Right-wing Extremism and Islamophobia in Germany Sending out a Political Signal

In this essay, Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, warns against the trivialisation of anti-Islamic tendencies and right-wing extremist violence, both of which are increasingly posing a threat to social peace in Germany

In the wake of 9/11, a new brand of home-grown right-wing terrorism was able to emerge in Germany. Even specially drafted anti-terror laws didn’t help because right-wing radicalism had been underestimated and sometimes even structurally repressed for too long.

After the brutal right-wing extremist terrorist attacks in Norway, it became clear in Germany too that right-wing terrorists were capable of carrying out the worst attacks the country had seen since the Second World War. This led Germany’s attorney general to say that the terrorist acts perpetrated by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) were “Germany’s 9/11”.

There had certainly been enough early-warning signs pointing to this dangerous development. The problem was that they were not correctly interpreted and were sometimes even ignored.

 

It is only now that we are slowly beginning to understand that because of indifference and political inconsistency after the events of Rostock and Hoyerswerda, Solingen and Mölln, after the arson attack in Ludwigshafen, the terrorist attack on Keupstrasse in Cologne and a large number of racist murders (such as that of Marwa El-Sherbini) and attacks on foreigners and Muslim facilities, this development facilitated and strengthened the NSU’s terrorism.

At least 148 people have been killed in racist and right-wing extremist violence in Germany over the past few years. This is why the time has come for politics and society to at last admit that they have thus far underestimated and trivialised the phenomenon of right-wing extremist violence and to begin fighting it in a sustainable manner.

The beneficiaries of Islamophobia

In recent years, neo-Nazis in Europe have increasingly benefited from the underlying Islamophobic atmosphere in society. Evidence of this atmosphere includes Geert Wilders’ populist right-wing Party for Freedom in the Netherlands as well as the NPD, the NSU and the extreme right-wing PI website in Germany, to name but a few. The fear of Islam and the spectre of the Islamicization of Europe are doing the rounds and are being used as a starting point for the recruitment of supporters and to whip up negative feeling towards Jews, Muslims and dissidents.

 

Just like the murderer of the Egyptian woman Marwa El-Sherbini, the condemned Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik largely allowed himself to be led astray by anti-Islamic material and propaganda on the Internet, including known radical right-wing websites and pamphlets run and published by known Islam-haters from Germany.

So far, however, these findings have only been registered very vaguely by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

As much as we support a ban on the right-wing political party NPD, we feel that it must not be allowed to open up an “exoneration debate”. The idea that once the NPD is banned, racism will have been eliminated is a dangerous trivialisation that only leads us to close our eyes to the everyday and structural racism at the heart of our society.

This is why we need an annual anti-racism report that would outline – in the same way as Germany’s human rights commissioner does – not only for the German parliament but also for the German public both the progress made and the threats that exist so that socio-political conclusions can be drawn.

Islamophobia as an element of racist crime

Above all, however, it is vital that we at last find the political courage to grasp the problems of Islamophobia and Islamophobic racism by the roots and officially declare them to be elements of racist crime. We owe it not least to the victims. After all, criminal offences and acts of violence against Muslims and mosques have increased drastically in Germany in recent years. Nevertheless, the Federal Government and the security forces still refuse to register such criminal offences separately.

In doing so, they are obscuring the scale of Islamophobia. Exactly a year ago, during a meeting about fighting right-wing extremism attended by leading German associations and representatives of the Federal Ministries of the Interior and the Family, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) called for Islamophobia to be registered as an element of crime in its own right instead of just being subsumed into the category of xenophobia.

This demand must at last be heard, especially as such a move would be advantageous not only in that it would make it easier to combat such criminal offences, but also that it would trigger an urgently needed process leading to a change in awareness of the issue in society.

 

Cracks appearing in society

If we do not recognise the threat posed by right-wing extremism and Islamophobia in our society and take action against it in the near future, we will find ourselves in exactly the situation Angela Merkel warned against just under a year ago at the memorial service for the victims of right-wing extremist violence: “We are repressing the things that are happening right in our midst (…) indifference has a stealthy, yet devastating impact. It creates cracks in the middle of society,” said the chancellor on that occasion.

But because the first signs of these cracks can no longer be ignored, we, not least as German Muslims, are worried about our country. After all, this indifference results in more than just nameless and faceless victims.

Almost as serious as the victims is the indifference that smothers the voices of those who constitute the majority; the majority of decent people in our country, in civil society, politics, media, and authorities. So let us give these people back their voices and hope that 2013 will be the year that sees society growing together and the cracks being mended.

 

 

 

 

Germany’s Far-Right Campaigns with Xenophobic Posters & Islamophobic Video

20./ 21.12.2011

Officers of Berlin’s Federal Police Department searched the offices of Germany’s extreme right-wing Nationalist Democratic Party (NPD) shortly before Christmas. The search was a reaction to the party’s xenophobic and islamophobic campaign for the Berlin state elections in September. The party used various posters that violated the dignity especially of Muslims living in Germany; one poster, for instance, showed a cartoon drawing of a woman with a headscarf, a man with a turban and a black person on a “magic carpet” with the comment “Have a nice trip home”. Furthermore, the party published an islamophobic video on their website. However, the police search for evidence against the two leading members of the party was not successful.

The search of the party’s offices in Berlin was shortly after the second attempt to ban the party altogether. Following the arrest of a former NPD member suspected of being involved in the murder of nine foreigners, the interior ministers of Germany’s 16 federal states had agreed to set up a working group to launch a new legal case against the party. Germany’s Interior Minister Friedrich explicitly articulated the aim to outlaw the party.

Extremist Swede gives millions to German anti-Islam party

Patrik Brinkmann, a Swedish far-right businessman, has announced to donate €5 to Pro NRW, a Cologne-based anti-Islam populist party. In a report to air Sunday night on Germany’s public broadcaster WDR, Brinkmann says he fears Germany is becoming “too foreign” and that shari’a law will be introduced in the country.
Brinkmann, who moved to Berlin in 2007, claims that politicians do not share his fears. 



“That’s why I believe that a new right wing (in Germany) can not only succeed, but in five or ten years be as large as the FPÖ in Austria or the SVP in Switzerland,” he added, referring to Austria’s Freedom Party and the Swiss People’s Party, two far-right groups which have enjoyed a certain amount of electoral success. 


The millionaire, who reportedly already has ties to Germany’s extreme-right NPD and DVU parties, will finance a building for Pro NRW to be used as an anti-Islam center. Burkhard Freier, the deputy head of the North Rhine-Westphalian branch of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, considers Pro NRW and a related group, Pro Köln (Pro Cologne), dangerous organizations. They are, however, insignificantly small and opposition to their supremacist world-view is strong.

Muslim group in Germany demands ban on anti-mosque party

A far-right party which is organizing pickets outside German mosques should be banned, a leading Muslim group said Tuesday. Aiman Mazyek, secretary of the Council Council of Muslims, one of four main Islamic groups in Germany, added it was intolerable that the National Democratic Party (NPD) was able to obtain state payouts. He spoke in the central city of Erfurt where the Thuringia state chapter of the far-right group had earlier announced the anti-mosque parades, triggering plans by opponents for counter-demonstrations. Mazyek spoke just days after a Muslim woman was murdered in court by a right-winger as she was seeking justice against him for insulting her for wearing a head-scarf. Germany’s main parties have hesitated to seek a legal ban on the NPD after a 2003 bid was defeated in court. Under a law granting state aid to all parties in proportion to the votes they receive, the NPD has obtained government subsidies.

Anti-Islamic Party Is Playing With Fear

Right-wing radicals in Cologne are gaining traction with Germany’s first anti-Islamic party. The German domestic intelligence agency is alarmed — but so are traditional neo-Nazis, whomay have to shift their tactics to compete. The so-called “Pro Cologne” pary has been watched with suspicion by the domestic intelligence agency — the Verfassungsschutz or Office for the Protection of the Constitution — for several months. They are gathering support in the otherwise liberal-minded and open city of Cologne to protest an enormous mosque slated for construction in the district of Ehrenfeld. Around 300 members of Pro Cologne have collected more than 20,000 signatures, and a few unsavory characters on the German far right hope to use their success as a way to win seats in state parliaments.With a new political party called “Pro NRW” (Pro North-Rhine Westphalia), stemming from the Pro Cologne movement, two leaders named Markus Beisicht and Manfred Rouhs want to win enough votes to enter the state parliament in 2010. About a dozen Pro Cologne spinoffs are already preparing local campaigns across the state — in Gelsenkirchen, Duisburg, D_sseldorf, Essen and Bottrop, among other places. Where no new mosques are being planned, Beisicht says, the party will just fight smaller existing mosques. The Rhinelanders also have their eyes on Berlin: Party functionaries sent mailouts last October to addresses in the capital to protest a planned mosque in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg. They’ve even established a citizens’ movement with an even more awkward name: “Pro Deutschland.” Officials at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution think it’s possible that Beisicht and his friends will gain resonance with voters and even overtake the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in western states. The NPD — which tends to line up with Israel-hating Muslim groups — has tried to block the new competition by mounting similar anti-mosque efforts. They’ve organized a group in M_nster called “Citizens’ Movement Pro M_nster” to hinder the Cologne party’s march to state power. Andrea Brandt and Guido Kleinhubbert report.

31,800 Islamist Radicals In Germany: Schily

BERLIN – The number of mainly Turkish Islamist extremists based in Germany increased slightly last year, Interior Minister Otto Schily said on Tuesday at a news conference releasing the 2004 report by the country’s domestic security agency. There were 31,800 Islamist radicals resident in Germany at the end of 2004, up from 30,950 in 2003, said the report, which stressed that this was a mere one percent of the three million Muslims living in the country. Police and prosecutors are currently investigating 171 cases linked to Islamist terrorism, he said. The biggest group in Germany is the Turkish Islamic Community Milli Goerues, with 26,500 members, which wants to create an Islamic republic in Turkey. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network is present in Germany but the report admitted there were no concrete figures on the number of Al- Qaeda sleepers still present in the country. Several of the extremists responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington lived in Germany disguised as students before travelling to the US. The report said about 850 members of the radical Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah are based in Germany, as well as 1,300 members of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and 350 member of various Algerian Islamist groups. Schily also reported that neo-Nazi crime in Germany increased last year, but that the overall number of rightists declined. There were 12,051 rightist crimes reported in 2004, up from 10,792 in 2003. Violent neo-Nazi crime was up slightly with 776 reported cases in 2004, compared to 759 cases in 2003. The biggest increase was in propaganda offences, such as display of banned Nazi symbols and giving the Nazi salute, which is prohibited under German law. There were 8,337 such offences last year, up from 7,551 in 2003. Germany’s leading right-wing extremist party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), is recruiting from the skinhead and neo-Nazi movement, said Schily. The NPD grew to 5,300 members, up from 5,000 in 2003, the report said. This, however, is still less than its previous high of 6,100 members in 2002. An attempt by Schily to ban the NPD was struck down by Germany’s highest court in 2003 – to the minister’s great anger. “The (NPD) party leader describes the super-criminal Hitler as a great statesman,” said Schily with a dismissive wave of his hand. Schily expressed alarm over growth of the neo-Nazi and skinhead movements. While the number remains small – 3,800 people – this is a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Overall, there was a decline in the number of Germans in right-wing extremist parties and movements. At the end of 2004 there was 40,700 people in such groups, down from 41,500 in 2003, the report said. Schily also expressed anger on Tuesday over repeated linking of his policies with those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by a Turkish newspaper. “I think it’s a scandal,” said Schily, who called on the Turkish government to take action against the radical Islamist newspaper, Vakit, adding that if Ankara lacked legal means to do so, it should consider creating them. Vakit was banned in Germany by Schily earlier this year owing to its anti-Semitic content. Since then, the paper has featured Schily and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on its front page in photomontages with a swastika armband or a Nazi flag.