It is a message emblazoned on t-shirts and bumper stickers all over the world: “coexist” with the Muslim crescent moon as the letter “C,” a Star of David for the “X,” and a cross for the “T.” Promoting unity and religious acceptance, it would be thought of the last thing to spur a violent outlash. However this wasn’t the case for one French street artist.
The popular street artist Combo was recently assaulted after he painted the “coexist” symbol on a wall in Paris along with a life-size portrait of himself. Le Monde reports that four people told the artist to remove the painting last weekend, and when he didn’t they beat him up.
The artist was left injured, with a dislocated shoulder and bruises.
The painting came in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and was the artist’s way of responding to the tragedy and the racial and religious tension that followed it.
The artist has refused to identify his assailants saying “It would only add fuel to the fire.”
Combo is no stranger to controversy though. The former adman turned street artist has taken his art all over the world and once even pasted printouts of web pages forbidden by China’s government all over Hong Kong.
“My pieces function in a disruptive manner,” he told the French newspaper, “they surprise, and appear up where they shouldn’t be.”
Combo may be disrupting a lot of people now, especially since he started wearing traditional Muslim clothing and growing out his beard in order to go against societal norms. He claims that it is not jihad but rather “ji-art.”
Although his attackers were able to dislocate his right arm, putting the appendage in a sling, Combo has remained optimistic, telling the French newspaper, “Too bad for them, I’m left-handed.”