The anti-Islam, right wing Pro-NRW party on the campaign trail in Germany’s most populous state is threatening to put caricatures of Mohammed outside mosques in a string of cities, prompting fears of (Muslim) violence.
The Local The “Pro NRW” party in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has already shown anti-Islamic caricatures in Essen and Gelsenkirchen, though the police prevented demonstrations taking place directly outside mosques.
Police have also banned “Pro NRW”, which is campaigning on an Islamophobic platform, from using the Danish cartoons that caused massive protests in the Islamic world in 2005.
But “Pro NRW” intends to send activists to 25 mosques throughout the state in the run-up to the election on May 13, staging protests in Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Wuppertal and Solingen.
Interior Minister in state Ralf Jäger condemned the campaign and expressed support for planned counter-demonstrations. “Pro NRW is committing spiritual arson,” he told the paper. “The party is consciously taking into account that Muslims will feel provoked and upset. (That’s the idea!) The authorities will exhaust all legal avenues to prevent a xenophobic hate campaign.”
The federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich is reportedly worried about violent confrontations with the Salafists, the fundamentalist Muslims who began distributing free copies of the Koran in Germany three weeks ago. (Then ban the Muslims, not the patriots)
“Pro NRW” campaign manager Lars Seidensticker says he did not understand the outrage over the campaign, and says his party would bear no responsibility for any violence.
“If the situation is so tense that you can’t do a campaign like this against Islamist influences any more, then the politicians are responsible for doing away with Germany,” he said, alluding to the title of a 2010 book by banker Thilo Sarrazin (“Germany Does Away with Itself”), which criticized Islamic immigrants in Germany.
“Pro NRW” is also planning to award a cash prize for the “best” anti-Islamic caricature, named after Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who was responsible for the 2005 images.
UPDATE! Radical Islamists attacked police in the western German city of Solingen on Tuesday in protest of a far-right demonstration where anti-Islamic cartoons had been put on display.
SPIEGEL (H/T Martin) They were provoked by the anti-Islamic Pro NRW party, which displayed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Officials had warned that the publicity stunt could spark violence.
Some 30 Salafists were arrested after injuring three police officers and a passerby by throwing stones and wielding poles from protest banners, police said. Pro NRW, categorized as an extremist right-wing group by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, had staged a demonstration near a Salafist mosque in Solingen.
The violence erupted when Pro NRW demonstrators showed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad drawn by Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. One of his drawings was among a series of cartoons published by Danish newspapers in 2005 that led to worldwide protests by Muslims, who were offended by the pictures. Many Muslims believe that visual depictions of Muhammad should be prohibited.
“Several Salafists wearing turbans suddenly jumped over the cordon and threw stones at police officers and also hit them with flagpoles,” police spokeswoman Anja Meis said.
Pro NRW has said it will run a “Muhammad cartoon contest” and put the cartoons on display outside 25 mosques in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The move, a campaign stunt aimed at generating publicity ahead of an election in the state on May 13, has been widely criticized.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich warned last weekthat the cartoon contest and the demonstrations near mosques could lead to violent clashes and also endanger German embassies and companies abroad.