By Joseph Nasr
BERLIN (Reuters) - German drag queens are using satire to spoof a hard-right party's anti-Islam election campaign, and German voters are loving it.
They have formed Transvestites for Germany, or TfD, a name that bears an uncanny resemblance to Alternative for Germany (AfD), the name of Germany's leading right-wing party, and launched a Facebook campaign that has almost 7,000 followers.
The AfD's election campaign focuses on messages that Islamic customs don't belong in Germany. That has left a bad taste with many Germans, and TfD saw an opportunity to use drag fashion and wit to mock the AfD's own election placards.
The AfD posters feature white German women in bikinis or raising wine glasses, with captions like "Burka? I'm into bikinis" and "Burka? I'm into Burgundy". The posters are emblazoned with the party's election motto: "I dare you, Germany!"
The TfD version of the posters uses the AfD's light blue party color but replaces the anti-immigrant party's red arrow with red stiletto shoes.
"Guzzle your crap Burgundy alone! I prefer prosecco," reads one poster with a picture of Gisela Sommer, one of several bearded men dressed like women and raising a middle finger on TfD placards, which include the hashtags #NoAfD and #NoNaziPack.
The TfD campaign has drawn the attention of several German newspapers and has brought some flare to an otherwise largely dull election. Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to win and secure a fourth term in office without much trouble.
"I don't think that all AfD members are Nazis, but there is an appalling racial tone in this party which is for sure shared by many of its members," said TfD leader Jacky-Oh Weinhaus.
Buffalo Meus, the media manager of the fictional party, said he gets about 50 Facebook messages a day from people asking how they can become TfD members.
"We just wanted an art project," Meus said. "But some people have taken us for a real party. They ask us, 'how can I register? 'How can I vote for you?' "
Not all the messages are pleasant. Other readers have wished the group members death by stoning or by hanging.
The group's main goal is get the 17 million Germans who stayed home in the 2013 election to the polls. They hope their votes will cut into support for the AfD, which is forecast to enter parliament for the first time with 8 to 10 percent of the vote.
"Instead of supporting the AfD, the only party that criticizes Islam, you go against it," an angry Facebook user called Hans Horn wrote to TfD this week. "If Islamisation continues and Muslim invaders from Africa continue to flood in you will be the first to be thrown from high roofs."
The TfD responded two days later: "We love you and wish you a sunny Wednesday!"
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr, editing by Larry King)