The events at the Charlie Hebdo offices last week have incited many people around the world to speak out about the attacks and its implications on free speech. From advocacy groups like CBLDF, Index on Censorship, and PEN America to comics creators around the world, people have come together to mourn and show solidarity.
Along with the outpouring of support from Western cartoonists and groups, though, it must be noted the increasing presence and support that Middle Eastern and Muslim journalists and cartoonists have also shown, especially in light of the fact that many of them live in communities where their freedom of expression continues to be regulated and their actions have the potential for deeper implications in their day-to-day lives. As we have seen in Turkey, where cartoonists face increased regulation of what they can and cannot say, these cartoonists bring a unique perspective to the events. It is their voice of support against the enacted violence and violations of free speech that demonstrate just how complex this global issue is.
As the Israeli newspaper Ynet recently wrote,
Nearly four years later, many people are still watching their step… Authoritarian rule has returned to many Arab countries while the rise of Islamic State militants who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria also poses dangers to anyone who dares to debate religion.
Much like Malaysian cartoonist Zunar and Turkish political satirist Musa Kart , both of whom have had governmental and political action taken against them in their respective countries, have chosen to speak out about the events at Charlie Hebdo, several cartoonists in the Arab community are also choosing to speak out and take action rather than stay silent for fear of political persecution and personal repercussion.
In Lebanon there has been an outpouring of cartoons, including the image below, which reads: “This is how we avenge the cartoonists’ killer.”
The Lebanese newspaper An Nahar also printed the following cartoon, which reads “But… he called me a terrorist.”
Lebanese cartoonist Stavro Jabro pointed out, “We want to defend the freedom of the press, the freedom of the media and the freedom of opinion. This is our mission.” The following Lebanese cartoon reads “Freedom up in the air,” and like the other cartoons, it depicts explicitly icons of violence coming in contact with icons of free speech. Some cartoons are more positive than others, but all of them show just how much the Charlie Hebdo attack has impacted the Lebanese cartoonist community.
In Qatar the English-language newspaper Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed printed the following image, which took a more figurative approach, but none-the-less demonstrates a desire to stand together and fight for power that free speech brings.
In Egypt, the cartoonist Makhlouf drew the two cartoons below for the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, not only demonstrating his support for Charlie Hebdo, but also the power of free expression. Both cartoons read “In support of Charlie Hebdo.”
In Anwar, the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm printed the following cartoon, which reads “Long live satire.”
An artist in Morocco also produced the following more graphic cartoon which reads “Freedom” (written in blood) with a knife bearing the words “Journalism Law”
Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart produced the following cartoons in response to the events at Charlie Hebdo.
And the following which reads:
- TV: “Massacre in Paris. Twelve dead.”
- President Erdogan: “I condemn the attack. 10 years prison would have been enough for the cartoonists.”
The outpouring of cartoons, though, wasn’t only restricted to the Muslim community and its surrounding countries. Ecuadorian cartoonist Xavier Bonilla (Bonil) , who has also been prosecuted for his cartoons satirizing President Rafael Correa, produced the following images in support of Charlie Hebdo.
And the more solemn…
And the following titled “New ‘Religion’: extremism.”
Arab Brazillian political cartoonist Carlos Latuff contributed this cartoon to the Middle Eastern Monitor.
What these cartoons demonstrate is just how much the world — including much of the Msulim community — stands behind the importance of protecting free speech. From the comic world to advocacy groups to cartoonists who live in the heart of Muslim world, most recognize that the events at Charlie Hebdo were an attack on freedom of speech. These cartoonists’ responses demonstrate just how strong and powerful a drawn image can be.
Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!