A German State Office for the Protection of the Constitution wants to deter students from radical Islamism – with a clichéd comic book and ingratiating advice such as "Don't play on the team of the mujaheddin". By Wolf Schmidt
It's getting crowded on German schoolyards: NPD is distributing CDs for the right wing, the Socialist Youth are distributing CDs against the right wing, and the publicly-owned Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk broadcasting corporation is distributing CDs for respect and tolerance.
Now even the North Rhine-Westphalian Office for the Protection of the Constitution wants to present students with a new comic book. The title: "Andi's Friend Murat Has Stress." And what can quickly happen to Muslims with stress is shown in the comic.
Andi's pal Murat nearly drifts into the Islamist scene, and only because his grades are bad, he didn't receive a training position, and all in all it's not easy for a young Muslim in Germany.
"Sharia is super"
The comic book doesn't fail to leave out any platitudes. Just as Murat falls into his deprivation hole and hatred of foreigners and social marginalization is lurking around every corner, a new classmate appears on the scene. He is a fundamental Islamist who immediately carts Murat off to a preacher of hatred, who gives Murat the lowdown on the holy war:
Sharia is super, and war must be waged against the infidels ("Kuffar") as well as the imperialists and Zionists. The Terrorism 101 DVD is complimentary. And suddenly Little Murat is playing on the team of the mujaheddin – up until the happy end.
The comic is part two of the "Andi" series. In the first comic, published two years ago, the NRW protectors of the constitution set their sights on right-wing extremism, with Nazi "Eisenheinrich" ("Iron Henry) and skinhead girl Magda as side characters and Andi as the main character. Since then 170,000 comics have been distributed, which the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of the Interior celebrates as a huge success.
The Interior Minister as a cartoon character
But as so often with violence prevention programs the comic was well intentioned and well made – but a long shot from being good. Like part one, "Andi 2" is an embarrassing attempt to curry favor with young people, and not only with its language.
One or two "awesomes," "excellents" or "dudes" can be forgiven. Murat's totally cool outfit of baggy pants, beanie wool cap, and basketball shirt: okay.
But that North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of the Interior Dr. Ingo Wolf also appears as a comic figure and warns teenagers per speech balloon – "Extremists are trying to lure young people with their propaganda" – is sure to deter the next generation of sleeper operatives attending German schools from becoming assassins.
Muslims may be offended
If only bomb makers Fritz G. and Daniel S. had read "Andi," Germany would certainly have been spared the problem of "homegrown terrorism."
Experts also doubt that the 33,000 euros of taxpayers' money were meaningfully spent for the "Andi 2" comic, which had an initial circulation of 100,000. "I hardly believe that young people take the comic seriously at all," said Christian Pfeiffer, director of the Criminological Research Institute in Lower Saxony, who read the comic for the German newspaper taz. "The comic paints everything in black and white."
He thus sees few advantages coming from the campaign, but substantial risk on the other hand. "It could totally backfire," says Pfeiffer. "I see the danger that some Muslims could be offended."
And indeed: Muslim organizations have been seething since the comic book came out.
The Central Muslim Council complains on its Web site that the Muslim communities were not consulted when the "Andi" comic was developed. "The preventive effect would have been much greater if they had," was the indignant comment written there.
© Qantara.de/taz 2007
Translated from the German by Nancy Joyce
This article was previously published by Germany's daily, taz.