By Abdullah Buzkurt
Germany, the most populous country in the EU, is rapidly becoming a hotbed for Islamophobic and xenophobic tendencies, some apparently sanctioned by the pervasive German security apparatus. Germany is not alone in this pattern of hatred, as other countries in Europe have also been experiencing similar racist movements. But Germany, the engine of the EU, sticks out from the crowd with the sophisticated tactics which its secretive agencies use, as well as its notorious history of racism. The latest sign of increasing intolerance was a poster for a campaign by the German Interior Ministry against young Muslims who the ministry claimed might be Islamist radicals or terrorists due to behavioral disorders.
This followed a ban on circumcision, which a court in Cologne ruled as equivalent to a criminal act in May. The ban not only targeted Muslims but Jews as well because earlier in August a lawsuit was filed against a rabbi from Hof for carrying out a circumcision. Similar attempts were seen in Switzerland and Austria as well. As some 3 million Turks live in Germany, the Turkish government is understandably upset with what many described as coordinated racist attacks on minorities in the country. Turkey’s straight-shooter EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış slammed the German government this week in an op-ed published in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, saying that “Turkey watches with astonishment at how freedom of religion is no longer fully guaranteed in Germany.” He has called the circumcision bans in Germany “a danger to liberty.”
Ashamed by the revelations that federal and state security officials were complacent over, or even supportive of, a neo-Nazi terror cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which murdered nine immigrants and a policewoman, eight of whom were Turkish, between 2000 and 2007, the German government is already trying hard to muster some “damage control” from a spillover of this scandal on domestic and international fronts. It does not look like the storm over this scandal will subside anytime soon because the Americans, unhappy with the German police and intelligence agencies’ shady dealings targeting Muslims, Jews and other immigrant groups, are not letting Germany off the hook so easily. Washington is spilling the beans on the dirty cover-ups by German officials and feeding a lot of information to the media on the growing evidence of xenophobic culture long nestled in German institutions.
The Americans have also been working closely with their Turkish counterparts as well as Israelis in recent years to dissect German intelligence operations at home, trying to figure out where Germany is actually heading with its growing economic and political clout. For example, Turkish intelligence has collected convincing evidence revealing that behind the German police’s recent crackdown on Salafi Muslims in Germany there were concerted attempts to associate the Salafi threat with German Turks. Turkish officials believe that the German government is trying to spin the story with leaks to the media allegedly claiming that the local Turkish community is involved in radical movements even though Turks, its largest Muslim minority, have a strong track record of shunning violence in Germany. But German intelligence believing that Turks are ostensibly mixed up with fundamentalist terror gives the German government another card to play against Turkey during bilateral negotiations.
Not only that, Turkish officials have told me that German intelligence, backed by studies contracted to think tanks and foundations affiliated with the German deep state establishment, has also been trying to foment divisions among the Turkish community along ethnic and sectarian lines. It is a classic “divide and conquer” tactic which aims to create deep fragmentations among Turks in Germany. Analysts believe that the continuous portrayal of Alevis as a separate religious entity from Islam and turning a blind eye on the activities of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in an effort to keep Turks of Kurdish descent hostage to the terror group’s objectives in Germany are all part of this carefully designed plan to plant divisions in the Turkish community. Part of the reason why the Turkish government launched Alevi and Kurdish initiatives in 2009 was to respond to these overtures made by Germany.
In the meantime, Turkey has also made it clear to the German government that it will not hesitate to use the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the world’s largest intergovernmental body after the UN, to come down on Germany for its mistreatment of Muslims in the country. During a breakfast this week in Ankara with the leader of the OIC, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the Turkish diplomat shared with me the OIC’s deep concerns over the rise of Islamophobia in Europe in general and in Germany in particular. He said the hatred of Muslims in Europe has now entered a third and final stage, which he described as the most dangerous and difficult one to overcome. According to the OIC secretary-general, the first stage started with the cartoon crisis in Denmark, in which an assault on Islam was disguised as an issue of freedom of speech and was attributed to marginal groups.
It was unfortunately followed later with the institutionalization of Islamophobia on a constitutional basis, as seen with the minaret ban in Switzerland. “‘I will ask the public and ban the symbols of Islam if the majority wishes so,’ they said. European officials are advancing this hatred of Muslims using the democratic process and constitutional prerogatives,” İhsanoğlu said, adding that the OIC has campaigned against these types of restrictive moves across Europe.
İhsanoğlu said the third stage is now the politicization of Islamophobia that has been making inroads towards the mainstream political spectrum. Recalling that far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen obtained a surprising 18 percent of the vote in the first round of the French presidential elections, the OIC leader said one in five in France supported the Islamophobic party. “This is unbelievable,” he said, adding that parties pushing for anti-Muslim ideas are on the rise in many countries in Europe. The OIC secretary-general lambasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who declared at a 2010 meeting of young members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, “has utterly failed.” Statements like these made by European politicians are fueling the hatred of Muslims on the continent.
The Turkish Parliament is also monitoring German authorities’ investigations into neo-Nazi killings. The conclusion of a report published in May by Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Committee on racially motivated attacks in Germany was striking. The commission, after visiting Germany, said the media and politicians in Germany provoke xenophobia and racism. The report noted that racism and xenophobia have reached alarming levels in Germany, and called on German authorities to carry out impartial, prejudice-free and extensive investigations into the neo-Nazi killings.
The report claimed that 29 separate acts of violence took place against Turks in the first quarter of 2012 alone, and 3,627 racially motivated attacks took place against foreigners in Germany in 2011. According to official data, 10,054 racially motivated crimes were committed in Germany in 2001. That figure rose to 18,750 in 2009. Data from the Turkish Foreign Ministry records that 24 people of Turkish origin have been killed in Germany since 1988 in racially motivated murders, either via arson or physical attacks. Mosques have also been the target of racist attacks in Germany.
It looks like Turkey, with all of its monitoring institutions, is placing German activities under close scrutiny these days.
(Abdullah Bozkurt is a writer for Today’s Zaman where this article was published on August 30, 2012)