Luz’s subsequent cover of Muhammad saying “All is forgiven” became iconic — even as many media outlets did not publish, or pixelated, the “Je suis Charlie” image — as the print run for the first post-attack issue reached 8-million, a record for the French press.
Now, though, Luz tells the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles in an interview published today: “I will no longer draw the figure of Muhammad. It no longer interests me.”
“I’m not going to spend my life drawing (cartoons of him),” says Luz in the interview, reports Agence France Presse.
Some critics will see this as a victory for intimidation through violence. But Luz told Les Inrockuptibles: “The terrorists did not win. … They will have won if the whole of France continues to be scared.”
Some commenters called this a sad day for satire. But a handful of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonists upheld the power of choosing to put down the pen.
“I’m outraged! …That a cartoonist could freely choose what to draw and whom to insult is deeply troubling…where could this lead?” Joel Pett, of the Lexington Herald Leader, told The Post’s Comic Riffs, wit firmly planted in cheek. “I’m announcing tomorrow that I’m starting a religion with Luz as its prophet. Then I’m going to blaspheme him mercilessly, no matter what the fundamentalist radical Luz-ists say!”
Tomorrow at noon, Philadelphia cartoonist Signe Wilkinson, with Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes, will speak at the Library of Congress on the state of post-Hebdo political cartooning. She echoed Pett’s sentiments as to a cartoonist’s choice to set down the sword of satire.
“A cartoonist can draw whatever he chooses,” Wilkinson, of Philly.com, tells Comic Riffs. “If you can find a Charlie Hebdo critic, please ask if beheadings, stonings, abductions and forced conversions will end, as well.”
Matt Davies of Newsday spoke of moving on to other topics. “Seems Luz has chosen not to draw Mohammed for good reasons (“It no longer interests me”) rather than based on fear of reprisal,” Davies tells The Post. “I never drew Muhammad because I too never had any interest in doing so. There are so many more pressing earthly subjects that require a cartoonist’s attention and influence.”
Buffalo News cartoonist Adam Zyglis cited the degree to which political cartooning, as craft and career, is a journey into oneself. “Cartooning is a very personal individual craft. Sticking to own’s own beliefs is essential for a cartoonist,” Zyglis tells us. “And anyone who is honest with oneself will evolve and change over time. We are all free to draw what we want or what we don’t want.”
Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal Constitution understood Luz’s decision.
“If I were in his shoes, I’d probably make the same choice,” Luckovich tells Comic Riffs. “Not out of fear, but out of thinking: ‘What’s the point?’ His cartoonist friends were killed because of prophet-Muhammad cartoons, and if I were him I’d feel like I wouldn’t want to be a part of this craziness.
“Freedom to mock long-dead religious icons would no longer would seem so important after your friends had been massacred.”
U-T San Diego cartoonist Steve Breen called Luz’s move a “wise decision,” against the backdrop of some critics framing the “to draw or not to draw” debate as an either/or proposition.
“You can be both provocative and prudent as a cartoonist,” Breen tells Comic Riffs. “They are not not mutually exclusive.”
Some other top cartoonists, however, had questions and doubts about Luz’s motives.
“His statement that the subject no longer interests him does appear to be a face-saving way of avoiding the controversy of antagonizing those extremists who are ready to use violence against depictions of their prophet,” Jimmy Margulies tells The Post. “I would hope he is not buckling under those threats, but that is his decision to make.
“If he truly is tired of the subject, then that, too, is unfortunate,” Margulies continues. “By making a categorical statement that he will no longer draw Muhammad, he is unnecessarily limiting himself in what he can do from this point on. If he really needs to show Muhammad at some point in the future, maybe he will reconsider.”
And Mike Peters of the Dayton Daily News underscored the need not to bend to the intimidation of opponents.
“There’s a natural impulse among cartoonists and [other] people who deal in satire to explore the ideas of opponents — especially in religions, as these ideas are deeply held and sincerely believed,” Peters tells The Post. “But religions and other groups who take themselves way too seriously are ripe for ridicule by a satirist. But this impulse is questioned when it seeks to address ideas that are answered by our opponents with bullets and bombs rather than words.”
Citing the illustrious history of visual satire, Peters continues: “Thomas Nast was threatened, Daumier was threatened and freedom of speech is being threatened. Nothing is sacred, nothing is off-limits. That’s what we do.”