Jean Cabut was a journalist and cartoonist who wrote for the Charlie Hebdo weekly paper.
Cabu - obituary
Jean Cabut, who was killed aged 76 in Paris yesterday, was better known as “Cabu”, a cartoonist who earned the wrath of Muslim fundamentalists with a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, which became the subject of a court case in 2007; the film-maker Jean-Luc Godard one called him “the best journalist in France”.
In its issue of February 8 2006, Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly in which Cabu was a shareholder, republished 12 drawings that had appeared the previous year in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, some of them representing Mohammed. Their original publication in September 2005 had provoked an outcry in the Muslim world and sparked violent protests in several countries, resulting in the deaths of at least 50 people.
On the cover of its reprint, Charlie Hebdo also published an original drawing by Cabu depicting a sobbing Mohammed with his head in his hands, saying, “It’s hard to be loved by idiots’’ under the caption “Mohammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists”.
Charlie Hebdo published the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish newspaper and to make a point about freedom of expression in France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe. The previous week the republication of the Danish cartoons by the French daily France Soir had led to the dismissal of its editor, Jacques Lefranc.
Following the publication of the offending issue of the magazine the Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of Islamic Organisations of France sued its editor Philippe Val, arguing that the Cabu cartoon and two of the Danish images drew an offensive link between Islam and terrorism. They accused Val of “publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion’’ and requested €30,000 in damages. The charges could have resulted in a six-month prison term.
However, in March 2007, following hearings seen as a test case of freedom of expression, Val was acquitted by a Paris court. The ruling was hailed as a victory for freedom of speech, but it put Charlie Hebdo in the sights of radical Muslims. Journalists on the magazine reported threatening telephone calls and in November 2011 its offices were firebombed after it published a special edition featuring the Prophet Mohammed as a “guest editor”.
Yesterday gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and a rocket-launcher opened fire in the offices, killing 12 people, including Cabu. Witnesses have claimed that they heard the gunmen shouting “we have avenged the Prophet Mohammed”.
The son of a schoolmaster, Jean Cabut was born at Chalons-en-Champagne on January 13 1938. After studying Art at the École Estienne in Paris he began producing drawings for a local newspaper.
Conscripted into the French Army for two years during the war in Algeria, Cabu produced cartoons for the army magazine and also for Paris Match. But his experiences in Algeria turned him into a virulent anti-militarist and he remained a relentless campaigner for non-violence and critic of the French political establishment.
In 1960 he became one of the founders of Hara-Kiri, a satirical magazine which, after it was banned by president Charles de Gaulle in 1970, simply changed its name to Charlie Hebdo and appeared with the same cover the following week. Cabu also produced political cartoons for its rival Le Canard enchaîné and other magazines.
His best known characters were Mon Beauf (“My brother-in-law”), an incarnation of bovine French provincial complacency. On one occasion the notorious Gaullist mayor of Nice, Jacques Médecin (to whom the character bore a physical resemblance), sued Cabu for libel. (Médecin was later tried and convicted for corruption.)
Another popular character, Le Grand Duduche, was the eternal awkward adolescent, in love with the headmaster’s daughter and a naive observer of the law of the jungle that rules school life – and the grown-up world of politics.
Cabu’s work, which also featured in books and album covers, was the subject of a major exhibition in 2006-7 at Paris’s Hotel de Ville.
In the 1960s Cabu had a son with the Isabelle Monin, co-founder of the ecology magazine, La Gueule. The boy became better known in France as the punk singer-songwriter Mano Solo, who died of Aids in 2010.
Jean Cabut, born January 13 1938, died January 7 2015