Younes Al-Amayra in conversation: “We created true identification figures”

The founder of the successful YouTube channel “Datteltäter” in conversation with Esra Kücük, CEO of the Allianz Foundation, talking about the struggle to get Muslim topics into the German media, the normalization that has already happened, as well as the challenges that still exist.

September 28, 2023

Younes Al-Amayra is smiling into the camera

Younes Al-Amayra © Allianz Foundation

“The situation isn’t the same as eight years ago. People with an immigration background have become much more visible, even in mainstream media, and we’ve been able to make our contribution. ”
Younes Al Amayra

Eight years ago, Younes Al-Amayra started the successful YouTube channel “Datteltäter” (“date fruit offender”) with some friends. It is a satire format that focusses on stereotypes, prejudices and clichés. Today it has over half a million followers. In addition to the channel, Younes runs the “Datteltäter Academy”, a fellowship program for media newcomers with a migrant background.

Esra Kücük is CEO of the Allianz Foundation. She deals with the challenges of societies in times of transition and is committed to topics such as cultural participation and social justice.

Esra Kücük: “The Allianz Foundation has the goal of enabling better living conditions for the next generations. There are many young people who follow your YouTube channel. What do you think are the most urgent issues for them right now?”

Younes Al-Amayra: “There are topics that have hardly changed over the generations. These are about representation and equal opportunities, plenty about how people are treated in the school system. And these involve questions of identity: Who am I and where do I belong in this society?”

Esra Kücük:  “What exactly should I picture with your YouTube channel?”

Younes Al-Amayra: “We got started with a Muslim satire format about young Muslims in Germany and their real lives. We pick up on clichés and stereotypes and handle them with satire. For us, it’s important to develop our own narratives and not just be associated with racism or terrorism. Over the years, we have included an increasing number of immigrant issues and marginalized groups because there is so much overlap.”

Esra Kücük: “What has changed since you began the work and the work that others have done? ”

Younes Al-Amayra: “There was nothing similar when we got started. I think we have really been able to create real role models that people can identify with. People suddenly realized they were not alone with their problems as a young Muslim, that there are others who even talk about them in public, in a way that’s very cool. And then suddenly there’s a Muslim woman doing comedy with a headscarf. This inspires you to do something yourself. We receive a lot of messages encouraging us to keep up the good work. But social media platforms are also much more democratic and accessible, they have fewer barriers.”

Esra Kücük: “At the Allianz Foundation, we support initiatives that advocate for marginalized voices and vulnerable groups. And we repeatedly notice that people who stand up for others frequently become the target of hate themselves. Have you also had that experience?”

Younes Al-Amayra: "Definitely. Anyone who becomes a public figure and has a certain amount of attention becomes a target. By our second year at the latest, when we hit the mark of 30,000 subscribers, we were targeted by organized hate campaigns that even reached the level of death threats. Right-wing groups have made it their goal to troll us and shake our confidence systematically. They throw around completely baseless accusations. This usually targets individuals, mostly women.

It’s not easy to handle the hate. It isn’t uncommon for people to collapse under the weight, and they can’t take it anymore. But the good thing is that we’re in a group. We can share the burden and support each other. And then there’s outside help as well. We were accompanied by a psychologist, and there were online workshops on the topic of hate. This helps us better understand who these groups are, their goal, and how they think. This gives us a completely different perspective and learn how to deal with the trolling, not let it get to you.

And solidarity and outside support is very important, of course, like from the Allianz Foundation and other organizations that stand with us and work with us. It helps so much to get the feeling: we know what you’re doing and we stand with you."

Esra Kücük: “You were considered young Muslim satire when you got started. These days you’re working with people that are younger than yourself. What experiences have you had with generations that are even younger? Do you feel old already?”

Younes Al-Amayra: “Sure, sometimes I do. But I actually welcome that. What jumps out to me is that the lines are blurring more and more for young people these days. If you look at the channels of Muslims who present themselves as such on Twitter or Instagram today, their main topic isn’t necessarily Muslim spaces or ways of life. These days they have their own content, blog on a wide variety of topics like travel or so much more. They do emphasize their own cultural background, but that is a part of the whole, it’s not their main topic. I think it’s a great development.”

Esra Kücük: “So it’s become kind of normalized.”

Younes Al-Amayra: "Absolute. For example, one of most successful TikTok influencers in German is a Moroccan, but he doesn’t do anything about his own cultural background. After all, we’ve always wished we don’t have to constantly talk about our heritage. Things were different when we got started. Back then we had to isolate ourselves, present a pointed Muslim profile just to be heard at all. But we always hoped it would be completely normal for you to see someone like Gülcan Cetin on the screen with a headscarf.

This development is still mostly happening on social media, but it’s happening. It’d be great if this could be transferred to traditional television formats: that there would be more presenters with BIPOC identity or from the Muslim community, who don’t necessarily talk about immigration-related issues at all."

Esra Kücük: “For a person like you, who deals with so much racism, discrimination, stereotypes and clichés, what gives you hope? What do you draw strength and courage from?”

Younes Al-Amayra: "The situation isn’t the same as eight years ago. People with an immigration background have become much more visible, even in mainstream media, and we’ve been able to make our contribution. Our work has not been in vain. We’ve reached people and get positive feedback. Our videos are even being used in schools and universities. I never would have dreamed of that back then. This all makes you hope, and then you know that’s what you’re doing it for.  

The next step is thinking even bigger. What about movies and series in Germany? We are represented there, but you always get the feeling that although we’ve been included, the narratives and stories are still completely German. Those aren’t our topics, we wouldn’t talk that way. So there’s still plenty to do!"

The interview took place in the summer of 2022, was edited for clarity, and is posted here in a shortened form. You can watch the german interview in its entirety here (Youtube).