Charlie Hebdo has been heavily criticized for its decision to publish a cartoon depicting a 19-year-old veiled student as a monkey. The text, written in a thought bubble on the cartoon, reads: “They chose me to head the UNEF (French National Student Union).” The cartoon depicts Maryam Pougetoux, leader of a student union at the Sorbonne, who had previously appeared on TV to speak about the ongoing student protests in France.
Twitter erupted in outrage following the publication. “Maybe Charlie Hebdo is just straight up racist, actually?” Part 34” wrote one user. Another tweeted, “The always racist Charlie Hebdo, awarded PEN’s free speech award, decides it’s edgy to parody a hijabi student (a very bright one) and reduce her to a monkey. But of course this is ok because the rest of us just don’t get French humour.”
Another wrote, “It’s Really Disgusting and shameful act By Charlie Hebdo magazine On Maryam issue. We #SupportToMaryam And We are With her in This Situation .. #StopRacsim #FrenchRacist.”
Journalist Sihame Assbague wrote, “And here’s Charlie Hebdo which, through a despicable front page, adds its contribution to the harassment campaign against unionist Maryam Pougetoux. 10 seconds on television to speak about the university’s selection earned her 10 days of racist attacks. This is la France.”
Twitter was not the only forum for critique. Olivier Besancenot, former NPA (New Anticapitalist Party) leader, critiqued the cartoon, saying he was “shocked” by the journal. “The Charlie Hebdo front page, I didn’t like it, it didn’t make me laugh, for the first time. As for those who are there asking everyone to say the word ‘secularism’, I can say the word ‘secularism’ but I can also say the word ‘Islamophobia.'”
Alexis Corbière, deputy of France Insoumise in Seine-Saint-Denis, was interviewed on the subject: “Personally, I don’t accept it. It’s a young 20 year-old woman, it’s intolerable, that’s enough. Stop bothering Muslims, frankly this climate is detestable, I don’t like this atmosphere.”
Not everyone disapproved, however.
Mourad Boudjelal, president of RC Toulon, said that “It was not the Charlie Hebdo headline that was shocking, it’s the wearing of the veil given that Maryam Pougetoux is a moral entity! We must disregard religious beliefs when this is the case!” For Boudjelal, “Today, when someone represents a business, we must ignore religious beliefs. We must remove them.”
The deputy mayor of Avignon Amine El Khatmi (PS), thought it was a “success,” and Raphaël Enthoven of Europe 1 found it to be “hilarious,” while castigating the “cretinous, racist and violent reactions,” it provoked.
Waleed Al-husseini wrote, “I love the reactions to Charlie Hebdo’s front page. Nothing but whiners. ‘Racists’ but enough stop whining! Religion is not an ethnicity. it’s not genetic, it’s not natural, it’s an ideology, it’s a choice or imposed.”