The French satirical magazine reflects on comedy’s rights and responsibilities.
Image via Wikimedia
Earlier this year, 12 cartoonists from French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were massacred in a brutal terrorist attack. Al-Qaeda from Yemen claimed responsibility for the assault, arguing that the paper had published blasphemous images of the Prophet Mohammed. A debate over free speech and the role of satire raged then died out, until yesterday, when Charlie Hebdo announced that they would no longer be drawing the Prophet Mohammed in cartoons. While some accused them of pandering, for others, the decision comes as a relief.
Editor Laurent Sourriseau told German magazine Stern that, “We have drawn Mohammed to defend the principle that one can draw whatever they want … We’ve done our job. We’ve defended our right to caricature.” At the time of the terrible tragedy, artists splintered into opposing camps. While many writers wavered been defending free speech and eliminating hate speech, some found themselves somewhere in the middle: what, many wondered, was Hebdo’s goal? Many taboos are pernicious, and others exist for a reason—why did the taboo on drawing Mohammed need to be broken?
Sourisseau told Stern that he didn’t want people to see the magazine as being “possessed by Islam,” adding, “The mistakes you could blame Islam for can be found in other religions.” Not too long ago, Renald Luzier, one of Hebdo’s cartoonists, resigned from the magazine, saying that drawing Mohammed “no longer interests him.” And while Sourisseau has defended his “right to criticize all religions,” his decision seems to have been made with care.