mohammed, of whom the magazine had previously drawn depictions. Shortly after, the publication abandoned caricatures of the prophet. 

However, amid upcoming trials for the 14 alleged accomplices of the shooting, Charlie Hebdo reversed its 2015 decision and will continue its Mohammed depictions. The satirical paper said in an editorial that its caricatures "belong to history" which is cannot be erased. However, republishing the drawings could further endanger the staff of Charlie Hebdo and is at the least pejorative to Muslims. The satirical newspaper should keep to its 2015 decision to stop the caricatures, in order to avoid further violence and mass offense. 

Republishing the caricatures of Mohammed could lead to more violence against Charlie Hebdo. In addition to the 2015 attack on its offices, there was a petrol bomb attack that destroyed the paper's offices in 2011. The bombing occurred a day after Charlie Hebdo featured a cartoon of Mohammed. Even on subjects less sensitive than that of drawing Mohammed, the newspaper has received many a death threat over other cartoons. Charlie Hebdo had featured a cartoon of Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, with an erection, reading "I am the sixth pillar of Islam." Soon after, the paper was hit by a wave of death threats. The continuance of Mohammed caricatures will only elicit worse responses. 

Moreover, drawing disparaging cartoons of a religious prophet is simply distasteful and offensive. Granted, caricatures deriding inept politicians and world leaders can be hilarious, but derisive drawings of religious leaders are excessive. For many Muslims, drawing Mohammed is sacrilegious — they believe he is the messenger of God and therefore oughtn't to be depicted. And according to Pew Research, Muslims comprise about 9% of the French population, which seems measly, but it's a significant number for a historically Catholic country. One of the cartoons depicted the prophet sporting a bomb-shaped turban. Another cartoon depicted Mohammed nude. Although such illustrations could be humorous for some readers, ridiculing their religion's messenger could easily offend France's Muslims. 

Charlie Hebdo's decision to use caricatures of Mohammed will be both offensive to the Muslim community and could put the newspaper in danger. The attacks that have befallen the newspaper were both tragic and reprehensible, but future attacks could ensue if Charlie Hebdo continues to use caricatures of the prophet. Moreover, when the paper derisively draws these cartoons of Mohammed, it's not just a jab at extremist Muslims but also the moderate ones in France. Freedom of the press is a sacred right that every news outlet should be afforded, but exercising moral judgment is a decision Charlie Hebdo should consider. 

Armand Yazdani

Posted on September 4, 2020 20:07

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Source: NYT
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