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LONDON (Reuters) - As European authorities grope for ways of combating the appeal of militant Islamism, one German security agency has hit on a novel idea: cartoon comics.

Officials in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) had run a well received comic strip campaign against right-wing extremism in 2004 starring Andi, a schoolboy hero who stands up against xenophobia and racism.

Drawing on that experience, they launched Andi last October into a second adventure featuring his Muslim girlfriend Ayshe and her brother Murat, who comes under the influence of a radical friend and an Islamist "hate preacher."

The comic -- printed in 100,000 copies and distributed to every secondary school in Germany's most populous state -- aims to show young people the difference between peaceful mainstream Islam and the violent, intolerant version peddled by militants.

"We were always careful not to hurt feelings and anger people by painting a caricature of Islam," said Hartwig Moeller, head of the NRW interior ministry's department for protection of the constitution, responsible for intelligence gathering.


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