German Comic Vs Muslim
The comic features Andi, his Muslim girlfriend Ayshe, her brother Murat, a radical friend and a hate preacher. (Reuters)
BERLIN — The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is using a novel tool to prevent Muslim schoolchildren from being drawn into extremism and violence: cartoon comics.
"We have learned from our opponents," Hartwig Moeller, head of the NRW interior ministry's intelligence gathering department, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday, March 25.
Officials in NRW, Germany's most populous state, had run a well received comic strip in 2004 starring Andi, a schoolboy hero who stands up against xenophobia and racism.
Drawing on that experience, they launched Andi last October into a second adventure featuring his Muslim "girlfriend" Ayshe and her brother Murat, who comes under the influence of a radical friend and a "hate preacher".
Some 100,000 copies of the comic, featuring boldly drawn Manga-style figures, have been distributed to every secondary school to be used in citizenship and religion lessons for schoolchildren aged 12 to 16.
"This is exactly the age at which the Islamists are trying, through Qur'anic schools and other means, to fill young people with other values," said Moeller.
The comic reportedly aims to show young people the difference between peaceful Islam and the violent, intolerant version peddled by militants.
"If I get through to someone this way, and it makes him more critical of people who want to make him a jihadist, then I've stopped him at some point committing terrorist attacks or going to a terrorist camp in Afghanistan or Pakistan ," Moeller argues.
"Maybe he won't slide off into this milieu -- that's the idea."
Germany is home to nearly 3.4 million Muslims, the second biggest Muslim minority in Western Europe .
Islam comes third in the country after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
Using a medium that grabs children's imagination the German state seeks to get its message across more effectively.
"If you're serious about getting through to young people, you have to choose a style that they'll take in their hands and accept, that's how the comic came about," said Thomas Grumke, the NRW official who thought up the original Andi idea.
"A comic can go much further than a normal text," he maintains.
"There's a great deal more room to play with, more room for interpretation."
Aiman Mazyek, general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, welcomed the comic strip.
"We found the basic approach was right and good, we only regretted (the authorities) didn't tell us about this initiative in advance, then it could have been made much better," he said.
Admitting that hate preachers exit, the Muslim leader insisted the portrayal in the comic was "a bit overdone."
Mazyek said copies of the comic have been distributed in mosques. According to Reuters, the regional government in Hamburg state is also using the Andi story.
It also cited interest from Austria , Denmark , Japan and the United States .
The unusual initiative is one example of how countries around the world are searching for new ways to prevent young people being drawn to extremism.
Richard Barrett, who heads a UN task force studying counter-radicalization and rehabilitation initiatives around the world, recently suggested that role models such as singers, actors or sport stars could play an important part.
"I think that is something we should be looking at – trying to identify these alternative influences and have them speak out against terrorism," he told a conference this month in Stockholm .
"Being cool is a very important part of it all."
Swedish terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp cited the example of Ahmad Dhani, an Indonesian rock star who challenged militant ideology in a massively popular album called "Warriors of Love".
He suggested the West needs to harness humor, soap opera and public relations industries in efforts to "disarm the extremists' messages and influence over young people."
They promote "peaceful Islam", where Muslims accept Western hegemony, slave-ship and occupation of their lands without opposition, while they violently reject true Islaam and jihad calling it "the violent, intolerant version peddled by militants".
What about Christian and Jewish extremism and militarism? Aren't Muslim states and lands currently under occupation by Christian and Zionist Jewish forces around the globe? Aren't Christian and Jewish terrorists currently occupying Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Chechnya and have military bases in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti and elsewhere in the Muslim World? What about Muslim regions in the Philippines , East Turkstan , Kashmeer, Kosova, etc.? On the other hand, we don't see Muslims occupying any Western country or any land any where?
Are Muslim leaders doing anything to stop Western Zionist-Christian terrorism against Muslim states and individuals? Of course not! On the contrary, they have joined the anti-Islaam bandwagon: labeling Muslim resistance (jihad) terrorism and calling for modernizing Islaam; arresting Muslims who reject Western terrorism; and removed everything related to jihad from school books, media and lectures.
Why do oil rich Arab states ignore Muslim engineers and specialists in every field, currently working overseas, and employ instead non-Muslims even from India ? We still recruit and employ Europeans, Amer icans, Canadians and Australians in every sector of our economies without any reservations and offer them the highest salaries, paid vacations, health care and paid schooling for their children in their home countries or in local private schools in their own languages. Our governments do not watch what they do or where they go! "!!~ aajooba ~!!" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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