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Batman’s French Muslim ally angers rightwing US bloggers

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Batman has battled many enemies but now has to face the anger of rightwing US bloggers furious that the comic book caped crusader has recruited a Muslim to run his crime-fighting franchise in Paris.

“The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at the gymnastic sport parkour,” wrote Warner Todd Huston on his site Publius Forum.

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“Apparently Batman couldn’t find any actual Frenchman to be the ‘French saviour’,” wrote the rightwinger, apparently discounting the millions of French citizens of North African descent from his definition of “actual” French.

In the December issues of DC Comics Detective Comics Annual and Batman Annual, the caped crusader has set up Batman Incorporated and wants to install a superhero in cities around the world to fight crime.

The hero he picks in France is called Nightrunner, the alter ego of a 22-year-old from Clichy-sous-Bois, a tough Paris suburb where urban unrest sparked riots in immigrant districts across France in 2005.

Bilal Asselah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, was caught up in that unrest and at one point he and his friend got beaten up by police who mistook them for rioters.

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Bilal’s friend reacted by later burning down a police station and ended up being killed by police.

But Bilal, thanks largely to the influence of his pious Muslim mother, rejects hate and fear.

He concentrates on learning parkour, the form of acrobatics where practitioners jump from buildings and leap over walls and street furniture, as spectacularly seen at the start of the 2006 James Bond film “Casino Royale.”

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When riots again threaten to engulf his neighbourhood, Bilal puts on a mask and, using his parkour skills, becomes Nightrunner and sets out to set things right again.

Nightrunner’s integrity, athletic prowess, and triumph over personal adversity made him Bruce Wayne’s obvious choice to represent Batman in Paris.

But rightwing bloggers in the United States, who are also upset over plans for a black actor to play the Norse God Thor in an upcoming blockbuster movie, are incensed that DC Comics chose to make their new superhero a Muslim.

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They see it as pandering to political correctness.

“Unfortunately, readers of Batman will not be helped to understand what troubles are really besetting France,” wrote Huston on Publius Forum.

“In this age when Muslim youths are terrorizing the entire country, heck in this age of international Muslim terrorism assaulting the whole world, Batman?s readers will be confused by what is really going on in the world.

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“Through it all DC makes a Muslim in France a hero when French Muslims are at the center of some of the worst violence in the country?s recent memory,” he wrote.

The Angry White Dude blog, which described Islam as the “religion of murder,” mocked that “Nightrunner the Muslim sidekick will have strange new powers to bury women to their waists and bash their heads in with large rocks.”

US comic book creator Bosch Fawstin, who wrote on his blog that “DC Comics has submitted to Islam,” is coming up with his own antidote.

“If you?re as sick and tired of this IslamiCrap as I am, be on the lookout for my upcoming graphic novel, The Infidel, which features Pigman, an ex-Muslim superhero who is the jihadist?s worst nightmare,” he blogged.

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DC comics did not respond to an AFP request for an interview with David Hine, the writer of the album featuring Nightrunner, and declined to comment on the controversy.

But the British-born author told a US website that he had tried to “come up with the kind of hero I would want to see in a comic book if I were French.”

“The urban unrest and problems of the ethnic minorities under (President Nicolas) Sarkozy’s government dominate the news from France and it became inevitable that the hero should come from a French Algerian background,” he told the Death and Taxes site.

The mini-storm on the English-language blogosphere — where left-leaning or pro-Islam sites are attacking the rightwingers for their hostility to a Muslim superhero — has so far only sparked a tiny number of reactions on French-language websites.

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The albums went on sale here last month but the small numbers stocked were quickly sold out, book stores said.


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