German police are investigating a Syrian satirist who filmed a video in a Berlin street in which, dressed in an Arab robe and turban, he flogged a handcuffed man wearing a mask depicting French President Emmanuel Macron.
The video also showed Fayez Kanfash dragging the Macron character on a leash cheered by onlookers on Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukoelln district known for its Arab and Turkish restaurants and shops
Kanfash has more than one million followers on Youtube and he uses his channel to promote Islam as a peaceful religion.
Macron has stirred anger across parts of the Muslim world over his defence of the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims deem them blasphemous and insulting to the prophet.
Four people have been killed in two attacks in French cities by suspected Islamist militants in recent weeks as the furore over the cartoons has raged.
A Berlin police spokesman said authorities were looking into whether the Macron flogging stunt amounted to incitement to commit violence or whether it was satire. A 23-year-old was questioned about the incident, the spokesman said, without naming the person.
Kanfash, who said he was stopped and questioned by police about the stunt, said he wanted to show Germans and Westerners that freedom of expression has its limits.
“The intention was never to incite violence,” he said by phone from Berlin, which became his home four years ago after he fled Syria. “We just wanted to say, ‘if freedom of expression allows you to insult our prophet, then don’t be offended if we insult your leaders’.”
Germany is home to 3 million Turks and about 800,000 Syrians.