No Bull, No Fluff, No Smudges
Your news source for
Flagler, Florida and Beyond

A Muslim Cartoonist on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre: Shame, Fear, But Mostly Hope

| January 13, 2015

The cover of Charlie Hebdo's new issue, which will be published Wednesday with a print run of 3 million, and in 16 languages.

The cover of Charlie Hebdo’s new issue, which will be published Wednesday with a print run of 3 million, and in 16 languages.

As a political cartoonist who happens to be both American and Muslim, I often find myself at the intersection of media curiosity: Muslim, with all the stereotypical notions attached to that, but also a freedom-loving artist and a humorist.

I’m not just the butt of jokes, but a purveyor of them — a non-violent wielder of the pen, which I maintain is funnier than the sword.

I’m no stranger to controversy and censorship, and I’ve received my fair share of death threats over the years. So I’ve had ample opportunity to mull the thorny question of freedom of expression versus responsibility.

Was Charlie Hebdo, the satirical publication whose staffers were murdered by Islamic extremists in Paris, always the fairest and most responsible newspaper in the world? Of course not. I confess to have often cringed at its apparent double-standard when it comes to skewering Muslims and Jews.

But does anyone — ever — deserve to be harassed, hounded, or murdered for expressing an opinion, however egregious it may be perceived by some?

Khalil Bendib

Khalil Bendib

Voltaire’s biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall eloquently and definitively answered that question long ago: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Personally, I will always remember January 7 as a day of infamy, a catastrophe delivering layer upon layer of misery.

As a human being, I feel disgust over the murder of 12 innocent people.

As an artist, I feel a profound sense of grief over the loss of four fellow cartoonists — including the great Cabu (also known as Jean Cabut), who inspired me as a young man to become a cartoonist.

And as a member of the worldwide Muslim community, I’m plagued with a nagging sense of shame and fear of the inevitable backlash that will follow in an already Islamophobic Europe, where most of my family still resides.

I worry that the unspeakable acts of a few will drown out the sincere protestations of the many that this kind of horror doesn’t speak in our name.

Former French justice minister Robert Badinter — no particular friend of the Muslim community — has warned his fellow citizens not to fall into the extremist trap of letting barbaric violence divide French society, of which nearly 10 percent is Muslim. But tensions are running high.

Yet beyond the social polarization — manifested by both senseless Islamist violence and the cheap Islamophobia of opportunistic politicians and media — lies a more interesting and nuanced reality: signs of hope and progress.

Long before this attack, French people were showing what it means to coexist in a multi-ethnic and pluralistic society.

other-wordsAmong the many good works he will be remembered for, cartoonist Georges Wolinski — who was among the cartoonists assassinated in cold blood in the name of wounded religious pride — once came to the rescue of Menouar Merabtene, the Algerian cartoonist best known as Slim, a close friend of mine who was fleeing from persecution in his native country.

Throughout the 1990s, a bloody civil war raged between Islamist militants and the autocratic Algerian government. Many artists and intellectuals opposed to the Islamist agenda were systematically assassinated in that conflict.

Out of simple human solidarity, Wolinski — a Jewish cartoonist from France — spontaneously intervened to secure a job for the beleaguered Muslim-Algerian Slim at the Paris newspaper L’Humanité.

Similarly, thousands of French people are mourning and praising slain Muslim police officerAhmed Merabet. He died pursuing men suspected of perpetrating the Charlie Hebdomassacre.

Like the stories of North African Muslims standing in solidarity with their Jewish brethren against the Vichy government’s hunt for North African Jews during World War II, these simple stories tend to get lost in the din of terrorist mayhem.

But in the end, bullets and bombs can never silence the voices of laughter and friendship.

Khalil Bendib is OtherWords’ editorial cartoonist, an artist, and the author or co-author of several books, including the widely translated graphic novel Zahra’s Paradise. He was born in Paris as a refugee of Algeria’s war of independence and grew up in Morocco and Algeria. He lives in Berkeley, California. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 Responses for “A Muslim Cartoonist on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre: Shame, Fear, But Mostly Hope”

  1. tomc says:

    The moslems will win in any country in which they exist in large numbers because they are so dedicated to violence.

  2. Sky King says:

    Perhaps all the “peace loving” muslims would prefer to live in countries that are muslim . I just don’t understand WHY a population of SHARIA LAW minded religious people want to live with CHRISTIAN LAW minded religious people.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Because if we ever get CHRISTIAN LAW in this country, it will pretty much be the same as Sharia. Except for electrocutions instead of beheadings maybe.

  3. just me says:

    Thank you for putting this cartoon on your site. While I dislike any intentionally insulting anyone’s faith it is more important to have free speech over censorship.

  4. I/M/O says:

    While I may not always aggree with you or your staffs opionions I thank you for posting threis Guest Column with the photo.

    It is being reported tht thre only newspaper in the nation that refued to publish the cover of the latest Charlie Hebdo’s issue has been the New York Times which cited their personal secuirty outweighs their First Ammendment Rights, Freedom of Expresssion and Freedom of the Press.

    Congratulations to you and your staff for having the Courage and Leadership along with 99.99….% of the rest of the newspapeers in this nation.

    Today Flagler Live stands above the New York Times.

    ” ‘A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.”
    William Shakespeare

  5. NortonSmitty says:

    IMHO, everyday Flagler Live stands above the New York Times.

Leave a Reply

Read FlaglerLive's Comment Policy | Subscribe to the Comment Feed rss flaglerlive comment feed rss

More stories on FlaglerLive

Get Email Alerts to FlaglerLive

Enter your email address to get alerts.


suppert flaglerlive flagler live palm coast flagler county news pierre tristam florida
news service of florida
FlaglerLive is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization | P.O. Box 254263, Palm Coast, FL 32135 | Contact the Editor by email | (386) 586-0257 | Sitemap | Log in