The French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, that became a symbol of freedom of speech in January after Islamic extremists killed 12 people, saw the slogan “Je suis Charlie” go viral in the wake of the tragedy. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (“I am Charlie”) became the rally cry of armchair activists worldwide who supported the magazine’s right to freedom of speech in regards to their cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammad. Today, a new hashtag has gone viral in the name of the French publication. This time, however, #JeNeSuisPasCharlie (“I am not Charlie”) is less a rally cry, and more an outcry of righteous indignation against Charlie Hebdo.
The reason for the new hashtag and sudden change of heart of the internet at large? The cartoonists over at Charlie Hebdo have published a cartoon of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian refugee child who’s death two weeks ago touched the world. The cartoon shows the body of a child — very obviously that of Aylan Kurdi — face down in the water, with the caption “So close to the finish…” and a billboard advertising McDonald’s on the beach behind him with a picture of Ronald McDonald and the words “two children’s meals for the price of one.”
Another cartoon published by Charlie Hebdo has the caption “Proof that Europe is Christian” and depicts a Christ-like figure walking on top of the water, and a young child upside down in the water, with just part of a pair of shorts and shoes showing. The words “Christians walk on water” adorn the drawing of the Christ figure, while “Muslim children sink” caption the drowning child.
Many internet denizens are tweeting their fury at Charlie Hebdo’s callous apathy towards the death of a child, and the plight of all Syrian refugees.
The purpose of free speech is to pursue truth, not to mock other people's pain #JeNeSuisPasCharlie— Abu Amina Elias (@AbuAminaElias) September 15, 2015
Freedom of speech is not for mocking a child's death, its just disgusting and disgraceful #JeNeSuisPasCharlie— cansu (@v0dkangel) September 14, 2015
Others are even challenging the thousands of people, celebrities included, who proudly proclaimed “Je suis Charlie” after the January tragedy, wondering where their support for the publication was now.
Where are all the Hollywood stars who wore "Je Suis Charlie" t-shirts on the red carpet, now that they're making fun of dead infants?— Ferrari Sheppard (@stopbeingfamous) September 15, 2015
There are a few, however, who are siding with Charlie Hebdo, proclaiming that the magazine was simply doing what it does best: using satire to spark conversations about controversial topics, and of course, exercising their right to free speech. As ABC News Australia put it, these particular cartoons are simply “denouncing hypocrisy and consumerism in Europe.”
What do you think? Have the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo crossed a line using the tragic death of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi to sell papers? Or was the point of the cartoons simply lost on the majority of Social Media users? Sound off below.
[Image Credits: ABC News Australia]