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Germany leads new tide of racism and xenophobia sweeping Europe

Mahmoud Ahmed Shaikh

Throughout Europe, political parties campaigning on anti-foreigner platforms are chalking up remarkable gains, with Germany leading the way as poll figures and recently published figures on racist attacks show. And the main victims are Muslim residents - many of them born and raised there. In Germany, an obscure neo-Nazi party has suddenly sprung into prominence after securing an unprecedented 13 per cent of the votes in the April 26 poll in the East German State of Saxony-Anholt, where a quarter of the workforce is unemployed. An openly xenophobic party, founded and run as a private fiefdom by a Bavarian multi-millionaire businessman, The German People’s Union (DVU) achieved the best electoral result for the extreme Right since 1945.

The result makes the DVU the popular party among electors under 30, forcing its normally reclusive founder and funder, Gerhard Frey, to boast publicly that voting for the Right was now part of youth culture, ‘just like techno music and skateboarding.’

The DVU’s victory is all the more startling because its campaign was largely based on hate-mail and posters displayed throughout the state, shrieking: ‘Criminal Foreigners Out.’ Normal methods of political campaigning were kept to a minimum - confined mostly to a few public appearances by Frey and a handful of cronies. Instead, Frey relied on the hate-mail - which targeted all those aged 18 to 29 and over 60 - and the posters to deliver his dreaded message to the voters.

The DVU’s success has cheered up racist organizations and politicians throughout Europe. The leader of the French National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, for instance, sent warm congratulations. In fact Frey, who is estimated to be worth ú170 million, and is ready to spend his wealth to promote his racist platform throughout the continent, has cordial ties with Le Pen and other anti-foreigner thugs like Russia’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

But the DVU’s electoral breakthrough is not the only manifestation of the rising tide of xenophobia in Germany. Neo-Nazis, for example, demonstrated in Leipzig on May Day in large numbers. Thousands of followers of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) gathered to cheer speeches calling for the deportation of foreigners. When Holger Apfel, head of the NPD’s youth wing, called for deporting foreigners who were supposed to steal jobs from Germans and sponge off the country’s welfare system, he was given thunderous applause.

Moreover, the number of racist attacks throughout Germany has sky rocketed. According to figures published in Bonn on May 6, the number of crimes committed by German Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis is at the highest level since 1945.

A total of 11,719 crimes with a Right-wing extremist background were recorded in 1997, 34 per cent more than in the previous year, with crimes of violence rising by 27 per cent to 790. The figures, released by Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (a misnomer considering the figures and boldness of the racist attackers) exceed the previous record of 10,791, set in 1993.

As one commentator has put it, the figures ‘confirm the impression that the skinheads are becoming bolder in their defiance of the law.’ He might have added that the reluctance of the Law-enforcement authorities to stop them is a further manifestation of racism, whose principal victims are Muslims. To quote a recent report in the London-based Right-wing Daily Telegraph, those skinheads ‘show their patriotism by beating up Turks, blacks, punks and other strangers.’

Interestingly, the response of the mainstream political parties to the rise of the racists - particularly the DVU’s poll success - is to become more racist themselves, explaining their behaviour in terms of a tactic designed to cut the anti-foreigners down to size rather than emulate them.

Less than a week after the DVU’s electoral victory, the Bavarian authorities ordered the deportation of a Turkish couple who have lived in Germany for 30 years, because of the criminal record of their son, aged 13. The Turkish family has not been named but the authorities say that the son is a threat to public order.

Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) is calling for tougher campaign on law and order and immigration in an attempt to steal the DVU’s racist supporters. As Siegrried Benker of the Bavarian Green explained in a recent newspaper interview, the CSU behaviour shows the adverse effect of the DVU’s success on German politics. ‘The DVU’s election results are already showing their fatal effect,’ she said. ‘The CSU is absolutely determined to make a show as the party of deportation, exclusion and social polarization.’

In France, Le Pen’s National Front says that if it comes to power it will deport 3 million immigrants, many of them born and raised in France - the majority being Muslims from North Africa. The Front lost a seat in the city of Toulon, southern France, but only by 33 votes. The French mainstream parties are publicly celebrating this as a defeat for racism. In fact, their very celebration of such a close result on only one seat shows their fear of the Front’s clout rather than its presumed decline.

Elsewhere in Europe anti-foreign parties are making gains. In Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, the nationalist Vlaam’s Blok is receiving more than 12 per cent of the vote. In Austria, the Freedom Movement has become a serious rival to the two parties that have dominated the country’s politics for almost 50 years.

But the big prize for Islamophobia must go to the Danish People’s Party (DDP), founded in 1995 but already making waves because of its blatantly anti-Muslim and racist platform. Its leader and founder, Mrs Pia Kjaesgaard, denies she is a racist but simply says that they do not want Muslims and Arabs in a Christian country (For details, see Muslimedia No. 28 - No Muslims for us please, we are Danes).

But what are Muslim governments doing about this blatant racist and anti-Muslim phenomenon? It may sound incredible, but they are encouraging it through their obsession with ‘terrorists’, whose deportation or extradition from Europe they routinely seek.

Muslimedia: May 16-31, 1998

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 6

Muharram 19, 14191998-05-16

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