Can comic books stop terrorism?

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Germany may not be too gung-ho about the war in Iraq, but that doesn't mean the country is not serious about stopping terrorism and extremism. That said, the latest serious tool it has added to its arsenal for fighting extremist Islam is ... a comic book (pdf).

Created by the interior ministry of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the comic book features an adolescent German hero, Andi. Andi's frustrated Muslim friend Murat, a German resident of Turkish heritage, can't find an apprenticeship and blames his difficulties on xenophobia. Murat starts to become brainwashed by Harun, a Muslim youth who takes Murat to meet a radical sheikh who shows them extremist Web sites.

The story has a happy ending after Murat finally comes to his senses when his sister Ayshe—a modern, head-scarf-wearing, Muslim girl who staunchly believes in liberal democracy—is threatened by Harun.

Hamburg is planning to use the comic book in its schools; additionally, a second Andi comic is headed to schools soon. It's unclear how German kids will react, though, or whether the book will succeed in stopping the cultivation of homegrown terrorists, such as the three men—two German citizens who had converted to Islam and one Turkish Muslim resident—who were arrested in September for planning bomb attacks. It wouldn't be surprising if teenagers—being teenagers—find it cheesy and just roll their eyes. More importantly, though, is the impact on Muslims. The 2005-06 Danish cartoon outrage showed that cartoons and Muslims don't often go well together. (At least this comic book doesn't appear to have images of the prophet.) There's bound to be somebody who complains that the comic book depicts distorted caricatures of Muslims in Germany.

If the book gets families talking and makes youth more apt to peer-pressure their friends away from extremist recruiters, though, it may have well served its purpose. Only time will tell if placing the security of Germany on the shoulders of a teenage comic-book hero will protect the country from terrorism.


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