Ramifications of the "War on Terror"


BERLIN (Own report) - The debate over the racist "PEGIDA" mobilization continues in Germany. Following the recent mass demonstration in Dresden "against Islamization" with 15,000 people participating, members of the German political establishment have begun recommending that the demonstrators be taken "seriously" and that their demands - at least partially - be met. German Muslims are already beginning to feel the ramifications of this agitation. Verbal and even physical attacks, over the past few months, are on the rise, for example, arson attacks against mosques. Muslims are being submitted to massive pressure: Parallel to the "war on terror," unleashed after 9/11, Islamophobic propaganda significantly intensified also in Germany, including government measures such as indiscriminate dragnets against Muslims. Right-wing extremist organizations are increasingly expressing their racism with the more fashionable Islamophobia, while Islamophobic prejudices are beginning to take deep root in the German population. According to a recent survey, such positions have led to a greater "readiness for action."

Longing for "Leadership"

The debate over the racist "PEGIDA" mobilization continues in Germany. Whereas some parts of the German political establishment are strongly attacking these demonstrations and oppose having "refugees bear the brunt of prejudice" (Minister of Justice Heiko Maas [1]), others are demanding that these protests "be taken seriously" (Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière). It is not yet clear, what is meant by "taking" animosity toward members of a particular faith "seriously." The discussion centers mainly on more strict immigration legislation. "To really 'take it seriously'," would mean "to pursue an immigration policy ... that would be strictly oriented toward the interests of our country," writes for example the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.[2] This would be tantamount to meeting the demands of the "PEGIDA" campaign, at least partially. According to another article in the journal, the protests are also an expression of a "longing for political leadership" that should be satisfied.[3] The author, however, does not clarify what he exactly means with "leadership."

Intimidated and Scared

Not only refugees, but German Muslims as well, are already feeling the ramifications of this racist campaign. "Many Muslims are intimidated and scared," reports for example Bülent Ucar, Professor for Islamic Religious Education at the University of Osnabrück, "particularly those, who can be recognized as Muslims: Women with headscarves and men with pronounced beards."[4] Because of the terror of some Salifist organizations, Muslims have come "under general suspicion in the West." The mass media is doing its part by depicting "dark scenarios of an Islamic threat." Recently "Islamophobia ... generally became a surrogate for national chauvinism and xenophobia." This not only applies to the street protests. "Muslim employees of our university have been verbally assaulted in recent weeks," reports Ucar. "We are receiving insulting emails and threats." Earlier, Aiman Mazyek, Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, found it particularly frightening "that members of the bourgeoisie are showing a modicum of sympathy" [5] for this racist Islamophobic agitation. This also refers to the fact that for the first time, not only right-wing extremist militants are participating in the anti-Islamic street protests, but that even larger, not yet organized circles are as well.

Arson Attacks against Mosques

German Muslims are also worried because of the acts of violence aimed at Mosques over the past few months. There was an annual average of 22 attacks targeting Mosques between 2001 and 2011, according to official statistics. In 2012, the number of attacks rose to 35 and to 36 in 2013. From August to mid October 2014 alone, nine attacks were registered, including several arsons - in August, one in Berlin and two in Bielefeld, in Oldenburg, one in September and another in October. Marwa el-Sherbini, an Egyptian, was murdered with an explicit Islamophobic motive in 2009 - after having been cursed as an "Islamist." She was murdered in Dresden, the stronghold of the "PEGIDA" demonstrations.

Under General Suspicion

As Bülent Ucar says above, Islam has become a "surrogate for national chauvinism and xenophobia" [6] within the framework of the so-called war on terror, which Germany joined after September 11, 2001. Whereas other western countries have been spreading war throughout large portions of the Islamic world (Afghanistan, Iraq) or is threatening to do so (in Iran and Syria), while blackmailing others into proving their allegiance to the West (Pakistan, Libya, Lebanon) and is attempting to harness the entire Near and Middle East into a pro-western policy, Muslims in Germany and other western countries have come under general suspicion of supporting anti-western forces. Police dragnet investigations are aimed at students from Muslim countries, without the slightest concrete suspicion.[7] Suspects from the Islamic world have been abducted to secret prisons and incarcerated under torture.[8] Religious organizations have found it necessary to protest against the "wave of biased Islamophobic reporting and statements" in the media and have bitterly complained about the "deterioration of objectivity and the discussion culture, even among politicians."[9] This atmosphere has provided the environment for the sprouting up of Islamophobic blogs - with tens of thousands of clicks daily. It has become somewhat in Vogue to declare Islam "comparable to fascism."[10]

Racism à la Mode

With great satisfaction, the right-wing extremist organizations greeted the "war on terror" domestic propaganda. They successfully began to drape a fashionable Islamophobic cloak around their usual racism. The northern Belgian Vlaams Belang and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) were the first in Europe; soon German parties also began to turn the focus of their agitation on Islam and began mobilizing against the construction of Mosques or minarets. The Dutch politician Geert Wilders became the most prominent extreme right-wing exponent of the fashionable Islamophobia. He says Islam is a "sick ideology" and the Quran, a "fascist book." In the June 9, 2010 parliamentary elections, Wilders' "Partij voor de Frijheid" (Freedom Party) won 15.4 percent of the votes to become the third strongest parliamentary party and, through its toleration policy, it was able to influence the policy of a conservative liberal-right minority cabinet of the national government. In Germany - aside from individual regional experiments (e. g. "Pro Köln" [Pro Cologne] or "Pro NRW" ["Pro North Rhine Westphalia"]) - similar right-wing extremist success has not yet materialized.

Ready for Action

However, German domestic propaganda accompanying the so-called war on terror is also having a serious effect on public opinion. In its analysis of a current representative opinion poll, Humboldt University's Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM), concluded that 27 percent of those polled perceived Muslims as "more aggressive ... than themselves." 30 percent consider Muslims to "attach less importance to education." Many consider "Islamic" and "German" to be "counter categories" and define Muslims "outside the 'German we'." 42 percent would like to "limit the construction of Mosques," 48 percent would like to forbid teachers to wear headscarves. Naika Foroutan, directrice of the research group that made this analysis, warned that whereas "the Islamophobic mindset in the population" is not continuing to grow, "the readiness for action" in the Islamophobic milieu is increasing, "as can be seen in the attacks on Mosques and hate assaults on Muslim individuals and decision-makers." Foroutan considers that "the quality of devaluation, which is also witnessed in the mainstream of the population, is intensifying."[11]


This is also evident in the current "PEGIDA" protests: Large, not yet organized sectors of the population are marching in the streets for the first time alongside organized Neo-Nazis. The propaganda accompanying the "war on terror" is having its effect.

[1] "Kein Verständnis für die Verführer". www.sueddeutsche.de 16.12.2014.
[2] Berthold Kohler: Ernst nehmen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 16.12.2014.
[3] Jasper von Altenbockum: Heimatlos. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.12.2014.
[4] "Muslime sind verängstigt". www.tagesschau.de 16.12.2014.
[5] Zentralrat der Muslime fordert Reaktion der Kanzlerin. www.zeit.de 09.12.2014.
[6] "Muslime sind verängstigt". www.tagesschau.de 16.12.2014.
[7] See Deutsche Polizei erfasst Daten vieler Tausend Ausländer.
[8] See Mitwisser und Profiteure.
[9] Aktionsgemeinschaft Dienst für den Frieden, Pax Christi Deutsche Sektion, Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland, Schura-Rat der islamischen Gemeinden in Hamburg: Gesellschaftlicher Friede - nur mit den Muslimen, nicht gegen sie! Hannover/Hamburg/Osnabrück 23.11.2004.
[10] "Der Islam ist vergleichbar mit dem Faschismus". www.welt.de 09.08.2007.
[11] Wer gehört zum deutschen Wir? www.hu-berlin.de.