একটি কার্টুন পত্রিকা। কয়েকটি কার্টুন ছাপা হওয়া। কার্টুনশিল্পীরা আক্রান্ত, নিহত। পৃথিবী-জোড়া তর্ক। শুধু আক্রান্ত আর আক্রমণ নিয়ে নয়। কার্টুন নিয়ে, কার্টুনশিল্পীর স্বাধীনতা নিয়ে। এই আলোচনায় চলে আসছে ইতিহাস, সমাজ, দর্শন, আইন, সাম্রাজ্যবাদ, উপনিবেশ, বর্ণবৈষম্য, ধর্ম, প্রাচ্য-পাশ্চাত্য সম্পর্ক, রাজনীতি, দ্বিচারিতা, শরণার্থী, অনুপ্রবেশকারী, সংখ্যাগরিষ্ঠতা, সংখ্যালঘিষ্ঠতা, দেখানো আর দেখার পার্থক্য— এমন সব বিষয়— কার্টুন নিয়ে আলোচনায়, লেখায়, কথায়।
‘কার্টুনপত্তর’ এই সব আলোচনার গুরুত্ব বুঝে তার কিছু-কিছু রাখছে এই ‘কার্টুনতত্ত্ব’ বিভাগে। মূল ইংরাজিতেই, যাতে বাংলা অনুবাদে কোথাও অর্থের ভিতরে অর্থ বদলে না যায়।
পাঠকদের কাছে আবেদন, আপনারাও এই তর্কে যোগ দিন। মত পাঠান। আমরা এই বিভাগে ছাপব। এই তর্ক আজকের নয়, গতকালও ছিল, আগামীকালও থাকবে।
ছবি ১ : প্যারিস, ফ্রান্স সব বর্ণের মানুষজনের, সব ধরনের মানুষজনের, সবার। ফরাসি পোস্টার, Paris at 2000, ১৯৫১। সূত্র : 50 years of French Poster Art, 2003.
Mahmood Mamdani, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, USA, author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim:America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror— an interview with Vidya Venkat (an excerpt), published in The Hindu
I support the right of free speech as part of a right of dissent. But that does not mean that I support every particular exercise of free speech or dissent. It is well known that the history of free speech is contradictory. We recognize it by distinguishing ‘hate speech’ from other forms of free speech. Some states ban ‘hate speech’ legally, other states refrain from a legal ban and leave it to society to discourage it politically and morally. My own preference is for the political and intellectual over the legal. While I think you have a right to say what you think, I will not support any thing you say or write. I also reserve the right to disagree with you, vehemently if necessary. It is one thing to support the right of Charlie Hebdo journalists to print the cartoons they did, and quite another to reprint them as an expression of support.
In many Western countries, there are laws against blasphemy. But they are restricted to official Christian denominations. For example, Britain has laws criminalizing blasphemy, as do several other European countries, but they do not apply to Islam.
Before the Second World War, Jews were the customary target of satirists of a particular type. Voltaire, popularly considered the grand defender of the freedom of satire, was an ardent anti-Semite, and a number of his satires targeted Jews and Judaism. After the Holocaust, Jews were brought into the Western political fold. So today the law in many European countries, including France, criminalises Holocaust denial. But no law criminalises the denial of colonial genocide, including widespread colonial massacres in Algeria, the country of origin of the largest number of French Muslims. The political and social compact in Europe has been evolving historically. The state stepped in to moderate the conflict between ardent Christians and secular Christians. Jews were included in this compact after the Holocaust. Muslims have never been part of this compact. Of course, it is possible to include Muslims in the social and political compact in France. But that will take a major political, intellectual and cultural struggle. Centers of power—and people—in France will have to accept that it is possible to be French and Muslims, that is OK for a pious Muslim woman to wear a ‘hijab’, as it is for a Catholic nun—so long as this act of piety does not banish either from participation in the public sphere.
That people “need to learn to laugh at themselves” is often a point made by publishers of provocative cartoons. You could place those same words in the mouth of the publishers of the Danish Cartoons or Charlie Hebdo and it would reflect their views accurately, that the problem with Muslims is that they lack a sense of humour, and that the solution is for Muslims to learn to laugh at themselves. But laughing at oneself is not quite the same as being laughed at, especially as a group. Let me return to the question of what you call the ‘blasphemous cartoons’, I think they should be called ‘bigoted cartoons’.
The problem with the ongoing discussion of Charlie Hebdo is that it tends to confuse bigotry with blasphemy. I am personally more favourable to blasphemy, but have no time for bigots or bigotry.
Blasphemy is part of an important historical practice that involves critiquing a tradition from within. That kind of capacity for laughing at oneself is absolutely necessary for the ongoing reform of traditions and cultures in the face of changing realities, changing mores and changing intellectual constructs. In Islam, theright to critique tradition from within is known as Ijtihad. It has a long and honourable history.
The French like to think of themselves as the custodians of tradition of liberty, equality and fraternity. This is true but not the whole truth. The French also need to think of the dark side of their tradition: the colonial tradition, both in Indo-China and Africa. The French need to recognize that the Algerians, the North Africans and the West Africans from the former colonies are in France as immigrants, because the French were in their countries in the first place. These immigrants have run away from the consequences of the colonialism. If the solution—France—has turned sour, where do these immigrants run to now? To an imaginary Islamic state? If a second or third generation North Africanis still considered an immigrant in France, should that not provide us a clue as to nature of the problem? Where lies the problem, the promise of the Islamist state, or the reality of immigrant lives in contemporary France, or both?
ছবি ২ : ফ্রান্স সবার, ফরাসিদের এবং অভিবাসীদেরও। পোস্টারে লেখা : ফরাসি ও অভিবাসী শ্রমিকদের ঐক্য। পোস্টারে আঁকা : এই ঐক্য ঠেলে সরিয়ে দিতে চায় ক্ষমতাসীনরা। সূত্র : উনিশশ আটষট্টির ফ্রান্স: মে-দিনের ছাত্রবিপ্লব: ইস্তাহার গ্রাফিতি ইতিহাস, মনফকিরা, ২০১৪।
Rajgopal Saikumar, Speaking Power to Satirical Truth (excerpt) published in The Hindu
Several of the anti-Islamic cartoons of Charlie Hebdo are not really ‘satires’ in the strict sense, for they seem to lack the complexity and the nuances implicit in the genre.
Understanding a joke presupposes a common social world; a shared intersubjective community. There need not be an agreement about the worth of the joke itself, but it presupposes the fact that a sense of humour requires a shared life world and not an individualistic, solipsistic and atomized world. Humour is, therefore, highly local; it throws light on our situation, it tells us something about who we are, it brings back to consciousness the hidden and it familiarizes the unspoken. R.K.Laxman’s political cartoons, ‘The Common Man’, used domestic, everyday images of a middle class family to challenge mainstream politics. Although he mounts a successful challenge to politics, his portrayal of domesticity unknowingly reveal gendered relations within Indian homes, for instance, between the husband and the wife. In a similar analogy Richard Seymour suggests, Charlie Hebdo may be mocking the extremists, but that mocking itself reveals a certain racist undertone.
The flip side of jokes and satires being highly context- specific and localized is that the humour can often also be parochial, ridiculing outsiders and foreigners.
Is humour and this ‘art of satire’—in itself and inherently—worthy of protection as several are claiming it to be? Not necessarily. A joke or laughter from a position of superiority over other people considered inferior is unworthy of moral support, although it may obtain legal protection. The philosopher Jason Stanley pointed out that there is a difference in France between mocking the Pope and mocking Prophet Muhammad. “The Pope is the representative of the dominant traditional religion of the majority of French citizens. Prophet Muhammad is the revered figure of an oppressed minority. To mock the Pope is to thumb one’s nose at a genuine authority, an authority of majority. To mock Prophet Muhammad is to add insult to abuse. This argument by Mr. Stanley is an instance of humour where the power relation is already precarious –embedded in a culture of white, Western supremacy. So the cartoon may not be speaking resistance to power, but may itself be embodied in power, ridiculing the powerless.
The debate is fast becoming a “liberal democracy” versus “religious extremism” rupture, but it is not clear whether liberty has such a clear moral victory over these offended subjects of humour.
There is absolutely no justification for the brutal attacks on Charlie Hebdo and solidarity with the publication is unconditional. The attempt here is to merely nuance the debates on the second aspect of this issue: the rhetoric of liberal, democratic free speech.
The notion of “power” is being ignored in our thinking about free speech in liberal democracies. Liberalism may encourage liberty and autonomy in speech and expression, but we are not abstract individuals freely expressing our thoughts in an ideal society. We are thrown into a shared and coexistent world where power relations obscure the suspicious neatness of liberalism.
ছবি ৩ : ফ্রান্স সবার। সব বর্ণের শোষিত মানুষজনের। সূত্র : উনিশশ আটষট্টির ফ্রান্স: মে-দিনের ছাত্রবিপ্লব: ইস্তাহার গ্রাফিতি ইতিহাস, মনফকিরা, ২০১৪।