What can be done to change that?

I've stopped looking for a solution. The problem would first have to affect 100% of the population for the state to intervene. When it does, then swift action is taken. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that. But if something only affects 25% of the population, then everything takes so much longer. Walter Lubcke (a German Christian Democrat politician – ed.) was assassinated in mid-2019. It is now the middle of 2020 and in the intervening period, there have been attacks in Halle and Hanau. People have been killed. But it doesn't really seem to concern people. Nothing has changed since the days before Hanau or Halle. Until the next attack happens, we'll act like we have everything under control. This is the narrative of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who said that Halle was a warning sign. Life is so much easier when we use terms like "warning sign" or "isolated case".

In an open letter to Angela Merkel, which you published on Facebook in September 2018, you outlined your concerns and fears relating to racism, xenophobia and right-wing populism. Was there any reaction from the Federal Government?

No, there was no response whatsoever. But that's okay in this case. After all, the purpose of an open letter is to wake up society. This is why I printed in my book the responses I did receive, to show what kind of ambivalent reactions I got. I wrote about my worries, and people wrote back, telling me that it was all nonsense; that they are more afraid than I am. When it comes to migrants' worries, a lot of people feel personally attacked. Then they sit down and write me endless letters, trying to pick holes in my arguments. But that's not what it was about. If someone made a fennel salad for me although I don't eat fennel, and I then tell that person that I don't like fennel, that person is not going to respond by saying "Well, I don't like aubergines".

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Do you really read every single response you receive?

That's part of being a journalist. It's research. I'm getting a direct response; I've got information right at my fingertips. There are, for example, people who quote the Koran to me, and then I think "Oh God, here we go again." Then they tell me that we Muslims want to kill all infidels. People send me different sura. But the issue is so complex that even devout Muslims have to seek advice from various religious authorities to get an answer to their questions. And even then, the religious authorities don't always agree with each other. But these armchair analysts think they can analyse the Koran better than any religious authority.

You take it all with a good dose of humour. Indeed, humour seems to be an important tool for you, both in your book and in your journalistic documentaries.

There are journalists who are deadly serious all the time. Humour in certain situations does me good. The world is not all dreadful and bad, and you need something to make you smile. But I would like to make it absolutely clear at this point that since the attack in Hanau, we cannot approach everything with humour and satire alone. That just doesn't work. How can you approach the death of nine people with humour and satire? How can you square that circle artistically? The answer is that you can't. This is a matter for the public prosecutor, for the government, for the police. And if they don't want to react, then humour and satire are of no use at all. Then I have to use the tools provided by democracy. I cannot create an artistic installation. We have to make sure that something like this does not happen again.

Interview conducted by Schayan Riaz

© Qantara.de 2020

Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan

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