The Politics of Intolerance

09/02/2016 di Chrystel Papi

European hospitality is experiencing a destabilizing fatigue: every day accusations against integration policies become more pronounced, along with escalating social tensions that have provoked unbearable violent attitudes and awakened the politics of intolerance


Fini in 1996, Haider in 1999, Le Pen in 2002. The populist and neo-nationalist right that at the turn of the new millennium were reporting stunning electoral results while condemning immigration, multiculturalism, and advocating a visceral hostility towards Islam magnified by the impact of 9/11. Today, the nouvelle droite that had characterized their advocacy of an essential incompatibility between the “European” and “Islamic” culture is increasingly gathering momentum.

On December 31st a mob of a 1,000 men of “Arab or North African origin” sexually assaulted over 500 women in downtown Cologne, resulting in sexual molestation and one reported rape. Similar attacks also occurred in Stuttgart and Hamburg. Recalling the words of Cologne Police Chief Wolfgang Albers, this constituted “a completely new dimension of crime.” The tensions in German society persisted as leisure centers decided to ban all migrants from their facilities. The decision in Cologne came after three 15-year old Syrian boys in a public swimming pool in Munich molested two teenage girls of 17 and 14 years old. Subsequently, an 18-year-old refugee forcibly groped and kissed a 54-year-old woman at a swimming pool in Bornheim. Now, little more than one month has passed and the tragic nightmare of the 31st December has returned to Cologne on the eve of the Carnival celebrations. A 22-year-old woman was violently beaten and raped while unconscious, by an “Afghan refugee” of 17 years old, currently hosted in an asylum center.

To say the least, Feminist movements have monopolized across Germany, and pro-immigration policies are massively discredited across European borders – not to mention Donald Trump’s notorious call to ban entry to Muslims to the US. Already on January 13th, appearing on L’Opinion, Marine le Pen had expressed her concerns on the migrant situation and the dangers to women, advocating the need for a referendum that would express the French people’s desire to stop accepting migrants on their territory. Also, Sweden and Finland have announced to deport thousands of migrants in an effort to contain the crisis. Following the Carnival rape, Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League, published on Facebook, “Merkel’s and Renzi’s gooders have their conscience’s tainted of blood. Go Home!!” Roberto Calderoli, Vice President of the Senate similarly stated, “the solution remains always the same: close the doors, send behind the frontiers anyone who has no right to stay, apply chemical castration to those who commit crimes of sexual nature.”

In Germany, in response to the widespread outrage over the New Year’s Eve assaults across the cities, on the 28th January the draft law known as the Asylpaket II (Asylum Package II) was announced by Germany’s coalition government, which is now waiting for Bundestag approval. The new measures aim to ease the deportation of those migrants convicted of committing crimes. Essentially, the government intends to increase migrant reception centers, theoretically to track the legitimacy of asylum requests and uncover those deceitful applications that attempt to enter German territory under false pretenses. The government has also proclaimed Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia as “safe countries” with virtually no threat of armed conflict or violence, thus rendering it virtually impossible for these “North African” asylum seekers to apply.

Nevertheless, the package has been severely disclaimed by critics as a mere political façade that will frailly relieve the escalating social tensions of the country. For starters, the government has already lost track of the location of thousands of migrants who entered Germany last year; many have also destroyed their ID and passports before arrival. Not to forget that the law permits the deportation only of migrants sentenced to three-year prison terms. Even if an amendment to Section 60 of the Aufenthaltsgesetz could be changed to a “one year prison term” migrants cannot be deported to “unsafe” states or where there is a risk of death penalty.

European hospitality is experiencing a destabilizing fatigue: every day accusations against integration policies become more pronounced (Merkel’s policies consensus has dropped to 39% this January), along with escalating social tensions that have provoked unbearable violent attitudes and awakened the politics of intolerance.

Indeed, the overwhelming sentiment is that of a justice system immobilized by political virtue. Soeren Kern, Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute, disclosed from a leaked government document published by Die Welt: “we are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples, as well as a different understanding of society and law. German security agencies are unable to deal with these imported security problems, and the resulting reactions from the German population.” Even more painful is the thought that shortly after Chancellor Merkel’s New Year’s address to the country, delivered also with Arabic subtitles, whose words for unanimity, “wir schaffen das”, had so heartwarmingly encouraged Germany to overcome the challenges of migrant integration, inaugurated the new year in tragedy.

Rachel B. Vogelstein, Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, in an interview by Jeanne Park, Deputy Managing Editor of the Council on Foreign Relations, has expressed that it is “important to be careful not to cast aspersions on an entire population because of the bad acts of certain individuals […] the notion that it is a particular population—as opposed to individuals—perpetrating this violence is something that we ought to be careful about.” She cites the case of Caitlin Duncan, a woman whom on that same New Year’s night was helped and protected by a group of men led by Syrian refugee Hesham Ahmad Mohammad. For Vogelstein, the solution lies in clarifying values such as “physical autonomy and freedom from violence for the entire population” constituting those basic European valuesthat the government must grapple with.”

The question then is: how do we reverse intolerance?

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