The series of coordinated sexual assaults and robberies across Cologne on New Year’s Eve, prompted an outcry from the media when it came to light that a majority of the perpetrators were refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. A steady stream of articles surfaced examining and criticising Angela Merkel’s mantra of “refugees welcome”, all of them reeking with an infuriatingly smug “I told you so”. The tabloids dealt with the news with as little finesse as you’d expect—publishing quotes from questionable sources about how some refugee was overheard to be describing western women as sex objects (as if this was somehow representative of the opinions of all refugees). Others have taken a more sympathetic approach, pointing out that these refugees probably didn’t understand our esteemed cultural practice of not robbing and sexually assaulting people.
Amidst all of this was a cartoon published by Charlie Hebdo depicting Alan Kurdi, the drowned toddler whose body was photographed washed up on a beach in Turkey. This haunting image has come to represent the plight of refugees. In this particular cartoon he was portrayed to be all grown up and groping a woman in Germany. Rightfully, this elicited a furious media backlash.