Muslims protest incest plot on Germany's 'Tatort'

4:00 AM PST 01/01/2008 by Scott Roxborough, AP

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COLOGNE, Germany -- In an unprecedented move, 20,000 Alevi Muslims from Germany and neighboring European countries rallied Sunday in Cologne to protest an episode of Germany’s top-rated detective series, "Tatort."

The episode featured a storyline involving incest in an Alevi family living in Germany.

Members of the moderate Muslim faith said the story played on centuries-old prejudice and cliches. Ali Ertan Toprak, general secretary for German Alevi group AABF, compared it to the myth of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children, a myth the Nazis used to demonize Jews and one that recently resurfaced in the anti-Semitic Egyptian miniseries "A Rider without a
Horse" (2002).

"This is just to explain the extent of our outrage," Toprak said.

Alevi Muslims from across the country were bused in to Cologne to take part in the mass demonstration. Cologne police said the demo was "entirely peaceful."

"The Alevis respect freedom of press and freedom of opinion and are opposed to any ban on cultural expression," an Alevi spokesman told German newspaper the Tageszeitung. "But these values must not be used to harm the dignity of a minority."

Alevis are an offshoot of Shi'ites and make up at least a tenth of the estimated 3 million Muslims in Germany. They're a minority in largely Sunni Turkey.

Alevi is among the most moderate of Muslim faiths. Its liberal practices, which include allowing women to mix with men in prayer, gave rise to a stereotype in the Ottoman Empire that Alevis were prone to sexual debauchery and incest.

The "Tatort" episode was aired Dec. 23 by German public broadcaster ARD. Alevi leaders had asked the channel to pull the episode, but ARD refused. Instead, the broadcaster ran a statement in the opening credits explaining that the show was fiction.

Angelina Maccarone, who wrote and directed the "Tatort" episode, has said she was unaware of the Alevi incest libel. Regional broadcaster NDR, which produced the show, said it regrets the impact the episode has had and has invited members of the Alevi
community to take part in a public dialogue about their representation in the media.
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