Charlie Hebdo's strange cover

Is anyone else at least slightly perplexed that a quintessentially Christian message of forgiveness is being conveyed on Charlie Hebdo's new cover with reference to Islamist terrorism next to Islam's prophet when the victims were mainly atheists and Jews? Western confusion, anyone?

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Does this look strange?
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the commentator
On 14 January 2015 08:46

There's something very strange about the Charlie Hebdo cover featuring a picture of Mohammed. And no, it's not the fact that they, in contrast with practically all of the British media, have had the courage to depict the person Muslims regard as their Prophet.

They've done that dozens of times. What is strange is the caption that accompanies it at the top. Take a look.

"Tout est pardonne"? "All is forgiven"? Really? Is it the place of the surviving members of the editorial team to say this on behalf of their dead colleagues, and to do so so soon after the atrocity?

And remember, several Jews who were not members of the editorial team were murdered in a kosher supermarket in a directly related attack. Were their relatives asked whether they really and truly agree that all is forgiven?

These are difficult questions posed at a difficult time, and we do not pose them rhetorically. But this is not what strikes us as strange.

There has been a lot of very complex political psychology going on over this whole affair, but is anyone else at least slightly perplexed that a quintessentially Christian message of forgiveness is being conveyed with reference to Islamist terrorism next to Islam's prophet when the victims were mainly atheists and Jews?

After such atrocities, forgiveness is the kind of message you'd expect from the Pope, which is not to say that forgiveness is an exclusively Christian message, but that it is in fact central to the Christian tradition.

The more one thinks about it, the more perplexing it gets. There are deliberate ambiguities to deal with. Is it Mohammed saying that "all is forgiven" or is it Charlie Hebdo saying they forgive Mohammed?

Britain's Press Gazette (which ran the cartoon-cover partially cut so as not to depict Mohammed) argued that the French media has gone with the view that Mohammed is forgiving Charlie Hebdo for its satirical cartoons about him.

In either case, what then becomes of the central, mainstream narrative of this affair -- that the attacks had "nothing to do with Islam"?

(A surviving columnist at Charlie Hebdo has said that it is the terrorists who are being forgiven by Charlie Hebdo, though one could not obviously draw that conclusion from the cover.)

Of course, satire does not have to be held to the same level of analytical scrutiny as a news report or an opinion piece. But satire is also a product of the human mind, and it reflects the assumptions (sometimes confused and contradictory) that constitute it.

And goodness, how we have been witness to confusion and contradiction in the way that our mainstream media and politicans have responded to this tragedy.

There will be those who may argue that we should not over-analyse. Perhaps they have a point. This is certainly not a time to criticise the traumatised staff at Charlie Hebdo.

Still, genuine reflection has to start somewhere. And with regard to the West's ambiguous response to the Charlie Hebdo massacres in particular and Islamism in general, the key question still lingers: How deep does the rabbit hole go?

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