The spirit of Charlie Hebdo is to take the satirical piss out of anyone and everyone of any note. Political authorities, religious figures, cultural icons, you name it. The closest contemporary cultural parallel in the U.S. is probably either South Park or The Onion, however, those outlets both take care to avoid depictions of the Islamic prophet—or at least they do nowadays.
But then so now does Charlie Hebdo. As reported by Stern, DW, The Telegraph, Washington Post, and Washington Times, editor Laurent Sourisseau has said that they will no longer be publishing caricatures of Mohammed. (To be properly skeptical, I’m not entirely confident that Sourisseau was speaking for the publication rather than for himself. Any help from German speakers in clarifying the original meaning would be greatly appreciated on this point.)
We have drawn Muhammad to defend the principle that one can draw whatever they want. It is a bit strange though: we are expected to exercise a freedom of expression that no one dares to. We’ve done our job. We have defended the right to caricature. Now it’s someone else’s turn.
– Laurent Sourisseau, Stern, 15 Jul 2015
The right to caricature remains under sustained attack, along with every other exercise of free expression which upsets the sensibilities of those who devoutly believe they have a duty to force others to submit to their moral or religious code. It is not enough to defend it once or twice, and it is shameful that Charlie Hebdo has stood virtually alone, enjoying almost no support in the form of republication from mainstream North American news outlets. But for the existence of the internet, we would not know what these controversial cartoons even look like.
I don’t know how we go forward from here, or who will pick up the torch, but I sincerely hope that the online skeptic and freethought community will play a crucial role. I am optimistic, at least, that my colleagues here at Skeptic Ink will not be backing down anytime soon. Are we truly Charlie? Only time will tell.