Many opine about this now-famous Nov. 2011, issue of Charlie Hebdo, but few seem willing to let non-French speakers judge for themselves beyond its covers. I decided to herein offer my own.
This is the “Sharia Hebdo” special edition, with “guest editor” Muhammad himself. The November 2011 firebombing of CH offices occurred on the day the issue was to appear in newsstands. Not only did the bombing fail to halt the issue’s release, the magazine responded by distributing over double the usual number of copies. The issue is usually touted as the breaking point that paved the way for the massacre of its staff this month by Islamist terrorists.
The upcoming issue had previously been announced with the statement: “To fittingly celebrate the victory of the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia… Charlie Hebdo has asked Muhammad to be the special editor-in-chief of its next issue. The prophet of Islam didn’t have to be asked twice and we thank him for it.” In an interview, a spokesman said: “What made us do this was what was happening in Tunisia and in Libya, where we have seen the reappearance of Sharia… Ultimately, Mohammed can be a funny, nice character.”
Like many, I’ve been bemused by recent rants describing the issue, and the magazine in general, as racist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic, punching down on the marginalized, with no goal but pointless spiteful bullying… In other words, pretty much all that’s opposite of the leftwing values the staff have said they hold in interviews. How could such an output be described by the French as far-left satirists? It made no sense. Is Charlie Hebdo actually all these ugly things? Or are non-French writers with agendas willfully missing a Stephen Colbert-like satire?
There’s much more to the edition than the excerpts below, but here are the best-known sections. It has sixteen pages, not all cartoons, with plenty of text. (The issue in its entirety is available in pdf here). There’s plenty more context in there to help assess the magazine’s intent.
What I found bears no resemblance to the illiberal ugliness that many, who I suspect never read it, purport. Instead, I found a progressive indictment of the oppression of women, gays and dissenters under authoritarian Islamic theocracies, and of their inhuman sharia justice system. Most surprisingly to me, Muhammad himself is depicted as a good-natured, rare voice of reason. Judge for yourself.
Please feel free to suggest translation corrections, improvements, additions or context in the comments.
(A woman’s hands and feet protrude from pile of rocks after being stoned, with stones between her toes as hand paints the toenails.) Perfect nails! Optimal drying with one-shot stoning.
(Woman in burqua with amputated hand sits while manicurist works on nails of severed hand.) We have tested it for you at at the Mustapha Abdel Jalil Institute.
(A lounging man, with two women carrying laundry baskets.) From now on, sir, you have the choice between 2 women, if not more!
(A woman lying at spa with candles receiving hot rock therapy, but the rocks have also crushed her skull.) I decided to do something good for me. This time, I’ll dare the spa. Courtesy of my husband.
(Woman in burqua gazing into crystal ball.) Your Horoscope: It’s all about denial for you because tomorrow does not exist.
(Woman in burqua with noose around neck.) How to succeed at forced marriage!
(A woman in chair knitting a burqua for her car.) Pending your driver’s license, knit this smart cover, pattern included in this issue.
(A woman in burqua is lying on a psychiatrist’s couch.) Choose a shrink! Woman: I have a problem with my superego. Psychiatrist: Not “my superego,” “my sharia.”
(A bruised Muslim woman in pain, limping.) Special fashion for battered women! You have been beaten, you limp. You want to pass unnoticed? (Tips given to camouflage signs of beatings.)
(Introductory text panel.) After the Libyan president announced that national legislation would now be based on Sharia, and after the victory of the Islamist party in the Tunisian elections, secularists are worried. Don’t panic, explain Libyan and Tunisian Muslims, there are several ways to apply Sharia. They promise they will not apply the “hard” Saudi Arabian Sharia … Well, but then what would be a “soft” Sharia?
(Woman reading newspaper aloud to husband while he’s prostrated on prayer rug.) Woman: In France, a man was sentenced to 9 years in prison for passing AIDS has his girlfriend. Man: Sharia is less severe! Women would just have been obliged to say thank you .
(Man flogging another man for being gay, but it looks like fun, while other gay men fight to be next in line.) 100 lashes for sodomy!
(Cleric with wife.) Cleric: OK, we will stone, and we will cut off the hands of thieves and tongues of liars. But women’s rights will be respected. (In next panel, the woman has cut out his tongue…for lying that women’s rights would be respected.)
(Happy man eagerly holding whip over woman in burqua kneeling to present her rump.) 100 lashes? No! One lash for 100 days!
(Man sits comfortably reading in recliner, while three wives, crouching in tiny cages, complain enviously about fourth wife in larger cage.)
(Man wearing veil speaking to nervous cleric.) Soft Sharia allows homosexuality! It’s just that gays must wear a veil.
(Child’s box of “toys” with parts labeled.) Fun Sharia for fundamentalist children! Hand (silicone) amputated for theft. Foot amputated for gang theft. Tongue (rubber) cut out for false testimony. Sword (plastic) for decapitation and amputation. Stones (polystyrene) for stoning adulterous women. Whip (paper) for sex outside marriage.
(Cleric to woman in burqua, as crowd hurls stones at computer screen showing her Facebook profile.) She who deceives her husband on her Facebook profile will be stoned.
(Gory image of woman stoned to death.) Madame, would you rather be stoned with plain rocks, or these artisan-crafted stones?
“Aperitif Halal:” An Editorial by Muhammad
There is no god but God (if not, it’s a mess).
The Islamist Ennahda party won elections in Tunisia! Al-hamdoullilah! And the West asks again if Islam is compatible with democracy … but no religion is compatible with democracy once the political party that represents it wants to take power in the name of God and ban disbelievers.
A practicing Muslim, a devout Christian or Orthodox Jew can become president of a republic, and even a secular republic, yes. An activist of a religious political party, no. He can become president, but it will, Inshallah, be to serve religion, god, faith, and not the idiots who voted for him. Besides, how can a democracy be bothered with religious political parties? To allow religious political parties is to allow the enslavement of politics by religion. How could Tunisians, these small prétentiards who think they are the most “evolved” people in the Arab world, arguing that their wives have the right to pee standing up, get fucked so easily? (“Evolved” for them, means westernized!)
Ennahda tells them that they will not change the personal status code, will never apply Shari’a … Ha, ha, kidding! What interest would a religious party have in taking power if not to apply its ideas? Hello, we are the Bolshevik party, and if you vote for us, we promise to never talk about communism … Come on!
No, the religious party Ennahda is built for distance running. God’s time, God has eternity before Him. Me too. The first mission of Ennahda is to reassure everyone… The leader of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, assured that “the mosque should not be forums for political parties.” Beautiful! Ghannouchi does not rely on the mosques to make politics since he plans one day to have a government make religion!
In the aftermath of his victory, Ennahda offers a national unity government. Why bother with disbelievers? So that all the Tunisian political class will be responsible for the economic slump that threatens. Ennahda does not want in the next election to be blamed for the failure of its policy. The next election … Yes, there will be future elections, and then others, rejoice, the idol worshipers of democracy! Ennahda is the disease that will kill you without triggering fever!
There’s even a kind of French democrats’ puffy paternalism that explains how we should not be too hard on the Tunisians’ Islamist vote, on the pretext that they come out of a dictatorship and have fallen behind in the practice of democracy. They need a long time … A long time…exactly the Ennahda program! I also hear Frankaouis comparing their revolution to the Jasmine Revolution. “We had to go through a lot of tests before we could have a perfect democracy” (for democracy, they have the corrupt regime of Sarkozy ). As if the Tunisians did not live in 2011 (1432 for us Muslims), but in 1789 … What contempt! Why should the Tunisians wander the tunnels of sordid French history? Will they have their Napoleon, Tunisians? And their Louis XVIII? I wait to see the face of their de Gaulle. Tunisians living in the twenty-first century, Islam is a religion of the twenty-first century! Allah akbar!
Muhammad Rasul Allah (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS Thanks to Sarkozy and BHL for the boost in Libya.
Back Cover (detail)
“Yes, Islam is compatible with humor.” — Muhammad