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Cablegate: Using Comic Books to Combat Extremism

VZCZCXRO1098
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0032 3241244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201244Z NOV 07
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0096
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0110

UNCLAS DUSSELDORF 000032

SIPDIS

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/FO AND EUR/PPD

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL PTER KPAO GM
SUBJECT: USING COMIC BOOKS TO COMBAT EXTREMISM

Sensitive but Unclassified -- Not for Internet Distribution

1. (U) As part of its expanding efforts to combat Islamic
extremism and to educate German Muslim youth about western style
democracy, the North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) Office for the
Protection of the Constitution (OPC) recently released its
second manga style comic book "Andi 2"
(http://www.andi.nrw.de/Andi2/andi2_start.htm l). The comic book
storyline is geared towards 12-16 year olds and follows a
student and his circle of friends through their encounters with
Islamic extremism. Copies of "Andi 2" are currently being sent
to every school in NRW. The first comic in this series, "Andi
1" focused on right wing extremism and was tested extensively
with focus groups. Over 170,000 copies of "Andi 1" have already
been printed and distributed in NRW.

2. (U) The OPC official who oversees the comic series told
Pol/Econoff that the "Andi 2" project grew out of feedback from
"Andi 1." Several schools indicated that right wing extremist
ideas were not much of a problem among their teenagers, but that
a comic on the theme of Islamic extremism would be more useful.
This led to the development of "Andi 2." "Initially, we were
nervous about doing this," he said, "especially after the
reaction in Europe to the Mohammad caricatures." As a result,
the OPC sought input from in-house Muslims and Islam experts as
well as from experts of the NRW Ministry of Education and
Ministry of Integration.

3. (U) To date "Andi 2" has received some criticism. A
newspaper affiliated with the Turkish Islamist Milli-Goerues
group complained that one of the Muslim characters is "too
dark," and that the term "Jihad" is not correctly defined and
portrayed. The OPC official admitted that they did not pay
close attention to the skin color of the characters, deferring
to the artist instead. The OPC has sent copies of "Andi 2" to
the four major Muslim umbrella organizations in Germany, but to
date only the Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland (ZMD) has
reacted, mainly positively but stating that they would have
liked to have been consulted in the initial planning stages.
The OPC official defended the manner in which the comic books
were conceived, maintaining that the OPC had done its due
diligence. The OPC and the Ministry of Education are currently
creating teacher discussion guides on this subject in response
to requests from the schools.

Comment
-----------

4. (SBU) While no studies have yet been conducted, we have
heard anecdotal evidence suggesting that the OPC is on the right
track by using the comic book medium to educate youth about
politics, civics, and extremism. OPC officials report that
initial feedback on "Andi 1" and "Andi 2" has been positive,
with even the leftist "TAZ" daily applauding the OPC's
innovative approach. It will likely be difficult to measure
their effectiveness, but it is encouraging that other German
states have already copied, printed, and disseminated "Andi 1"
under their state OPC name. At a total cost of 66,000 euros for
both comic projects, this innovative idea is an inexpensive tool
in the NRW government's campaign against right wing and Islamic
extremism. End Comment.

5. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

BOYSE

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