What'sTrending

Of gay rights, free speech, and a dying man's wish

A student in Irving (above centre), Texas, holding a sign in support of teenager Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested after a high school teacher thought that a homemade clock he brought to class was a bomb, and called the police. This led outraged Netize
A student in Irving (above centre), Texas, holding a sign in support of teenager Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested after a high school teacher thought that a homemade clock he brought to class was a bomb, and called the police. This led outraged Netizens to start an #IstandwithAhmed support movement.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE
A student in Irving, Texas, holding a sign in support of teenager Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested after a high school teacher thought that a homemade clock (above) he brought to class was a bomb, and called the police. This led outraged Netizens to s
A student in Irving, Texas, holding a sign in support of teenager Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested after a high school teacher thought that a homemade clock (above) he brought to class was a bomb, and called the police. This led outraged Netizens to start an #IstandwithAhmed support movement.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A student in Irving, Texas, holding a sign in support of teenager Ahmed Mohamed (above centre), who was arrested after a high school teacher thought that a homemade clock he brought to class was a bomb, and called the police. This led outraged Netize
A student in Irving, Texas, holding a sign in support of teenager Ahmed Mohamed (above centre), who was arrested after a high school teacher thought that a homemade clock he brought to class was a bomb, and called the police. This led outraged Netizens to start an #IstandwithAhmed support movement.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Pop star Elton John’s posting of a photo of Mr Putin on his Instagram account (above) drew close to 6,000 likes.
Pop star Elton John’s posting of a photo of Mr Putin on his Instagram account (above) drew close to 6,000 likes. PHOTO: ELTON JOHN/INSTAGRAM

Charlie Hebdo draws flak, while help pours in for a cancer victim's family

I AM NOT CHARLIE

Has satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo gone too far?

The French weekly recently published a cartoon featuring drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a beach with the caption, "So close to his goal."

A sign in the background, done up to look similar to fast-food chain McDonald's, says: "Two children's menus for the price of one."

The political cartoon was based on the recent harrowing images of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan, which had sparked off an outpouring of support from around the world and prompted European leaders to step up their response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy.

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • #SGHAZE

    The haze continues its assault with a vengeance, so it's no surprise that this hashtag is trending. Popular topics include the mixed response from Indonesia regarding help from Singapore, altered images of monsters dotting the city skyline and a video of a bomoh's ritual using an ice block and bamboo sticks.

    #SINGAPOREGP

    There were already more than 220,000 Tweets with this hashtag on Friday, even before the Formula One weekend started in earnest. With about 3 million followers, Briton Lewis Hamilton is the most-followed F1 driver on the social media platform.

    #ISTANDWITHAHMED

    Earlier this week, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested after a teacher mistook the homemade clock he brought to school for a bomb. Netizens, who felt the incident was unjust and racially motivated, have used this hashtag to show their support. Also in his corner were US President Barack Obama, US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

It has a history of producing crude cartoons of Islam's holiest figures in demeaning or pornographic poses in the name of free speech.

The outrage from the Muslim world led to a firebombing attack on its offices in 2011, and a deadly shooting in January this year which left 12 staff members dead.

The latest illustration has proved to be as divisive as its predecessors.

Some social media users argue that the cartoon does not mock the dead child, but instead ridicules Europe for not doing enough to prevent the tragedy.

But there were also many others, who had earlier supported the publication or banded together under the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie

(I am Charlie), who now think differently.

"The purpose of free speech is to pursue truth, not to mock other people's pain," said one Twitter user with the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasCharlie (I am not Charlie).

Is this hypocritical to cherry pick and support the right to free speech in one instance, but condemn it the next when it offends different sensibilities? Maybe.

But it also seems like the publication has taken the right to be offensive as a licence to push all sorts of boundaries.

And with the show of support it received the last time round, is anyone surprised?

SEEING DAD ONE LAST TIME

Singaporean Kenny Tan, 30, died last Monday of cancer. He left a wife and an infant son.

To help tide his family over, a crowdfunding effort was started by his friends earlier last week.

It raised more than $270,000 within days.

Mr Tan, an insurance agent, discovered he had lung and kidney cancer in 2013. He was active and a non-smoker.

He initially resisted treatment, as he wanted the insurance payout to go to his son, who was delivered prematurely with a congenital heart defect, instead.

But family and friends managed to convince him to undergo chemotherapy.

Things took a turn for the worse at the start of this year, when the cancer spread to his brain.

Mr Tan and his wife travelled to Rotterdam, Holland, in search of alternative treatment.

He died about a month later.

The donation drive was started to allow his infant son to see Mr Tan "for the last time".

The raised monies would go towards repatriation costs and to fund the toddler's education and medical bills.

The family has also received help from the Government and social welfare agencies.

ELTON JOHN PRANKED

Pop star Elton John was elated last week when he thought he had received a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss gay rights.

The 68-year-old proudly posted a photo of Mr Putin on his Instagram account, which drew close to 6,000 likes.

Unfortunately, a Kremlin spokesman denied that such a call ever took place.

In fact, it was reportedly the work of two Russian TV personalities, who confessed to the deed a few days later.

Vladimir Krasnov and his sidekick Aleksey Stolyarov said John was easy to dupe as he was eager to talk about the persecution of gay people in Russia.

The Human Rights Watch said last year that the country is now seeing a growing number of homophobic attacks, on the back of a controversial Russian law passed in 2013 that forbids any public discussion of gay rights.

But the pop singer has taken it in his stride, saying that he was happy to be pranked if it helped to shed light on the situation.

"Pranks are funny. Homophobia, however, is never funny," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline 'What'sTrending Of gay rights, free speech, and a dying man's wish'. Print Edition | Subscribe