In defence of Charlie Hebdo’s Theresa May cartoon

Naomi Firsht

Topics Free Speech

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It seems that some people have very short memories. Charlie Hebdo’s Theresa May front cover, from last week’s issue, has been attacked for going ‘too far’. The cover depicted May holding her own decapitated head under her arm and saying ‘Too much is too much’, beneath the caption ‘English multiculturalism’. Inside, another cartoon depicted Brits running past Big Ben with the caption, ‘Slimming tips from Daesh [ISIS]: run fast’.

The Sun labelled the cover a ‘sick cartoon’ and a ‘vile image’. And the Metro and Unilad both accused Charlie Hebdo of mocking London’s terror victims. Naturally, the harshest critics were on social media. One tweeted: ‘Shame on you!! Bunch of sick minds to make fun of a terrorist attack! We had sympathy for you during your attack. No more!’ Another said: ‘Disgraceful cover. Should be ashamed after all the support you all received after the Paris attack.’ And a third posted: ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie. Their image of @theresa_may is vile.’

So no more sympathy for Charlie Hebdo, whose editor and 11 staff members were gunned down by Islamist terrorists in 2015 for the crime of depicting Muhammad. No more support for a satirical magazine, whose raison d’être is to comment on politics and society through the medium of controversial cartoons because… it drew a controversial cartoon.

To claim that Charlie Hebdo is making fun of the UK terror attacks is to misread the magazine’s satire. The cover makes a clear and incisive criticism of British multiculturalism and the authorities’ ineptitude in dealing with the problem of Islamist terrorism. A third cartoon inside the same edition, titled ‘Attack in London; the English in shock’, depicts a couple of Brits saying: ‘But we never caricatured the prophet.’ Again, this is a clear comment on the cowardly and idiotic Western view that refraining from offending Muslims would end Islamist terror.

The irony is that by saying Charlie went ‘too far’, these critics align themselves with the thinking of the terrorists who murdered the magazine’s cartoonists and writers. They too thought Charlie had gone ‘too far’. Saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’ means you believe in free speech, completely. It means you believe that in a free society, everyone should have the right to think, say, write or draw what they like – even if it’s controversial – without fear of being killed. If you’re not Charlie now, you were never Charlie in the first place.

Naomi Firsht is staff writer at spiked and co-author of The Parisians’ Guide to Cafés, Bars and Restaurants. Follow her on Twitter: @Naomi_theFirsht

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Free Speech


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