Racism in Germany is 'attack on democracy'

2015-08-31 19:04
Protesters demonstrate with a banner in Dresden, eastern Germany. (AP)

Protesters demonstrate with a banner in Dresden, eastern Germany. (AP)

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Jena - Following dramatic scenes outside refugee homes in Germany, Wolfgang Frindte, an expert in right-wing extremism from the University of Jena, has told the police and justice system to get tougher on criminals.

Wolfgang Frindte is a social and communication psychologist at the University of Jena where he teaches and researches right-wing extremism. Most recently he released a collection of essays entitled Right-wing Extremism and the National Socialist Underground.

"We are currently experiencing an attack on our democracy," he said in an interview with dpa.

dpa: The migration debate seems to be getting out of hand in Germany. We've seen bomb and murder threats, houses being set alight and refugees on the receiving end of angry rants. What is going on?

Frindte: I ask myself the same thing and I find the development very worrying. What we knew 20 years ago is now coming to the surface - right-wing extremism is not merely a peripheral phenomenon. It affects broad sections of the population.

Right-wing extremists and right-wing populists are also realigning themselves. Since Pegida [an Islamophobic movement which started making gains in Germany late last year], people are openly showing their hate on the streets and online.

The radical right of yesterday are today and now standing shoulder to shoulder. This means that right-wing extremism is not only a problem among young people. It stretches across all age groups and education levels. We are currently experiencing an attack on our democracy.

dpa: So does that mean that Pegida and company have made racism socially acceptable?

Frindte: Racism and right-wing extremism were already socially acceptable beforehand, as studies have shown. Pegida successfully widened this scope for acceptance. People no longer show restraint in shouting aggressively at cameras and expressing their hatred of refugees. Comments that used to be uttered in the pub are now being yelled in town squares.

dpa: How many right-wing extremists are there in Germany?

Frindte: The scene has grown to about 15%, as studies have repeatedly shown. If you also take into account people who support violence against refugees while not actively taking part in it, this figure is as high as 30%. After all, previous anonymous studies don't tell us that much. If you look at websites, Facebook posts and blogs, there is enough proof that these people are not just your traditional radical right-wingers. We also need to include the everyday racists who accept this violence.

dpa: Chancellor Angela Merkel finally decided to visit Heidenau in Saxony [the scene of anti-migrant riots last week]. What do these flying visits contribute to the tense situation?

Frindte: They show advocacy and support for the refugees and their helpers. These visits don't get through to the right-wing extremists, as television coverage of the chancellor's visit has shown. But then I ask myself - why are we so tolerant towards intolerance?

dpa: What needs to happen in your view to defend against this "attack on democracy"?

Frindte: Democracy needs to put its guard up. On the one hand we are missing an orchestrated uprising of decent people. On the other hand, this is a job for the police and justice system.

The chancellor was attacked verbally during her visit in Saxony by demonstrators accusing her of treason against the fatherland. If I were to shout such things at my neighbour from across the garden fence, he would be within his rights to sue me for slander. Why didn't that happen right away in this case? We do not need tougher sentencing or new laws.

Police and the courts just need to apply the existing measures more strongly in order to fend off hate crimes. It concerns our freedom and those who have come to us for protection.

Read more on:    germany  |  migrants  |  racism

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