“I want to live a safe and clean life, eat gourmet food, go out, wear pretty things, and live a luxurious life… all at the expense of someone else,” reads the text on the illustration above. “I have an idea. I’ll become a refugee.”
According to a report by BBC, the image and caption were posted by a right-wing Japanese artist last month. Now, more than 10,000 people have signed a Change.org petition in Japanese urging Facebook to take it down. The petition, posted by an account calling itself the “Don’t Allow Racism Group”, claims that several people have reported the illustration and demands that “Facebook must recognize an illustration insulting Syrian refugees as racism.”
Although the Japan Times reported that Facebook did not take the picture down, saying it did not go against community guidelines, the artist herself removed the picture. But she remains defiant about her motivations for posting it in the first place.
Toshiko Hasumi, the illustrator, told BBC Trending that she believed the people signing the petition were left-wing activists. “I draw many political mangas [Japanese comics] which are not favorable to them,” she said. “This is why they targeted me.”
Hasumi has always drawn highly controversial manga-styled illustrations, posting her cartoons on a Facebook page that includes anti-Korean messages, including material that casts doubt on the stories of “comfort women” – Koreans and women of other nationalities who were forced to become sex slaves for Japanese forces during World War Two. This fact has probably kept her in controversy all the time.
As a result of the illustration, she has been widely condemned for making presumptions, using an image of a little girl, that the Syrian refugees are up to no good. But she counters, “I don’t want European nations to be victimized and hard working people should not suffer by those fake immigrants.”
She admitted trying to be provocative by using an image of a young girl.
“The simple reason I used a girl is, if I drew an old man it wouldn’t have gained attention,” Hasumi said. “I am not denying that there are real miserable refugees. I am just denying those ‘fake refugees’ pretending like victims who are acting for their own benefit by exploiting the media attention on the real poor refugees.”
And she may be right. We do not know how many of those Syrian refugees could be sleeper terrorists, but then again, it is unwise to make sweeping presumptions about it either.
Jotaro Kato, a representative of the nonprofit Asian People’s Friendship Society, an organization that supports foreigners who overstay their visas and asylum seekers, said the illustration misrepresents real refugees.
“The illustration emphasizes that refugees are living off the money of others, but on the contrary, many of them are hardworking and eager to make ends meet by themselves,” Kato said.
“At a time when people in Japan earn less and less amid the stagnant economy, they are increasingly intolerant of the idea that someone from outside their country subsists on tax money they’ve paid.”
Could this be another case of ideological misunderstanding, and culture shock?