OPINION - Protesting Germany’s far-right: Fear of Africanization, Orientalization and Islamization

OPINION - Protesting Germany’s far-right: Fear of Africanization, Orientalization and Islamization

Over the weekend, more than 1.4M people took to the streets to protest the far-right and their plans to deport people

By Farid Hafez

- The author has been the Class of 1955 Distinguished Visiting Professor of International Studies at the US’ Williams College since 2021. Since 2017, he has been a non-resident researcher at Georgetown University's The Bridge Initiative in Washington, DC. He has been co-editor of the annual European Islamophobia Report since 2015. Recent and forthcoming publications include Operation Luxor and Politicizing Islam in Austria: The Far-Right Impact in the Twenty-First Century.

ISTANBUL (AA) - The last days in Germany were moving. Over the weekend, more than 1.4 million people took to the streets [1] to protest the far-right and their plans to deport people, from Berlin in front of the parliament to the conservative state of Bavaria, where more than 200,000 people gathered. This was a massive sign against a leaked [2] deportation "master plan" discussed by far-right leaders including the lately successful far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), [3] which currently holds 78 seats [4] in parliament but is reaching all-time high approval rates.

- Racist ‘remigration plan’

The investigative editorial German investigative center Correctiv published a story [5] of a November meeting of the so-called Dusseldorfer Forum from last year. High-ranking members of the far-right AfD, leaders of the far-right Identitarian Movement, members of the Values Union (WerteUnion), an association within the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which separated itself on Jan. 20 this year to form its political party, and others from the far-right milieu gathered to discuss a plan dubbed “remigration.” The idea was to preserve a racist notion of white Germanness by expelling asylum seekers, foreigners with the right to stay, and “unassimilated citizens” as the keynote speaker of the Identitarian Movement, the Austrian Martin Sellner [6], suggested. [7] It was suggested that the former director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, who is chairman of the Values Union, be asked to become a member of the committee to further develop this plan from an “ethical, legal and logistical point of view.” These views highly correlate with the AfD’s policy platform, which openly speak [8] of “initiating a lowering of the hurdles for the withdrawal of German citizenship” for dual citizens. And it can also be found in a publication [9] of one of its high-profile leaders such as Bjorn Hocke, who wrote in 2018 that in the future, Germany must expect that “we will unfortunately lose a few sections of the population that are too weak or unwilling to resist the advancing Africanization, Orientalization and Islamization.” And the party fully and openly [10] embraces the idea of “remigration.”

- Protesting the far-right

These revelations have sparked a strong reaction on the streets. And it was supported by many political parties and officials including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz alongside many other members of the government who joined the protests. Scholz called it [11] “appalling” that “some people are asking themselves if they have a future in Germany,” stating that “you all belong to us.” Scholz heavily criticized the “nativist racial ideology of Nazis” as “reflected in the resettlement plans of the extremists,” meaning the Dusseldorfer Forum. While neighboring countries such as Austria have not seen any similar protests for more than 20 years [12] and have since largely normalized [13] far-right participation in government, Germany is sending a strong sign against the rise of its first major successful far-right political party.

- What is at stake

The relative latecomer to German politics – the AfD was established only in 2013 – has achieved quite a bit in a few years. More importantly, national polls suggest it is reaching all-time high approval rates, making it the second-largest political party with 22%, leaving the third-strongest party, the Social Democrats with only 13%, far behind. In the three states of Saxony, Thuringia, and Brandenburg, it might even become first. The "cordon sanitaire" to exclude the AfD from power sharing is also crumbling [14] with more and more voices from the Christian Democratic Union under its new leader Friedrich Merz, [15] who has a long history of mainstreaming the AfD, to imagine future cooperation.

As a consequence, there has been a lively debate since last week about a potential ban on the AfD. Germany with its idea of “defensive democracy” has already classified [16] several chapters of the AfD as a right-wing extremist group. Proposals for a possible ban [17] have been in preparation for a while now, while some are questioning [18] if the survival of an attempt to ban the AfD would only further legitimize the party, which might lower restraint for supporting the party.

- The real question

While the German government’s embrace of the protests indicates a stance against the openly racist policies the far-right is pursuing, one has to raise the question as to how these deportation plans have become so widely accepted in Germany’s population in the first place. The political leadership has to ask itself: When Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz – coming back from Israel – says [19] “We must finally deport on a grand scale” meaning allegedly antisemitic immigrants, isn’t he reproducing the basis of the far-right agenda? What is the silence of the German government vis-a-vis dehumanizing language coming from Israeli top officials calling Palestinians “human animals” against the backdrop of its support of the Israeli war on Gaza telling the German electorate about the worth of non-white Germans?

Centrist-left and even more so centrist-right parties are busy presenting themselves as the ones who are tough on immigration. When the liberal FDP leader Christian Lindner once said that “all refugees must go back,” how is this different from the far-right? The far-right policy to also deport people with German citizenship might be a new inhibition threshold that is crossed. But it might not be the last. To halt the rise of the far-right, there must be an end to its ideology. An ideology that is also home to large parts of German politics.

[1] https://www.dw.com/en/mass-protests-against-germanys-far-right-gain-new-momentum/video-68047737

[2] https://correctiv.org/aktuelles/neue-rechte/2024/01/10/geheimplan-remigration-vertreibung-afd-rechtsextreme-november-treffen/

[3] https://bridge.georgetown.edu/research/factsheet-alternative-for-germany-alternative-fur-deutschland-afd/

[4] https://www.bundestag.de/parlament/plenum/sitzverteilung_20wp

[5] https://correctiv.org/aktuelles/neue-rechte/2024/01/10/geheimplan-remigration-vertreibung-afd-rechtsextreme-november-treffen/

[6] https://bridge.georgetown.edu/research/factsheet-martin-sellner/

[7] https://correctiv.org/aktuelles/neue-rechte/2024/01/10/geheimplan-remigration-vertreibung-afd-rechtsextreme-november-treffen/

[8] https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/afd-scholz-1.6331542?reduced=true

[9] https://www.google.com/books/edition/Nie_zweimal_in_denselben_Fluß/KYDIEAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Höcke,+Björn,+Nie+zweimal+in+denselben+Fluss.&printsec=frontcover

[10] https://twitter.com/AfD/status/1745023437158990107?s=20

[11] https://twitter.com/Bundeskanzler/status/1748333730718978198?s=20

[12] https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2000/02/haid-f25.html

[13] https://www.socialeurope.eu/normalising-the-far-right-a-warning-from-austria

[14] https://taz.de/Umgang-der-Union-mit-der-AfD/!5960447/

[15] https://bridge.georgetown.edu/research/factsheet-friedrich-merz/#:~:text=IMPACT%3A%20Friedrich%20Merz%20is%20a,wing%20camp%20within%20his%20party.

[16] https://www.politico.eu/article/afd-saxony-anhalt-classified-right-wing-extremist-germany/

[17] https://www.institut-fuer-menschenrechte.de/fileadmin/Redaktion/Publikationen/Analyse_Studie/Analyse_Warum_die_AfD_verboten_werden_koennte.pdf

[18] https://jacobin.de/artikel/demonstrationen-afd-verbot-verfassung-demokratie

[19] https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/olaf-scholz-ueber-migration-es-kommen-zu-viele-a-2d86d2ac-e55a-4b8f-9766-c7060c2dc38a

​​​​​​​*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu.

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