A popular German gangster rapper with Arab roots has come under fire for ostensibly promoting a Middle East without Israel.

A small scandal erupted after newspapers reported that Bushido, who was born in Bonn to a Tunisian father and a German mother, had changed the profile picture of his Twitter account to an image reading “Free Palestine” and showing a map of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean in the Palestinian national colors. 

The controversial image on Bushido's Twitter page (credit: screenshot Twitter.com)

Bushido’s Twitter page (credit: screenshot Twitter.com)

“The picture of this map does not serve peace; it sows hate,” German Interior Minister Peter Friedrich told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “Bushido needs to remove this picture immediately from his Twitter page, otherwise he can no longer serve as an example of successful integration.”

Other politicians have joined the chorus of condemnation. “Until now we knew of such images from Hamas and other extremist Palestinian organizations,” said Ruprecht Polenz, the head of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee. “It’s a scandal that a German musician who reaches many people questions Israel’s right to exist,” he told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Bushido, whose real name is Anis Mohamed Youssef Ferchichi, has 285,000 followers on Twitter. Despite his controversial lyrics, which have been criticized as homophobic, sexist and glorifying violence, he has sold millions of records in Germany and elsewhere and won several awards, including the MTV Europe Music Award in the category “Best German Act” twice.

In 2011, the mass-distribution weekly Bunte honored Bushido with a special “Bambi” award for “successful integration.” Germany is home to a large Muslim immigrant community and integration of foreigners is one of the topics dominating the national agenda. In light of the rapper’s controversial Twitter post, Bunte said it would “investigate the issue and act accordingly.”

Bushido, for his part, has so far not responded to the German queries, though he is clearly aware of the controversy and its possible consequences.

“Bambi for sale,” he tweeted late Sunday night.