Huge numbers of Muslim cartoonists have joined the international chorus in support of free speech. We spoke with three to get their thoughts on Charlie Hebdo. While opinions varied on the cartoons themselves, all three defended freedom of expression and denounced violence.
Doaa Eladl of Egypt knows a thing or two about being threatened over cartoons, having been persecuted by the Morsi regime for a cartoon opposing politicization of religion. She penned this lovely and tragic symbol of France:
Says Eladl: “I have a lot of French cartoonist [friends], and when this happened I felt so much sadness… and horrible! I felt that Charlie Hebdo magazine is not in France, but in Egypt! Since the murder of Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali I had not heard of something like that.
I think the world lost very talented cartoonists. They have a long history of satire and break taboos!” (Ed. note: Due to a language barrier, we did not get into a longer discussion with Doaa about the cartoons themselves.)
Shams explains: “My point of view [is] that as long as the same misconceptions about Islam govern us, we are going towards more violence in the name of religion. What happened to Charlie is the same as what ISIS does in Iraq and Syria, the same ideas.”
When asked whether he found the Charlie Hebdo cartoons insensitive to France’s Muslim immigrants or Muslims in general, Shams replied “I think so, it’s really insensitive, but I also think that the response method is not approved by Islam, and I think that a dialogue about it is the best way to avoid this kind of clash. There are groups that use religion to achieve political objectives only.”
Adnan Hussain is a Los Angeles-based comic artist and animator. He made this statement about the attacks:
“The senseless murders of cartoonists, editorial staff and police during the attack on Charlie Hebdo is a painful reminder of the power of hate mongering and xenophobia and the cost of brutal violence around the world. People need to express ideas without fear of death. The response to this horrible crime however, seems more about political opportunism as the politicians most vocal on this as a free speech issue, have condoned or purposely murdered more journalists and civilians than two hateful men with guns ever could.
Let’s protect free speech and be proud of the large number of people from all walks of life who have come out to support it and mourn the deaths of innocents. Do not allow a movement based on free speech to be hijacked by war criminals to commit even greater crimes against humanity.
About a month ago, when gunmen entered a school in Peshawar, Pakistan and massacred school children and teachers, we saw the same rhetoric from politicians, military and media in Pakistan to stand for the rights of children. Did their solution include cutting out the cancer from within? Did they consider their role in this violence? As usual, they did not, but I see a glimmer of hope in the very brave peaceful protests around taking our mosques back all over Pakistan and a push for legal action against those who would use them to create violence. I think the world could do well to learn from this movement in Pakistan and do what it can to support and emulate it in their own countries.”
Hussain provided a link to the Facebook page of Mohammad Jibran Nasir, one of the key figures in the growing protests against terrorism in Pakistan. The movement, marked by the hashtag #ReclaimYourMosques, is holding a worldwide rally today to remember the children killed in the Peshawar attacks.
As the Charlie Hebdo killings provoked some in America to blame Islam, these artists make clear that the reality is far more complex.