Two Jihadi Cartoon Characters Reflect on the Charlie Hebdo Attacks

January 13, 2015

In pondering the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Lebanese satirist Karl Sharro’s simpleton extremists, Abu A and Abu B, wake up to their own reality: they are cartoons.

Karl Sharro Charlie Hebdo

In the wake of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, my two jihadi cartoon characters, Abu A and Abu B, got together to discuss the incident. They did so of their own free will, without any prompting from me, but I was intrigued by the conversation. I decided to record it for those interested in hearing the opinions of two jihadi cartoon characters.

Abu A: Abu B, did you hear about the attacks in Paris?

Abu B: Thank God. I am pleased.

Abu A: I know, but we are cartoons also. Aren’t you upset?

Abu B: That’s what makes this so difficult.

Abu A: Are we jihadis first or are we cartoons first? My loyalties are divided.

Abu B: But do we have a say in this? He created us after all.

Abu A: He’s just a cartoonist. God is the true creator.

Abu B: Would a jihadi say God rather than Allah?

Abu A: You’re splitting hairs.

Abu B: Yeah, we never do that. And if you ask me, he’s a terrible cartoonist anyway.

Abu A: I have always thought that he draws us like this intentionally, to emphasize our infantile rage.

Abu B: Sounds like an excuse to me. Anyway drawing people is haram.

Abu A: But we are cartoons. Are you arguing that we shouldn’t exist? That strikes me as nihilistic.

Abu B: And we’re not nihilistic?

Abu A: Come on, a real jihadi would never say that.

Abu B: Yes, but the point is that he uses us as a device; he makes us say things he wants to say.

Abu A: I am not sure I am comfortable with this. It does deny us agency.

Abu B: Left-liberals deny us agency as well; they claim we are driven by a righteous rage and sense of injustice.

Abu A: The fools.

Karl Sharro Charlie Hebdo

Abu B: I think they envy our sense of purpose.

Abu A: You’re just shamelessly plagiarizing Žižek now.

Abu B: This conversation sounds really implausible. When would jihadis ever discuss Žižek?

Abu A: It’s just a comic device.

Abu B: I don’t find it funny; it also alienates people who are not familiar with Žižek.

Abu A: It’s not ha-ha funny; it’s subtle funny. More of a comment.

Abu B: I don’t buy it. Now a man slipping on a banana skin—that’s funny.

Abu A: He did try slapstick once, when the training suicide vest I was wearing blew up.

Abu B: I really don’t think slapstick is the right medium to satirize jihadis.

Abu A: I wouldn’t have thought cartoons are either.

Abu B: That’s just navel-gazing. We’re here to do a job.

Abu A: But how effective are cartoons at dealing with these complex issues?

Karl Sharro Charlie Hebdo

Abu B: Actual jihadis aren’t even outraged by them.

Abu A: I think he prefers not to attract that kind of attention anyway.

Abu B: Maybe this will change. Maybe this is a revolutionary thing for cartoons to do—reflect on their own existence.

Abu A: I think it’s self-indulgent. Do you see Superman doing that?

Abu B: Superman is a proper superhero, and he’s colored in and everything. We’re black and white and two-dimensional. We don’t even have shadows.

Abu A: Regardless, the point is, do cartoons change anything? Are they effective?

Abu B: I really don’t think that’s the point of cartoons.

Abu A: They can make people very angry.

Abu B: You’re forcing the issue blatantly now. Are you trying to be topical?

Abu A: Look, how often do we get a chance to reflect on our own being as cartoons? And I won’t lie: it’s in the news; people are interested. We can make a difference here.

Abu B: I honestly don’t think this is the job of cartoon characters. Why don’t people read philosophers or writers? Why do they want to hear what our opinion is?

Karl Sharro Charlie Hebdo

Abu A: There’s a general narrative exhaustion. We’re tapping into a moment full of uncertainty and intellectual fatigue.

Abu B: That’s really far-fetched; you don’t strike me as the kind of cartoon character who would say something so profound.

Abu A: It’s just an ironic device; people will recognize it for what it is.

Abu B: Why doesn’t he draw a powerful cartoon? Like just a black background—that would be very symbolic and powerful.

Abu A: Next you’ll say some blood drops also.… It’s a cliché.

Abu B: But we are clichés! Cartoons are clichés! People aren’t meant to take them literally.

Abu A: Again with the preaching … it’s too blatant. We have to be more subtle.

Abu B: We do or he does?

Abu A: I think he’s putting words in our mouths because he doesn’t want to say them directly.

Abu B: This is going nowhere. I have other things to do.

Abu A: No, we both know you don’t. You’re just being evasive.

Abu B: This is too Brechtian for my liking.

Abu A: We really stretched the limits of credibility. But I think we said some important things.

Abu B: I don’t know. Let’s see how many shares it gets on Twitter.
This piece was commissioned and edited by our regional editor Sheyma Buali.