A German ad campaign aimed at fighting Islamist radicalism has provoked an incensed response from offended Muslims.
Thought up by an anti-radicalization center set up earlier this year at the behest of German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, the campaign features photos of four different Muslims, under the caption “MISSING.”
“This is our son Ahmad. We miss him, because we don’t recognize him anymore. He is withdrawing more and more, becoming more radical every day. We are afraid of losing him altogether – to religious fanatics and terrorist groups,”reads the text underneath the photo.
The posters will be put up almost exclusively in the immigrant areas in Germany’s large cities, and will feature text in German, Turkish and Arabic.
The Interior Ministry said the posters – which feature a helpline number for worried acquaintances and relatives – will“counter radicalization” and “provide support.”
Instead, the campaign has provoked a fierce backlash from German Muslims.
“In my opinion, this is a humiliation for the Muslims who live in Berlin and Germany,” Bekir Yilmaz, president of a Turkish community organization in Berlin, told Deutche Welle “It’s the assumption that all Muslims could be radicalized.”
“What’s dangerous about the poster campaign is that the people pictured could be a work colleagues, a friend from the sports club, or a neighbor,” echoed Birol Kocaman, editor of the online magazine MiGAZIN. “They could be anyone who looks like a Muslim. They are all made subject to a general suspicion that they could be dangerous.”
In response, MiGAZIN published an altered version of the poster, featuring the man behind the campaign.
“This is our Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich. We don’t miss him, because we don’t recognize him anymore. He is withdrawing more and more, becoming more radical every day. We are afraid he will disappear altogether – into the hands of right-wing fanatics and terrorist groups,” reads the new poster.
Both Yilmaz and Kocaman say such campaigns not only create prejudice against Muslims, but put pressure on Islamic immigrants to prove their “loyalty.”
Germany has about four million Muslims, who make up approximately five percent of the population.
In a report published earlier this summer, German security services claimed that more than 1,100 of those could pose a terrorist threat.
Minister Friedrich has initiated a campaign against radicalism, banning “extremist” organizations and carrying out police raids on suspicious Islamic centers.