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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Belgium anti-racism group urges 'Tintin in the Congo' ban

A black rights group urged a Belgian court Monday to pull the popular comic book "Tintin in the Congo" from library bookshelves, saying it depicts racist and offensive cliches about Africans.

Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, a Congolese man who first filed the complaint, and an anti-racism association want the court to ban the book written by celebrated Belgian author Herge in 1931, or at least slap a warning label on it.

"It is not Herge we are putting on trial, it is the racism ingrained in people's minds at the time," Ahmed L'hedim, lawyer for Mondondo and the Representative Council of Black Associations, told the court, according to Belga news agency.

The plaintiffs said the book about the adventures of the intrepid reporter and his dog Snowy in Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, should at least be relegated to the adult sections of libraries.

Sandrine Carneroli, a lawyer for publisher Casterman et Moulinsart SA, sought to have the case thrown out on grounds that it did not belong in civil court but in a trade tribunal "since we are talking about banning sales."

Another attorney for the publisher said at a previous hearing in May that a ban would be like a "book burning."

The next hearing is set for December 8 and a decision is expected within the following two months.

The 1931 tale of Tintin's trip to the former Belgian colony is controversial because of its depiction of colonialism and Africans, as well as casual violence towards animals.

The Belgian author 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.

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