The German Family Ministry is arguing that a children’s book for atheists that contains disparaging depictions of religious leaders is anti-Semitic and should be considered dangerous to young people, Deutsche Welle reports.
The book “How do I get to God, Asked the Small Piglet,” written by Michael Schmidt-Salomon, features a piglet and a hedgehog. They discover a poster attached to their house reading, "If you do not know God, you are missing something!"
The animals are frightened that they are missing something in their lives, and begin a search for God. On their journey they encounter a rabbi, a mufti, and a bishop.
According to the ministry’s report, “In the book, the three great world religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism are scorned.” The ministry said, “The distinctive characteristics of each religion are ridiculed. Especially the Jewish faith is slurred by the portrayal and characterization of the rabbi.”
The ministry says the book’s depiction of the rabbi is anti-Semitic.
The depiction of the rabbi reportedly recalls anti-Jewish propaganda from the 1930s. The rabbi is drawn with corkscrew curls, fanatical eyes, predatory teeth, and hands like claws. He rages at the animals, yelling to them that God had set out to destroy all life on Earth at the time of Noah.
The book insinuates that the pale, fat bishop is connected to child abuse and is constantly attacking the mufti.
The mufti, after quietly greeting the animals and inviting them into his mosque, soon changes into a fanatic who gathers a shouting Islamic mob that holds up the animals and condemns them to damnation.
At the end of the book, the hedgehog says, "I think that God doesn't even exist." Even if he existed, the character says, he doesn’t live in a synagogue, a cathedral, or a mosque.
Gunnar Schedel, the head of the book’s publisher Alibri, said the publisher was aware the book could provoke controversy.
"It's clear to me that putting a critique of religion in children's bedrooms is a hot political topic," Schedel said, according to Deutsche Welle.
He said the book was intended for non-religious parents who want to provide their children with a critical view of religion.
"All three religions are treated equally in the book," Schedel said. "No one is negatively singled out."
Author Michael Schmidt-Salomon responded to the controversy on his website. “I don’t ridicule religions, they are ridiculous all by themselves,” he wrote, claiming children have a “right to enlightenment.” He denied that he was anti-Semitic, claiming he had been cursed and threatened because of his Jewish-sounding name.
“So I claim the right for myself to openly criticize those Orthodox Jews, as well as fundamentalist Christians and Muslims, who are struck by divine madness. This naturally has nothing to do with anti-Semitism,” he wrote.
The German department that reviews children’s literature is scheduled to discuss the book at a March meeting.