German national footballer Antonio Rudiger sues former Bild boss Reichelt

German national footballer Antonio Rudiger
German national footballer Antonio Rudiger has accused Reichelt of slander following criticism by the former Bild boss of a Ramadan Instagram post he made. The DFB is also taking legal action against the journalist (image: Arne Dedert/dpa)

National team player Antonio Rudiger, 31, and the German Football Association (DFB) are taking legal action against journalist Julian Reichelt. Rudiger feels slandered and defamed by Reichelt's criticism of a photo he published on Instagram at the start of Ramadan. T

he Real Madrid professional footballer has therefore filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor's office in Berlin, and the DFB has reported the matter to the Central Office for Combatting Cybercrime (ZIT) in Frankfurt am Main.

In his post on 11 March, Rudiger, a practicing Muslim, posted a photo of himself in a white robe on a prayer mat. The index finger of his right hand points to the sky. "May the Almighty accept our fasting and prayers," wrote Rudiger as a greeting for Ramadan. In Reichelt's opinion, Rudiger was making an Islamist gesture by raising his index finger. 

Rudiger's management and the DFB confirmed the charges to the German Press Agency. The Bild newspaper had first reported the incident. The criminal complaint against Reichelt has been seen by the German press agency dpa. The charges relate to insult or defamation, inciting offence and hate speech. Rudiger himself refused to comment on the matter.

Reichelt stood by his assessment of Rudiger's gesture on Monday evening and also stated on X (formerly Twitter): "Even and especially because it's about a popular national player, you can't allow yourself to be intimidated. (...) What Antonio Rudiger and the DFB are using here are methods of intimidation". 

According to the Bild newspaper, the Federal Ministry of the Interior explained that, from its point of view, the raised finger "is to be understood as a profession of faith and can therefore be categorised as unproblematic in terms of public safety. This applies although Islamist groups are appropriating this symbol and misusing it for their own purposes". 

In certain contexts, pointing the finger could be seen as a sign of Salafist or Islamist radicalisation if actors deliberately make use of this ambiguity. 

"It depends on the individual case," the ministry continued.    (Suddeutsche Zeitung)