German Turks ponder “existential” election results, gain 14 MPs

Germany’s federal elections of September 24th have propelled the far-right AfD party into parliament with 13 per cent of the popular vote, making it the third-largest group in the Bundestag.

Given the AfD’s anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platform, German-Turkish political scientist Said Rezek observed that for many German Turks the AfD’s rise poses an “existential” challenge.((http://www.migazin.de/2017/09/25/bundestagswahl2017-eigeninteresse-deutscher-muslim/))

Rise of anti-immigrant ethnonationalism

At heart, the AfD’s message has been an ethnonationalist one. Throughout the electoral campaign, the party plastered Germany’s streets with billboards encouraging the birth of larger numbers of ethnically German children or castigating the spread of Islam.

On election night, AfD leader Alexander Gauland vowed that his party’s entry to the Bundestag was only the first step on the long march to “take back our country and our people” – an allusion that to many appeared to play on the AfD’s fantasy of an ethnically pure Germany.

Public façade

To be sure, when invited to certain public fora, the party leadership often strikes a different tone. In a pre-election debate with German-Tunisian rapper Bushido, founding father of the German gangster rap genre, the leading AfD politician Beatrix von Storch claimed as a matter of course that the AfD considered the rapper and his children – all of whom hold German citizenship – as an integral part of the “German people”.((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3juZ-CwXG8))

This façade of inclusivity is quick to unravel, however. During a post-election TV debate among the major parties’ leading candidates, Alexander Gauland complained that Germany was too ethnically mixed and that true, ethnic Germans were becoming a rarity in the country’s cities. For the AfD, “our” people is thus always pitted against the immigrant “them” living in our midst.((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PrSk4wBArc))

German Turks go public after the elections

Against this backdrop, the voices of the targets of the AfD’s vitriol – who are often somewhat marginalised in German political discourse – have been more prominent than usual after the elections. The most vocal group in this respect have been German Turks. By virtue of their higher social capital compared to recently arrived immigrants they also serve as a proxy voice for the German Muslim community.

Many German Turks have come out with their thoughts on the elections, expressing their fears of increased discrimination, as well as their hopes that German constitutional safeguards might be able to prevent the AfD from doing more damage.((http://www.huffingtonpost.de/2017/09/27/bundestagswahl-afd-migration-migrationshintergrund-deutschland-zukunft-_n_18105126.html))

German Turks’ electoral participation

With respect to German Turks’ political participation at the ballot box on September 24th, no figures have been published yet. Joachim Schulte, analyst at the Data4U analytics company asserted that he had not been commissioned to gather data on German Turks’ voting behaviour.

After the 2013 elections, Data4U had conducted a survey among German Turkish voters at the behest of the UETD, a group with close ties to the AKP. Four years ago, 70 per cent of German Turks holding a German passport had gone to the polls. The Social Democrats had secured 64 per cent of the German Turkish vote, followed by 12 per cent for Greens and 12 per cent for The Left.((http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/deutschtuerken-bei-bundestagswahl-erdogans-boykott-aufruf-blieb-unerhoert/20381760.html))

In the run-up to the 2017 elections, the persistence of these tendencies – particularly the stability of German Turks’ affiliation with the political left – had been questioned. SPD leader Martin Schulz had taken a strong stance against the accession of Turkey to the EU. Moreover, President Erdoğan had urged German Turks to boycott CDU/CSU, SPD, and Green parties for being ‘hostile to Turkey’.

Limited impact of Erdoğan’s call for boycott

Yet the fact that the pro-Erdoğan UETD has not asked Data4U (or another company) to conduct another survey might point to the fact that the Turkish President’s call for boycott went relatively unheeded among German Turkish voters.

Speaking to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, members of Berlin’s Turkish community stressed that they saw the federal elections as unconnected to events in Turkey. As a consequence, they did not feel that President Erdoğan had the authority or the qualification to issue electoral recommendations.

In North-Rhine Westphalia – home to the largest number of German Turks – the openly Erdoğanist Alliance of German Democrats (ADD) party only managed to secure 0.4 per cent of the popular vote. Many saw this as a sign that even those supportive of the Turkish President and his authoritarian turn were unwilling to put ‘Turkish’ concerns first in a German election.((http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/deutschtuerken-bei-bundestagswahl-erdogans-boykott-aufruf-blieb-unerhoert/20381760.html))

Fourteen German-Turkish MPs on the left

The election also propelled fourteen German Turks to the Bundestag as parliamentarians – up from eleven after the 2013 poll. Six Social Democratic MPs, five Green party MPs, and three MPs of The Left are of Turkish extraction.

Conversely, the right-of-centre parties – Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU, the free-market Free Democrats, and the far-right AfD – field no parliamentarians of Turkish descent. Cemile Giousouf, the CDU’s first and only Muslim MP failed to gain re-election.((https://dtj-online.de/14-tuerken-ziehen-in-den-bundestag-88537))

A relatively homogeneous Bundestag

Overall, the Bundestag is still far removed from capturing the diversity of the country’s population. Of 709 MPs, only 57 (8 per cent) have a ‘migration background’ – the official bureaucratic term connoting a person with at least one foreign-born parent.

This represents a minor uptick compared to the last Bundestag; yet it is still nowhere close to equalling the 22.5 per cent of Germany’s population that have a ‘migration background’. In terms of female representation, the current Bundestag is a step backwards (mainly because of the entry of the overwhelmingly male AfD party), with only 30.7 per cent of MPs being female – the lowest share in 20 years.((http://www.taz.de/!5448373/))

Cem Özdemir as foreign minister?

Beyond this modest increase in MPs, German Turks might be able to console themselves for the AfD’s rise by pointing to the fact that Cem Özdemir, co-leader of the Green Party, is dubbed to become Foreign Minister. Özdemir and Social Democrat Leyla Onur had been the first German MPs of Turkish heritage upon their entry to parliament in 1994.((http://www.taz.de/!5448373/))

Yet Özdemir’s relationship with the German Turkish community is anything but easy. The 51-year-old has been an extremely vocal critic of the Erdoğan administration; and together with the other German Turkish MPs, he supported the ‘Armenia Resolution’ of the Bundestag in 2016: via this decision, Germany officially designated the killings of Armenians in Turkey during WWI as a genocide.((https://dtj-online.de/14-tuerken-ziehen-in-den-bundestag-88537))

The passage of the Armenia Resolution has occasioned deep rifts between German Turkish politicians and an electorate that is still strongly wedded to the Turkish national account of history. Satisfaction with having a German Turkish voice figure prominently on the German political scene is thus counterbalanced by a fear that this voice might ‘sell out’ and adopt the discourses and positions of the political mainstream.

Update: Dutch Politician Loses Key Aide After Anti-Moroccan Chant

April 23, 2014

 

Geert Wilders’ personal policy advisor and member of Zuid Holland provincial council has left the Freedom Party (PVV). Stephan Jansen, who has been active for the party since 2006, says in a letter to party workers that his departure is due to the anti-Moroccan statements made by Wilders during and after the local election campaign.

‘The recent statements about Moroccans made by our political leader, Mr. Wilders, have ensured our party will never be taken seriously again,’ Jansen writes. ‘No other political party will work with us.’

Two MPs, one MEP and a handful of provincial councilors have quit since Geert Wilders led supporters in an anti-Moroccan chant after the local elections. At the same time, a poll conducted for the party indicated that 43% of the 2,500 respondents “would rather there were fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.”

 

Dutch News- http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/04/pvv_leader_wilders_loses_key_a.php#sthash.VZNePFEN.dpuf

http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/04/de_hond_defends_poll_as_43_say.php

 

Update: Continued Reaction to Anti-Moroccan Chant by Dutch Politician

April 3, 2014

 

The impact of right wing politician Geert Wilders’ anti-Moroccan chant before local elections in the Netherlands continues. The public prosecution has released a statement after receiving more than 5,000 formal complaints about the chant. According to the prosecution, decision to prosecute will not be influenced by the volume of complaints. “We look at the contents and what Mr Wilders exactly said and in which context,” the department said in a statement. “In principle, one complaint is sufficient. We will take note that so many have been made but that will not influence what Wilders said or if he committed a crime.”

The department could not say when it will reach a decision regarding whether to prosecute.

Two MPs, one MEP and a selection of local and provincial councilors have broken ties with the PVV since the chant.

AFP via Expatica– http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/dutch-news/5000-police-complaints-against-dutch-populist-wilders_289344.html

Dutch News– http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/04/more_than_5000_make_police_com.php

Dutch Newshttp://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/04/new_poll_of_polls_shows_impact.php

Al-Liby capture: Britain asked why America’s most wanted al-Qa’ida terror suspect was given UK asylum

Theresa May faces questions from MPs over why Britain granted asylum to one of the world’s most wanted al-Qa’ida terror suspects. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he would be raising concerns with the Home Secretary over why Abu Anas al-Libi was given asylum ahead of his alleged involvement in the 1998 American embassy bombings in east Africa.

 

Al-Libi, who was captured by US special forces in Tripoli this weekend, reportedly arrived in Britain in the mid-1990s and lived in Manchester after being granted political asylum. Detectives are thought to have found an al-Qa’ida manual at al-Libi’s Manchester home which advised followers on how to execute terror plots.

 

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the case would be raised with the Home Secretary when she appears before MPs. Stating: “This case raises serious questions about the motives behind asylum and national security decisions in the UK.

 

Channel 4 chief rejects criticism over call to prayer Ramadan broadcast

Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham has rejected criticism that the broadcaster’s decision to air the Muslim call to prayer at 3am was “patronising”. Abraham told MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday that the daily broadcast fit “absolutely” with its public service remit and that it has attracted 181,000 viewers – almost triple its usual audience at 3am. Conservative MP Angie Bray questioned whether Channel 4 was “patronising” Muslims by airing the ritual at 3am, when most of the nation is asleep. Abraham countered that the timeslot is “just a practicality” of the three-minute call to prayer.

 

Woolwich attack: Scotland Yard monitoring radical cleric Anjem Choudary’s proclamations

Scotland Yard is closely watching radical cleric Anjem Choudary to see if his proclamations break the law, one of the force’s most senior officers told MPs today. The former spokesman for the now-banned Islamist group Islam4UK, who admitted knowing one of the men charged with the soldier’s murder, is also understood to be receiving police protection outside his east London home.

David Cameron: We will ‘drain the swamp’ which allows Muslim extremists to flourish

The Prime Minister told MPs he would do more to tackle the “conveyor belt to radicalisation” which is poisoning the minds of young Muslims. He told MPs: “it is not simply enough to target and go after violent extremists after they’ve become violent. We have to drain the swamp in which they inhabit.” This meant stopping young Muslims becoming radicalised on university campuses and preventing extremists from taking over Islamic centres. He said: “It means going through all of these elements of the conveyor belt to radicalisation and making sure we deal with them.” Mr Cameron added: “But it is clear that we need to do more. When young men born and bred in this country are radicalised and turned into killers, we have to ask some tough questions about what is happening in our country.”

The truth about the ‘wave of attacks on Muslims’ after Woolwich murder

Fiyaz Mughal runs a project called Tell Mama, which receives £214,000 a year from the Government to monitor anti-Muslim attacks in Britain. In the wake of Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder, he has been understandably busy.

 

The media, especially the BBC, have accepted the claims without question. A presenter on Radio 4’s influential Today programme stated that attacks on Muslims were now “on a very serious scale”.

 

Talk of a “massive anti-Muslim backlash” has become routine. And it is that figure issued by Tell Mama – of, to date, 212 “anti-Muslim incidents” since the Woolwich murder – which has formed the basis of nearly all this reporting.

The unending “cycle of violence” against Muslims, the unprecedented “wave of attacks” against them from strangers in the street, the “underlying Islamophobia in our society” – all turn out to be yet more things we thought we knew about Woolwich that are not really supported by the evidence.

 

Although the service says its caseworkers “carefully handle each report as it comes in, to determine whether it can be verified and justified as an anti-Muslim incident”, Mr Mughal admitted that a further 35 of the 212 post-Woolwich incidents, or 16 per cent, had yet to be verified. He justified publishing the figure, however, saying he expected that all but a handful of incidents would be verified.

 

Fewer than one in 12 of the 212 “incidents” reported to Tell Mama since Woolwich – 17 cases (8 per cent) – involved individuals being physically targeted. Six people had things thrown at them, said Mr Mughal, and most of the other 11 cases were attempts to pull off the hijab or other items of Islamic dress.

 

Perhaps the most serious manifestation of anti-Muslim feeling after the killing was a number of attacks on mosques. These are believed to total 11, though here again evidence for a “wave of violence” is lacking. With only two exceptions, a mosque in Grimsby into which firebombs were thrown and another one in Essex where a man entered with a knife, all the incidents were relatively minor, such as window-breaking or graffiti.

 

According to the Charity Commission, there are between 1,100 and 1,500 mosques in the UK, so the number attacked is less than 1 per cent.

 

What the data broadly show, in short, is that Drummer Rigby’s killers have failed. The breakdown in community relations has not come. There has been a rise in incidents, but it appears to be very short-term, overwhelmingly non-violent and even then almost entirely at the lower end of the scale.

 

Yet this is not a message the Islamophobia industry wants heard, now or ever. Two months before the Woolwich killing, Tell Mama was already claiming that anti-Muslim incidents were “rising”, on the basis of reports made to its service. But at that point it had only been going for a year, so it had no previous figures to compare.

 

What evidence there is simply does not support the claims. There is anti-Muslim hatred in Britain, and it is disgraceful. But nearly all the evidence shows it is diminishing. In 2009 there were 368 anti-Muslim crimes in London; in 2012, there were 337. In the first 11 weeks of 2013, there were 64 crimes, equating at that point to 303 across the year, though the Woolwich attack will drive that up.

 

Broader political developments suggest a country increasingly at ease with Muslims. In 2009 the main anti-Islamic party, the BNP, had 55 councillors. Now it has two. The number of Muslim MPs doubled at the last election, some elected for entirely non-Muslim seats such as Bromsgrove, Gillingham, or Stratford-upon-Avon with no backlash whatever.

 

Dutch AIVD Information Prevents al-Qaeda Attack

April 16 2013

 

Dutch security service AIVD has said in a briefing to MPs that it passed information on to foreign security services which helped foil an al-Qaeda attack. According to the briefing the information gathered at the end of last year led to the “arrest of three al-Qaeda terrorists who were sent to Europe to carry out the attack”. In a statement to parliament, Home Affairs Minister Ronald Plasterk gave no further details. “We have to protect our sources and cannot go public with our successes” a spokesman told the broadcaster.

Dutch-Turkish MPs Call for Muslim Foster Parents to “Take Responsibility”

March 18 2013

 

Two Dutch MPs of Turkish origin have called on more Muslim families to volunteer as foster parents. The comments follow recent unease in Turkey about a lesbian couple fostering a boy born to Muslim parents.

The MPs used social media networks to spread a message asking Islamic parents to “stop taking offence, start taking responsibility”.

The dispute has threatened to take on diplomatic overtones with Turkey. The Dutch couple has raised the boy, now nine, since he was a baby. The commotion began after the boy’s birth mother made an emotional appeal for the boy’s return on television, generating debate in Turkey and coloring an upcoming visit to the Netherlands by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Turkish parliamentary commission is currently researching the fostering of Muslim children by gay or Christian couples, which they say will lead to them becoming estranged from their cultural background.