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Charlie Hebdo cartoon sparks racism debate

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A cartoon in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has caused online shock by suggesting drowned toddler Alan Kurdi would have grown up to be a sexual abuser like those immigrants allegedly involved in the assaults in Cologne.

Under the headline “Migrants”, the drawing shows two lascivious pig-like men with their tongues hanging out chasing two terrified, screaming women who are running away.

An insert at the top the cartoon contains the famous image of the three-year-old Syrian boy laying face down dead in the sand. The question at the top of the drawing “What would little Aylan have grown up to be?” is answered at the bottom by “Ass groper in Germany”.

The implication that all refugees grow up to be gropers has outraged many, but some people have defended the cartoon and interpreted it as a satire on tabloid perceptions of refugees.

Kurdi’s death on a beach in Turkey last year galvanised public opinion, and the widespread sympathy for the humanitarian crisis put pressure on European governments.

But public opinion has turned in places after hundreds of claims of assaults by immigrants on women on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany. Police and the media have been accused of deliberately under-reporting the events in order not to encourage anti-immigrant sentiment.

The cartoon was published a week after the anniversary of the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, when free speech organisations came together to proclaim the importance of protecting dissenting voices.

Tweets by a number of writers with a photograph of the Charlie Hedbo cartoon provoked intense debate about whether the cartoon is overtly racist or is an attempt to satirise media coverage of refugees in Europe.

Financial Times journalist Christopher Thompson suggested it may be a satire on “sweeping stereotypes about migrants” and not racist at all.

But refugee Hend Amry took offence and interpreted the cartoon as Charlie Hebdo saying “this drowned baby Syrian refugee would have grown up to sexually harass German women”. The Guardian

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