Charlie Hebdo cartoonist: I will no longer draw Mohammed

He’s lost interest in the subject, he says. And who can blame him? Having fortuitously overslept on the morning of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo HQ and probably facing future attempts on his life, he’s already living on borrowed time.

If you’re bored with a topic, though, why rule out ever drawing it again? Why not set it aside, without a statement, and return to it in the future if and when it interests you again?

Cartoonist Luz, who drew Charlie Hebdo’s front cover picture of Mohammed following the massacre of the satirical weekly’s editorial team by jihadists in January, has told a French magazine he will no longer draw the prophet.

“I will no longer draw the figure of Mohammed. It no longer interests me,” he told Les Inrockuptibles magazine in an interview published on Wednesday…

“The terrorists did not win,” Luz told Les Inrockuptibles.

“They will have won if the whole of France continues to be scared,” he added, accusing the far-right National Front of trying to stir up fear in the wake of the attacks.

There’s a non-zero chance that he’s telling the truth, that this is less about fear than about boredom. No one would fault him for being afraid, after all. Jyllands-Posten, which published the original Mohammed cartoons in 2005, refused to publish Charlie Hebdo’s after the massacre out of pure terror for what would happen if they did. But this guy obviously doesn’t scare easily; if he did, he wouldn’t have agreed to draw Mohammed again for the cover of the instantly world-famous first issue after the murders. In fact, when given the opportunity during a Q&A to claim that that cover wasn’t an image of Mohammed but rather of some random Arab/Muslim man, he declined to take it. “Yes, it is Mohammed,” he said. He’s got nothing to prove, and remorse now probably won’t spare him from future jihadi plots. In which case, maybe he really is tired of this subject. You can imagine how someone who got famous satirizing various figures from French culture might gradually grow annoyed at having to pull the same transgressive trick he’s already pulled repeatedly. It’d be like asking a sketch comic to do the same recurring character every week. At some point you’re just checking the box.

If there’s more to this than him having “lost interest,” I bet it’s less the pressure he’s feeling from jihadis that’s driving it than the pressure he’s feeling from the literary class. It’s one thing to stare down barbarians on behalf of western civilization, it’s another to do it when you’re being fragged as a racist for satirizing the “disempowered” by intellectuals on your own side. If the next phase of “progress” is blaming Charlie Hebdo for bringing “a world of pain to France” by mocking Mohammed instead of blaming the men with guns, why should this guy stick his neck out again? Life’s too short to risk it for a fifth column that doesn’t appreciate the sacrifice. Frankly, his time’s probably better spent at this point satirizing them than the jihadis.

Update: Hideous.

More than two dozen writers including Junot Díaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Lorrie Moore have joined a protest against a freedom of expression award for Charlie Hebdo, signing a letter taking issue with what they see as a “reward” for the magazine’s controversial cartoons…

“There is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression,” the letter reads…

The writers go on to say that to the certain segments of French society – “a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims” – Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the prophet “must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering”.

I’ve seen that argument elsewhere, that defending Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech doesn’t require handing them an award. Right, it doesn’t “require” it. Which is not to say that they don’t deserve it. Extraordinary recognition is warranted because they’ve borne an extraordinary burden as one of the few widely circulated publications in the western world to publish images mocking Mohammed. They knew they were taking a risk and they knew what the price was, and they took it anyway in part because few others would. The point was made repeatedly, and correctly, after the massacre that the only reason Charlie Hebdo was targeted is because they were so unique in their willingness to defy jihadi censorship. If major periodicals like the New York Times ran the images too, Charlie Hebdo could have hid in the crowd. Instead there was no crowd. High time that that was recognized by the literati.