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January 22, 2016

Charlie Hebdo does it again!

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Charlie Hebdo is never out of ideas to stoke up the flames of racism, bigotry, intolerance and hatred. Remember Aylan Kurdi, the two-year-old, whose picture lying face down on a beach in Turkey caused an international outcry over the human cost of the migrant crisis?

The magazine’s latest cartoon is about that Syrian refugee infant who drowned, as an adult committing a sex assault in Germany. The cartoon depicts Aylan's body alongside a caption suggesting he would have become a "groper in Germany". It follows the revelation that gangs of migrants carried out organized sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve. 

I find the cartoon not only distasteful but also very insulting.

It is high time to correct such serious charges against migrants. The likelihood of a migrant becoming a sex pervert or a groper in Europe and western world is not more, but much less than the national average in his/her adopted country. Crime statistics in those countries are sufficient to prove me right.

For our purpose, let’s limit our discussion to Germany. German General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) that went into force in 2006 defines sexual harassment as "unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, including unwanted sexual acts and requests to carry out sexual acts, physical contact of a sexual nature, comments of a sexual nature … [that take] place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of the person concerned.”

Crime statistics show that sexual assaults against women in events like the Oktoberfest and New Year's Eve have always been there. As a result of fear of being sexually molested or assaulted, including groping, nearly half the German women avoid joining in such events where they could be victimized. Even a year ago, before the refugee problem became a reality in Germany many German women were groped by unruly beer and wine drinking German males.

In 2010, a survey by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth stated that 60% of women said they had experienced sexual harassment in public, at the workplace, or socially. Out of those, one out of two (~50%) women said she had feared for her own safety and one woman in ten (~10%) reported actual physical violence. In 22% of cases, the incident took place at work or school. Germany, like many of the western countries, has a serious sex crime problem. [See, e.g., Wake Up Germany, You've Got A Serious Sexual Harassment Problem, Jan. 30, 2013]

To now put the blame squarely on the fleeing refugees that have settled in recent months in Germany is wrong. It was not clear that any of the men involved in the assault against females in Cologne were among those who arrived in Germany over the past year from conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Henriette Reker, Cologne’s mayor, who was stabbed during a campaign event in October by a German man who opposed her welcoming attitude toward migrants, sought to play down the links to refugees, after meeting with police, state and city officials. “There are no indications that this involved people who have sought shelter in Cologne as refugees,” Ms. Reker said.

Since the start of the year, Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under renewed pressure from within her own conservative bloc, with Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian sister party to the chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union, calling for a cap of 200,000 refugees allowed into the country per year.

It is not difficult to postulate that the event in Cologne may have been exaggerated to paint a very damning picture on the migrants that are fleeing many parts of Asia and Africa to Europe and to force Ms. Merkel to change her position on the refugee debate.

For a fleeing refugee from a war torn country committing evil acts like groping or having forcible sex with anyone local is highly unlikely. He is not stupid to commit an act that could only jeopardize his chances of getting immigrated.

So the logical question that we should answer is: who benefits from painting the fleeing migrants as sex perverts or gropers?

The fascist, xenophobic groups in many parts of Europe oppose pluralism and diversity; they are against immigrants and refugees. And, sadly, in some countries like France they have been able to exploit the current crisis to rally the crowd behind them and win elections.

The far-right and anti-immigrant groups are also strong in many parts of Germany. They oppose the influx of refugees and seized on the attacks, saying they demonstrated the dangers associated with accepting huge numbers of migrants. “It is time to send a signal,” said Christopher Freiherr von Mengersen, head of the nationalist Pro-NRW movement, based in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. “We locals can no longer put up with everything that is being routinely swept under the rug based on a false sense of tolerance.”

Such far-right groups have their supporters within the racist and bigot intelligentsia. Take, for instance, the 59-year-old Akif Pirincci, an outspoken right-winger and German writer, who has warned that Christian Germany is becoming Islamic. His books, one of which is called Germany Gone Mad, were best-sellers until last autumn, when big publishers and bookshops chose not to distribute these any more because of their message of racism and bigotry.

It is not impossible that some of the criminal elements from the fascist groups had masqueraded as migrants to implicate the wider migrant community. The Veterans Today says: “There are reports of police standing around with their hands in their pockets while nightclub bouncers come to the aid of women being groped and mobbed.  Thus, when police officials say this seems like an organized attack, we feel safe in looking at police as not only standing aside but undercover police as the likely parties involved in the assaults as well. We expect to see more incidents like these, staged by police and carefully coordinated with the press, playing on and building hysteria against not only refugees but Islam as well."

The Charlie Hebdo magazine has been widely condemned on social media and accused of racism. Twitter users called the image "disgusting" and "tasteless", as well as accusing the magazine of racism and Islamophobia.

The magazine’s attempt to promote intolerance and hatred against the immigrant community is simply preposterous. It’s impossible to predict how one would end up. As Jordanian queen Rania had twitted, “Aylan could've been a doctor, a teacher, a loving parent." We simply don’t know how Aylan would have turned up some 20 years later. We are surely entitled to imagine the best: if Aylan were alive, like Steve Job’s Syrian father, he would one day father another Steve Job. We simply don’t know!

Playing with anxiety, fear and the worst of our imagination is not funny, it is down right criminal.

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia. Dr. Siddiqui is an alumnus of the prestigious University of  Southern California, Los Angeles, where he earned his Ph.D