Carnival in Germany: Islam no longer taboo

In light of the Muhammad cartoon scandal in 2006, carnival jokesters in Germany went easy on Islam. This year, Muslim satire will return to at least one parade–the D_sseldorf carnival parade. Last year, 43-year-old Jacques Tilly’s float was called off because of fears it would provoke violence. The float he designed was of four Muslim women in a row, each more covered than the last. At the end, a woman tied inside a large trash bag. This year, though, Jacques Tilly has some catching up to do. “The clash of civilizations is still high up on the agenda of world politics,” the artist says. And this time, it’s fair game. On Feb. 19, Muslims will be fair game again. Only one motif has become public to date: A Hamas militant and an orthodox Jew hug each other while a Shiite cleric and an Indian cuddle each other and an Indian and a Pakistani dance together. It’s all too cuddly to be true Tilly, and the apparently conciliatory gestures are immediately unmasked: The display’s motto is “Peace Between Religions — The Greatest of Illusions.” Controversy is not new to the parade. In 2005, parade organizers were threatened by Catholics offended by a portrayal of conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner. He was shown preparing to burn a woman at the stake. The puppet of the woman featured the words: “I had an abortion.” Last year, a George W. Bush float was banned. In Cologne, Muslim satire will again be kept at a minimum. The director of the Rose Monday parade in Cologne, Christoph Kuckelkorn, does admit that one display features a Torah, a Bible and a Koran whose peaceful co-existence is disturbed only by fundamentalists and terrorists. “But we’re not injuring anyone’s religious sentiments,” he says — before defending the decision in light of Cologne’s traditionally live-and-let-live attitude. Kuckelhorn’s has tried to win Jacques Tilly for his own parade but Tilly has been uninterested. For it to be worth his effort, “There has to be a real ruckus,” Tilly says.