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Instigating Racism: Germany’s move further to the right

On the 31st of May, in the German city of Mannheim, a police officer died after being stabbed with a knife. On the said day, the racist association “Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa” was holding a rally warning of the supposed danger of Islam and Muslims taking over Germany.

The speaker of the rally, Michael Stürzenberger, is a known anti-Muslim racist who travels around Germany, holding speeches that insight against the Muslim minority in Germany, who comprise about 6 percent of the population. Stürzenberger, a former member of the Conservative Party in Bavaria (CSU) and a proud supporter of Israel, has previously described Islam as a “cancerous tumor” and Muslims as “potential terrorists.” The rallies of Stürzenberger and his “Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa” are meant to provoke Muslims and insight hatred against them.

On the 31st of May, a migrant bystander tried to attack Stürzenberger with a knife. A police officer got in between and died due to his injuries.

What the German political scene and the media have constructed out of what happened on the 31st of May reflects the general move to the right in Germany. Although no information has yet been published about the mental state or religiosity of the man who attacked Stürzenberger, the fact that the man was an Afghan refugee with a Muslim name has led to the political and media landscape describing what happened as an “Islamist attack.” A Germany-wide debate on the “dangers of Islamism and migration” has been re-ignited.

The Conservatives (CDU) and Fascists (AfD), who came out as the two strongest parties in yesterday’s EU elections with 23,7 and 15,9 percent, respectively, and who have been riling up their calls against Muslims and refugees for years, have instrumentalized the events in Mannheim to call for further deportations and vast restrictions on immigration.

The racist narratives and fear-mongering of the right are also being utilized by the Social Democrats, hoping to win over voters by implementing racist policies. In parliament, the German chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD – Social Democrats) has since called for deportations to Afghanistan and Syria to be made possible, adding that those who glorify terrorist crimes shall also be deported. The consequences of this are grave, as what constitutes “glorifying terrorist crimes” is extremely vague. In light of the ongoing genocide in Gaza, which the German state supports militarily, politically, and ideologically, the very demand for a free Palestine with equal rights from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea has been depicted as supporting “terrorist propaganda.” A few days after the Israeli state started its onslaught on Gaza, Olaf Scholz declared on the 20th of October, 2023, that “we must finally deport on a large scale.”

But it is not just the Social Democrats jumping on the racist bandwagon. After what happened in Mannheim, Sahra Wagenknecht, the head of the newly founded party “Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht,” a split from the Left Party (Die Linke), has also declared that “radical Islam does not belong to Germany” and that “uncontrolled migration” must stop and that asylum applications should be taken care of at the borders of the EU, instead of in Germany.

At the same time, thousands of police officers, together with the CDU Mayor of Berlin, Kai Wegner, Senator of Interior Iris Spranger of the Social Democrats, and Greens MP Cem Özdemir marched through Berlin to mourn the dead police officer of Mannheim. Meanwhile, the German president, Frank Walter Steinmeier (SPD), traveled to Mannheim to offer his condolences.

Throughout the German media and political landscape, the fact that Stürzenberger and his Islamophobic association “Pax Europa” have instigated fear among the Muslim minority for years and provoked such a reaction has been completely ignored. What happened in Mannheim is the consequence of the aggressive racism that Stürzenberger has been spewing for years. Although the motives of the attacker are yet to be known, the narrative of a “the danger of Islamism” that is currently being used from “Left” to Right plays into the very hands of racists like Stürzenberger.

The scale to which the events of Mannheim have been instrumentalized for racist purposes can be seen by the little media attention that other killings around the same time have gotten. Just a few days apart from the attack in Mannheim, on the 28th of May and the 3rd of June, there were two femicides in Berlin perpetrated by ex-partners. These killings received little to no media attention, as the killers were presumably white Germans. There were no talk shows, discussions in parliament, press conferences, and demonstrations to discuss the scale of femicides in Germany, let alone how to prevent such heinous crimes from happening again.

In all, the last couple of days shows once again how the German establishment uses Muslims, immigrants, and refugees as a useful scapegoat to divert attention from real problems, i.e., rising inflation, rising costs of living, or poor infrastructure – problems that the German ruling class is responsible for. Hence, the narrative goes: Not 100 billion Euros for military spending or a ten percent increase in arms exports to Israel are a problem, but immigrants and Muslims. As socialists we must decisively fight against this scapegoating!