A former member of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats has formed a party to attract voters enthralled by Thilo Sarrazin and disappointed by Germany’s existing parties. Berlin politician René Stadtkewitz’s new Freedom Party aims to leverage fear of Islam for political ends.
For Stadtkewitz the debate that broke out after Thilo Sarrazin, the former member of the board of the German Central Bank, published a book claiming that Muslims would soon outnumber ethnic Germans and that they were dumbing down the country, went something like this: After reading Sarrazin’s book, shortly after it was published, Stadtkewitz realized that he liked what he was reading. He felt validated and encouraged.
In a poll commissioned by the left-leaning newspaper Berliner Zeitung, 24 percent of Berlin residents stated that they could imagine voting for a “party directed against Islam.” And a survey conducted by the Emnid opinion research firm concluded that 18 percent of Germans would vote for a Sarrazin party. A Sarrazin party doesn’t even exist. But now there is one lead by René Stadtkewitz, a small business owner from Berlin’s Karow district.
Conservative German politicians Thursday called for increased surveillance of Germany’s Muslim community following the revelations that the London terrorist attacks last week were likely carried out by British Muslims. “We have to know what’s going on in every mosque,” Bavaria’s interior minister, G_nter Beckstein, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. “We have to have an intelligence presence there where extremist ideas are being preached.” Beckstein, who is tipped as a potential federal interior minister if the conservative opposition wins this fall’s possible early election, said greater efforts were needed to watch Germany’s Muslims amid the unsettling realization that the bombing attacks in London were the work of British citizens of Pakistani origin. “Accordingly we have increase surveillance of religious fanatics,” he said, calling on the German Muslim community to increase their cooperation with the authorities. “We need the help of tolerant Muslims.” Beckstein’s sentiment was echoed by other conservative politicians. Wolfgang Bosbach, the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary spokesman for interior issues, said suicide attackers could not be scared off by heightened security, making it more important to recruit informants from the local Muslim community for the intelligence services. Uwe Sch_nemann, the conservative interior minister of Lower Saxony, even called for increasing the frequency of random control checks at German mosques. “We need this instrument and we must make greater use of it,” he said. Sch_nemann also called for a special sitting of parliament during the summer recess to pass measure creating a proposed national terror suspect index. “This has to be done quickly since we’ll need it before the World Cup,” he told the paper. Boosting Video Surveillance Beckstein also said more closed-circuit cameras to help secure soccer’s largest sporting spectacle, which Germany will host next summer. Officials in Berlin have already decided to boost security on public transport in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg with the installation of more video surveillance. “Following the attacks on the British capital, we don’t want to be accused of not doing everything we can,” the head of the company responsible for the public transport in Berlin (BVG), Thomas Necker, told the Berliner Zeitung. The BVG will also keep all video footage recorded for three days instead of the current 24 hours. Brandenburg’s interior minister, J_rg Sch_nbohm, has also outlined plans to install closed-circuit cameras in various public areas including train stations and airports. “The swift success of Britain’s police investigations just goes to show how important closed-circuit cameras are,” Sch_nbohm told the tabloid Bild. In London, video footage of the four suspected bombers was able to be retrieved just five days after the attacks took place.