France's hardened defense of Mohammed cartoons could lead to 'trap' (published 2020) (2023)


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Once denounced by French leaders, the images are now defended across the political spectrum, widening the gap with Muslim nations and leaving many French Muslims alienated.

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France's hardened defense of Mohammed cartoons could lead to 'trap' (published 2020) (1)

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NICE, France — When the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdore-releasedCaricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in early September, this set off a chain of events includingtwo knife wounds, protests in Muslim countries, the boycott of French goods and criticism from allies. Tensions rose higher when oneyoung Islamist extremistbeheaded a teacher near Paris this month, and anothertwo people's throats were cutand fatally stabbed another in a church in the southern city of Nice this week.

But French officials have not only defended the right to republish the cartoons, some have gone further - including regional leaders whoannouncedthat a pamphlet containing these images would be distributed to high school students as a commitment to "defend the values ​​of the Republic."

In the torturous 14-year history of cartoons inFrancethe reaction to the pictures there has changed profoundly. Once denounced by the head of state for provoking and disregarding Muslims and later kept at a cautious distance by other officials, the same drawings are now widely embraced by the entire political establishment - often linked to France's commitment to freedom of expression.

The cartoons have brought France into a dangerous impasse, widening its gap with Muslim nations and leaving many French Muslims feeling alienated. For Muslims outside France, and some inside France, the cartoons are simply provocative and baseless insults to their faith. One drawing shows the Prophet Muhammad carrying a bomb in his turban.

France's hardened defense of the imagery has also set it apart from the United States and other Western democracies, which, in the face of increasingly diverse societies, have become more wary of language that might be considered offensive, particularly to racial, ethnic, religious, or other minorities. Many French people see this attitude as a form of American political correctness that threatens French culture.


On Friday, a day after a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant killed three people in the main basilica in Nice,Police announced they had arrested a second suspect. About 50 people gathered in front of the church to commemorate the dead. What started as a moment of solidarity was interrupted by a few local residents blaming Islam for the attack, to the protest of bystanders. A veiled woman called for Muslims not to be equated with terrorists.

The mayor of Nice said the constitution should be changed to allow France to properly "wage war" against Islamist extremists. France's hard-line interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, set the tone by declaring: "We are at war, against an enemy that is both within and without."

The martial language reflects a general hardening of the French view of radical Islam. The cartoons' fierce defense has left the French in a position with little leeway, where any compromise could be seen as undermining a fundamental value - France's strict secularism, known as laïcité.

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Pierre-Henri Tavoillot, a philosopher and Laïcité expert at the Sorbonne University, said the conflict over the cartoons had led France into "a trap".

"In fact, they have become symbols and that turns the situation into a conflict," he said. "But it is a conflict that I believe is inevitable: if the French laïcité gives up on this point, it must give up on all the others."

He added: "If we give up caricatures, for a French person we give up freedom of expression, the ability to criticize religions."

In 2015, the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the killing of a dozen people - including cartoonists and columnists - led to a mass mobilization in Paris under the banner "Je suis Charlie" or "I am Charlie".


Representatives from Muslim countries such as Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan and Qatar joined this march against terrorism and for freedom of expression. But all of these countries have in recent days criticized the re-publication of the cartoons, arguing that they offend Muslims.

The editorial board of Charlie Hebdore-releasedthe same cartoons to mark the start of a long-awaited trial of alleged accomplices to the 2015 attack, in which they said they were reaffirming France's democracy.

The re-release was quickly followed by a high-profile oneNetworkby President Emmanuel Macron, in which he outlined his plans to fight Islamism and the government's widespread crackdown on Islamist individuals and organizations - steps that helped change perspectives abroad.

"Publishing and re-publishing are not the same thing," said Anne Giudicelli, a French Arab world expert who has worked for France's foreign ministry. “The re-release of Charlie Hebdo is seen as a stubborn will to keep humiliating. That is different from 2015. Now there is a feeling that France has a problem with Islam, whereas in 2015 France was a victim of terrorists.”

Angered by the re-release, a Pakistani asylum seeker stabbed two people to death outside the magazine's former offices, and a refugee of Chechen descent beheaded a middle school teacher who showed two cartoons of Muhammad to the class, including one showing him naked on all fours.

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Freedom of speech – or the freedom to say blasphemous things about religion – is seen as a tenet of French democracy, established by rooting out the power of the monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church, and steadily emerging as a pillar of French secularism, or laïcité has .


Rooted in a 1905 law - when France had no significant Muslim community - French secularism separated church and state - and was based on the idea that faith is a private matter and therefore must be confined to the private sphere, Mr Tavoillot, the philosopher said.

Jean Baubérot, a leading historian of French secularism, said the idea was to prioritize the state. "Modern France thinks it's established itself against religion," he said.

France's strict secularism was indirectly strengthened by the increasing secularization of French society. According to a 2016, only 8 percent of French people practice their faith regularly todayMessagefrom the Paris Institut Montaigne.

But how laïcité is lived and enforced has hardened in response to the rising number of Muslims in France, Mr Baubérot said. Today, about 10 percent of France's population is Muslim, and they are far more religious than their Christian or Jewish counterparts. According to the report, 31 percent of Muslims visit a mosque or prayer hall once a week.

French secularism upholds the right to criticize all religions - if not the believers. The line is often difficult to draw and has led many Muslims to feel personally offended by the publication of cartoons of Muhammad.

To make matters worse, France places some restrictions on freedom of expression — for example, it bans attacks on people because of their religion or skin color and bans Holocaust denial.

The beheaded teacher had used two cartoons of Mohammed from the pages of Charlie Hebdo in a lesson on freedom of expression, angering many Muslim students and parents. The government viewed his assassination as an attack on the state, as public school teachers played a key role in teaching about secularism.


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A few days after the murder, the leaders of France's 13 regions announced that they would publish a pamphlet containing the Muhammad cartoons for high school students.

"The art of caricature is an ancient tradition that is part of our democracy," said Iannis Roder, a middle school history teacher and a member of the Council of Wise Men established by the government in 2018 to strengthen laïcité in public schools.

He added that he was finding it increasingly difficult to teach freedom of expression and the right to caricature because "religionism is becoming more pervasive among many students who call themselves Muslims."

But Mohammed Moussaoui, the president of France's Council of Muslim Faith, said there should be limits to offensive satire when it comes to religious beliefs. Restricting the publication of cartoons of Muhammad avoids fueling extremism, he said.

"I don't think this is the right way to explain freedom of expression to children," Moussaoui said of the cartoons in an interviewFrance info. "The duty of fraternity compels everyone to renounce some rights."

In an episodeopinion, Mr Moussaoui said his proposal to "waive some rights" was clumsy. But he added: "If freedom of expression gives the right to be satirical or humorous, we can understand that cartoons that put a prophet, who is fundamental to millions of believers, in suggestive and demeaning attitudes are not subject to this." right can fall."

Since the cartoons have acquired a strong symbolic meaning since the attacks of 2015, they have become politically difficult to question.

Clémentine Autain, a far-left France Unbowed MEP, said the debate on terrorism and secularism "is dominated by emotions and is no longer rational".

Some politicians use Laïcité to "ostracize all Muslims," ​​she said. "My concern is that this will send a number of Muslims back into the arms of radicals."

Antonella Francini contributed research from Paris.


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What is the Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy? ›

February 13, 2006 • A Jordanian newspaper editor has been arrested on charges of blasphemy after reprinting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The controversial cartoons, which originally appeared in a Danish paper, have sparked angry protests by Muslims around the world.

What was the Charlie Hebdo editorial cartoon controversy? ›

Charlie Hebdo has been the target of three terrorist attacks: in 2011, 2015, and 2020. All of them were presumed to be in response to a number of cartoons that it published controversially depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammad. In the 2015 attack, 12 people were killed.

What is Charlie Hebdo magazine controversy? ›

Charlie Hebdo, a left-anarchist-leaning magazine published on Wednesdays, ceased publication in 1981. However, it was re-published in 1992. After the cartoons they published about the prophet Muhammad, some extreme groups attacked the magazine building on January 7, 2015, in which 11 people lost their lives.

Why can't TV shows show Muhammad? ›

Why couldn t South Park show Muhammad? South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were threatened in 2010 for the prior depictions of Muhammad. That prompted Comedy Central to remove voice and visual references in the episodes, and eventually to pull the entire episodes from streaming.

Is showing Muhammad illegal? ›

Idolatry and depictions of the Prophet Mohammed and other prophets are prohibited in Islam as they are ''infallible' and revered figures, and 'according to the Islamic faith […] should not be presented in any manner that might cause disrespect for them.

What are the controversial issues in Islam? ›

Polygamy and inheritance. Adultery and sexual violence. Veiling, female circumcision and crimes of honour. Lived religiosities.

What message is the political cartoon trying to convey? ›

Their main purpose, though, is not to amuse you but to persuade you. A good political cartoon makes you think about current events, but it also tries to sway your opinion toward the cartoonist's point of view.

What is the issue of the editorial cartoon? ›

Editorial cartoons, like written editorials, have an educational purpose. They are intended to make readers think about current political issues. Editorial cartoons must use a visual and verbal vocabulary that is familiar to readers.

What is the political cartoon trying to explain *? ›

political cartoon, a drawing (often including caricature) made for the purpose of conveying editorial commentary on politics, politicians, and current events. Such cartoons play a role in the political discourse of a society that provides for freedom of speech and of the press.

How many were killed in Charlie Hebdo? ›

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted the names of all 17 victims of a spate of attacks eight years ago in and around Paris, including the 12 people killed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Why do cartoons are said to be the one of the most effective means of communication? ›

“Cartoons are effective because they evoke emotions and people remember them,” says Denise Reynolds, senior communications consultant. “It's a simple, cost-effective way to grab someone's attention in a crowded digital world.”

Is Charlie Hebdo French? ›

The French satirical magazine has once again come under fire for its provocative comic strips. French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has sparked outrage on social media after it published a cartoon appearing to make light of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed thousands in Turkey and Syria.

Why is Muhammad censored? ›

In the original broadcast and DVD release, the speech is entirely censored with a continuous audio bleep, and Muhammad is replaced by a "CENSORED" bar. Comedy Central was responsible for censoring the audio, drawing massive criticism from audiences, who felt the network did so in response to Islamic terrorist threats.

What is number 13 in Islam? ›

Islam. In Shia, 13 signifies the 13th day of the month of Rajab (the Lunar calendar), which is the birth of Imam Ali. 13 also is a total of 1 Prophet and 12 Shia Imams in the Islamic School of Thought.

Who is Muhammad in the Bible? ›

Muslim scholars have believed that, in John 1:15, John the Baptist refers to prophets coming after Jesus. Among most Christians, this prophecy refers to Jesus, and among Muslims, it has been argued that this prophecy refers to Muhammad, rather than Jesus.

What happens if you draw a picture of Muhammad? ›

This is taken by Muslims to mean that Allah cannot be captured in an image by human hand, such is his beauty and grandeur. To attempt such a thing is seen as an insult to Allah. The same is believed to apply to Muhammad.

What is the most sinful thing in Islam? ›

The greatest of the sins described as al-Kaba'ir is the association of others with Allah or Shirk.

Does Islam violate human rights? ›

Human rights in Islam are firmly rooted in the belief that God, and God alone, is the Law Giver and the Source of all human rights. Due to their Divine origin, no ruler, government, assembly or authority can curtail or violate in any way the human rights conferred by God, nor can they be surrendered.

Are there any mistakes in the Quran? ›

In 2020 article a Saudi website published an article claiming that while most Muslims believe the text established by third caliph 'Uthman bin 'Affan "is sacred and must not be amended", there are some 2500 "errors of spelling, syntax and grammar" within it.

How do political cartoons persuade and influence citizens? ›

While political cartoons can be funny, that is usually not their main purpose. They were primarily created to persuade their audience to take a particular view on a historical event. A successful political cartoon can change someone's mind so that they ultimately agree with the cartoonist's point of view.

How does the cartoonist use analogy to express his viewpoint in this cartoon? ›

How does the cartoonist use an analogy to express his viewpoint in this cartoon? The cartoonist compares the shark's illness to food poisoning to show that pollution affects wildlife.

What message or ideas about US imperialism does the cartoon convey? ›

What message or ideas about US imperialism does the cartoon convey? According to the website “American Social History Project – Center for Media and Learning“ the cartoon portrays the idea of US imperialism as a beneficial support from the United States to both Cuba and the Philippines.

What is irony in editorial cartoon? ›

humour. Cartoonists use different kinds of humour to communicate their message — the most common are irony, satire and sarcasm. Irony — where the literal meaning of what is presented is the opposite of what is intended.

Is a cartoon that makes a point about a political issue or event you can find them in any daily newspaper but they won't be in the comics section? ›

A political cartoon is a cartoon that makes a point about a political issue or event. You can find them in any daily newspaper, but they won't be in the comics section.

Are political cartoons effective? ›

They explain and explore stories in manners that articles cannot. More effective than writing or video, they capture the imitable human nature of their subjects in order to humanise the topic they depict.

Is this cartoon an argument against democracy or for democracy? ›

Answer: This cartoon is an argument for democracy.

Why are political cartoons important in society? ›

They are able to illustrate and discuss stories in ways that essays and articles are unable to. They capture the inimitable human essence of their subjects in order to humanize the theme they represent more effectively than a piece of writing or film could.

Does Charlie Hebdo still exist? ›

In 1981, publication ceased, but the magazine was resurrected in 1992. The magazine is published every Wednesday, with special editions issued on an unscheduled basis. Gérard Biard is the current editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo. The previous editors were François Cavanna (1970–1981) and Philippe Val (1992–2009).

Who were the killers of Charlie Hebdo? ›

On 7 January 2015, at about 11:30 a.m. CET local time, two French Muslim terrorists and brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Armed with rifles and other weapons, they murdered 12 people and injured 11 others.

What was Charlie Hebdo case? ›

Charlie Hebdo shooting, series of terrorist attacks that shook France in January 2015, claiming the lives of 17 people, including 11 journalists and security personnel at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satiric magazine.

Why do people respond better to cartoons than realistic images? ›

They found both higher behavioral ratings of empathy and greater activation in the brain for areas for the cartoony characters than the realistic characters for both “winners” and “losers” (though different brain areas for different roles).

Why cartoons are powerful communication tools? ›

It grabs attention, tells a story, and delivers a punchline in a way that speechwriters can only dream of. And whether you're working with words, images, or both, being able to think like a cartoonist can help you create messages that are more engaging, persuasive and memorable.

Why are cartoons often used to address sensitive issues such as aid and development? ›

A cartoon captures most often humour and satire, is impersonal and offers the possibility to interpretation by the reader, all aspects that are advantages in researching sensitive topics. Cartoons either combine the verbal and the visual semiotic modes or only present the visual (Tsakona, 2009).

Who is Charlie French? ›

Abstract artist Charlie French works in his art studio almost daily, his commitment to his craft evident when viewing his beautiful, calming paintings. Born in NY, Charlie has lived both in the US and abroad, currently residing in Santa Fe, NM.

What religion is Elijah Muhammad? ›

Elijah Muhammad, known as the most prominent leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI), was born Elijah Poole in Sandersville, Georgia.

What ethnicity is Elijah Muhammad? ›

Elijah Muhammad's ascent is another instance of a black man from a small Southern town who achieved national eminence as a religious leader. He was born in Sandersville, Ga., on Oct. 7, 1897. His parents were sharecroppers—and former slaves.

Why do Muslims not allow pictures of Muhammad? ›

For most Muslims it's an absolute prohibition - Muhammad, or any of the other prophets of Islam, should not be pictured in any way. Pictures - as well as statues - are thought to encourage the worship of idols. This is uncontroversial in many parts of the Islamic world.

Is it a sin to draw Muhammad? ›

While the Quran does not explicitly prohibit depictions of Mohammad, most contemporary Muslims worldwide abide by the ban, based largely on religious rulings by Islamic scholars.

What was the message of this cartoon League of Nations? ›

The League of Nations is commonly seen as a precursor to the United Nations which still exists today. This cartoon depicts deciet as each of the nations is taking care of the United States. The nations all have hold strings that are keeping the hands of United States (Uncle Sam) tied up, and unable to break free.

What was the message in the cartoon bosses of the Senate? ›

Keppler's cartoon reflected the phenomenal growth of American industry in the 1880s, but also the disturbing trend toward concentration of industry to the point of monopoly, and its undue influence on politics.

What is the message of the school begins political cartoon? ›

The cartoon “School begins” depicts the general idea of the white US supremacy over the indigenous people of the colonized territories. An essential point in this cartoon is that the indigenous people of the US and black people are left out of the 'schooling process'.

What is the cartoonist trying to point through exaggeration? ›

Caricature (Exaggeration)

Cartoonists intentionally draw people or characters with physical features that are larger than they naturally are. They do this in order to make a point. Usually the point is to highlight something about the character of a person.

What is the main idea of the cartoon Versailles Treaty? ›

5. What is the main idea of the cartoon? There is something about the terms of the Versailles Treaty that has caused an angry, warlike person like Hitler to get power and support in Germany.

How does the cartoon illustrate one of the league's major problems? ›

How does the cartoon illustrate one of the league's major problems? It shows that the league was weak because it lacked powerful member nations. Which is one reason why the United Nations was stronger than the League of Nations? It had a security council to respond to global crises.

What message was being portrayed in the political cartoon child labor? ›

“Child Labor Employer”, Lewis Hine, Cartoon (1912)

The suffering children underneath can do little to resist the powerful force that the man's hand is exerting upon them. The cartoon is symbolic of the oppression and lack of protections that child laborers faced in the early 20th century.

What message is the cartoonist trying to convey regarding the Berlin Blockade? ›

On 27 September 1948, British cartoonist Leslie Gilbert Illingworth emphasises the effectiveness of the airlift bringing supplies to the Western sectors of Berlin, temporarily isolated by the blockade imposed by the Soviet forces on 24 June 1948.

Why are political cartoons effective and persuading? ›

The images can cast a powerful interpretation on the day's news. They explain and explore stories in manners that articles cannot. More effective than writing or video, they capture the imitable human nature of their subjects in order to humanise the topic they depict.

What is the message of the Tournament of today political cartoon? ›

The Tournament of Today

One of the defining tensions of the late nineteenth century was between labor and industry. This cartoon depicts the forces of monopolizing capitalism jousting against the forces of organized labor.

Is political cartoon a persuasive text? ›

Political cartoons are different from other primary sources because they are designed to be persuasive. Remember: The cartoonist is trying to change your mind about an issue! There are a few ways that a cartoon might persuade you.

What figure in the cartoon represents the United States? ›

Uncle Sam is a cartoon symbol for the United States, the U.S. government, or the American people.

What does irony symbolize in political cartoons? ›

Irony Cartoonists often use irony to emphasize a point because it sug- gests the absurdity of a problem. Other Elements Editorial cartoons may include dialogue bubbles (bubbles in which the characters' speech appears), captions, and labels to make clear to the reader what people and objects are being represented.

What are exaggerated cartoons called? ›

A caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way through sketching, pencil strokes, or other artistic drawings (compare to: cartoon).


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