Charlie Hebdo adds to its long history of racist cartoons by portraying dead refugee babies as future monkey rapists

It depicts dead refugee babies as future "ass gropers," uses the n-word & makes fun of massacred Egyptian activists

Published January 14, 2016 3:00AM (EST)

          (Reuters/Eric Gaillard)
(Reuters/Eric Gaillard)

Update, Jan. 17:

The father of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee who drowned off the coast of Turkey as his family fled violence, said he wept upon seeing the Charlie Hebdo cartoon portraying his late son as a monkey rapist.

"When I saw the picture, I cried," Abdullah Kurdi told AFP. "My family is still in shock."

He called the cartoon "inhuman and immoral."

Original, Jan. 13:

French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamic extremists on Jan. 7, 2015. A dozen people were killed, leading to global expressions of "Je suis Charlie" -- or "I am Charlie."

At the time, critics accused the ostensible free speech campaign of hypocrisy, noting how repressive countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and others exploited the shootings for political gains, staging a photo op. They also pointed out that the media devoted exponentially less attention to the slaughter of 2,000 Nigerians by Boko Haram just days before.

Less than a week after the first anniversary of the attack, Charlie Hebdo reignited controversy by publishing a cartoon that characterizes dead refugee children fleeing violence in the Middle East as future monkey rapists.

"What would little Aylan have grown up to be?" its latest cartoon asks, referring to Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee whose dead body washed up on a Turkish beach.

An "ass groper in Germany," it responds, referencing a series of sexual assaults on women in Cologne, Germany that were attributed to "Arab and North African men."

The drawing depicts Middle Eastern refugees who fled brutal, Western-fueled wars in their respective countries as lascivious apes chasing a white European woman.

Condemnations of the cartoon flooded social media in response. Critics called it racist and reminiscent of colonialist and orientalist portrayals of people from the Middle East. Others even said it is downright fascist.

Yet this cartoon is by no means the first example of Charlie Hebdo's racism. The publication has a long history of publishing overtly racist caricatures.

One of its past cartoons shows the Pope surrounded by a crowd of dark-skinned people with the caption "The Pope in Paris: The French are as stupid as ni**ers."

It has also published at least two other cartoons lampooning the death of Aylan Kurdi.

"Christians walk on water. Muslim children sink," read one, which showed the three-year-old refugee boy drowning.

Another depicts the corpse of the child face down on the beach with the words "Welcome immigrants!" and "So close to his goal," along with a McDonald's sign reading "2 kids menus for the price of one."

When Western-backed Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi massacred more than 800 peaceful protesters at Rabaa Square in August 2013, in what Human Rights Watch called a "crime against humanity," Charlie Hebdo made fun of the deaths of the activists, many of whom were from the Muslim Brotherhood party and were challenging the U.S.-backed overthrow of Egypt's democratically elected government.

Charlie Hebdo frequently portrays Muslims with large hooked noses and beards, in a style reminiscent of anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews in the early 20th century.

Yet the publication does draw a line. While Charlie Hebdo uses Nazi-era imagery to portray Muslims, it fires employees accused of anti-Semitism.

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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