The German government has voiced concern that far-right activists in North Rhine-Westphalia may incite violence with plans to hold a so-called “Mohammed cartoon contest” and to stage demonstrations outside mosques in the run-up to a regional election on May 13
The Pro NRW party in 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.
Pro NRW, however, intends to send activists to 25 mosques throughout the state in the run-up to the election on May 13, staging protests in Köln, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Wuppertal and Solingen. A report in Die Welt newspaper on Sunday said the far-right party intended to post around 100 what it called “Islam-critical” drawings outside the mosques.
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. 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. A report in Der Spiegel magazine over the weekend said his ministry had been in contact with the NRW state government in recent weeks to find a way to de-escalate the situation.
Pro NRW campaign manager Lars Seidensticker says he did not understand the outrage over the campaign and that his party would bear no responsibility for any violence.
He said: “Mosques are potential centres of a new civil war that we have to prevent. That’s why we have to pull out the Islamist evil by its roots.”
Pro NRW, which boasts 250 members, 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. Westergaard has distanced himself from the competition and is reportedly considering legal action against the party for using his name.