Thursday 23 May 2019

Unrepentant, unbowed: Charlie Hebdo reaffirms place as the true and improper Charlie

Tunisian protesters shoot slogans against Charlie Hebdo and their new front cover during a rally in Tunis .
Tunisian protesters shoot slogans against Charlie Hebdo and their new front cover during a rally in Tunis .

John Lichfield

Charlie's new fans all over the world may find the proper Charlie tougher to swallow than the martyred Charlie.

The 'Charlie Hebdo' survivors pulled off something strange and courageous in yesterday's post-massacre edition: a millefeuille of mockery and defiance; mourning and bad taste.

No punches were pulled; no unwelcome new friend escaped without a kick.

All 'Charlie Hebdo's standard repertory company of tasteless excess was packed into 16 pages which may this week become the best-selling newspaper or magazine in the Western world.

A masturbating nun; the Pope dressed as a Mafia boss; a woman in a burka lifting her robes to show that she is wearing stockings and suspenders - and nothing else. 'Charlie Hebdo's mental atmosphere is 1968-70: anarcho-hard leftism and militant atheism mingled with half-ironical sexism.

Two of the star cartoonists who died - Cabu and Wolinski, both brilliant - loved to muddle social commentary with drawings of naked young women. Examples of their work, and those of three other cartoonists who died last week, litter yesterday's edition.

A surviving columnist, Mathieu Madénian, summed up his colleagues in yesterday's magazine as "an improbable collection of sex-mad cartoonists, economists, anti-globalists and priest-eaters, united in their determination to laugh and to expose, and above all, addicted to the pleasure of displeasing".

Placed in that context, the front-page cartoon of Mohammed by Luz, which has divided opinion around the world, is a relatively cuddly and would-be consensual character.

The prophet wears white, not black; he is shedding a tear; he carries a sign which says "Je suis Charlie". The intended message from 'Charlie Hebdo' is conciliatory.

You only need to turn over the page to see the more typically blasphemous, aggressive, plague-on-all-your-churches mood of 'Charlie Hebdo' through the ages. A celebrated French nun, Soeur Emmanuelle, reflects on her life. She says: "Down here I pleasured myself." She goes on to muse on the pleasures of the flesh that await her in heaven. This is toilet-wall humour - effective only because it shocks, like a loud bang. It is the work of Tignous, who also died last week. Beneath is a somewhat wittier - and prophetic - Tignous cartoon.

A trio of jihadis is seen plotting. "We'd better not touch the 'Charlie Hebdo' people," says the first. Another jihadi replies: "Otherwise those bastards will become martyrs and when they get to paradise they will pinch all our virgins."

Muslim clerics in the Middle East who have denounced last week's attack on 'Charlie Hebdo' criticised it for publishing the new cartoons .While mainstream Muslim leaders around the world have strongly condemned the attack on the newspaper, many said its decision to print more cartoons of Mohammed was an unnecessary provocation and sign of disrespect that would create a new backlash.

Such cartoons "fuel feelings of hatred and resentment among people" and publishing them "shows contempt" for Muslim feelings, said the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestinian lands, Mohammed Hussein, said.

Irish Independent

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