'Tintin in the Congo' racism trial opens
A Congolese man pleaded with a Belgian court on Friday to remove "Tintin in the Congo" from bookshelves, arguing that the comic book is littered with racist stereotypes about Africans.
"It is a racist comic book that celebrates colonialism and the supremacy of the white race over the black race," Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo said as he arrived for the opening of the civil trial in Brussels.
"Will we continue to tolerate such a book today?" asked Mondondo, whose case against Tintin's publisher is backed by a French anti-racism group.
One of his lawyers, Ahmed L'Hedim, argued that the book, written by celebrated Belgian author Herge in 1931, violates Belgium's anti-racism laws.
"Imagine a seven-year-old black girl discovering 'Tintin in the Congo' with her classmates," he said, denouncing the book's depiction of a black man as "lazy, docile and stupid" and "incapable of speak French correctly."
Lawyers said the adventures of the intrepid reporter and his dog Snowy in Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, should at least carry a warning sign or be prefaced with an explanation of the historical context.
The publisher, Casterman, and the company that owns Tintin's commercial rights, Moulinsart, argue that the complaint is a threat to freedom of expression.
"If we censor 'Tintin in the Congo' by banning it or forcing the publisher to put a sign on it, it is all of world literature that will end up in courts, from (Belgian writer Georges) Simenon to the Bible," said one of their representatives, Alain Berenboom.
Herge, real name Georges Remi (1907-1983), justified the book by saying it was merely a reflection of the naive views of the time. Some of the scenes were revised for later editions.
© 2011 AFP