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After Hanau, right-wing racism needs to be viewed as radicalism

  • Tallha Abdulrazaq
  • 20 Feb 2020

For decades now, Western states have ignored the threat within, rooted deeply in racist ideology and scientific racism, for how much longer can it ignore the danger of far-right terrorism?

The right-wing group "Pro NRW" (North Rhine-Westphalia) hold a rally against the building of a mosque in the western German city of Duisburg on March 28, 2010. The Banner reads " Stop Islam. Ban Minarets Now" ( Henning Kaiser / Getty Images )

With the sickening Christchurch, New Zealand anti-Muslim terrorist attack still fresh in our minds, radical white supremacist terror has struck again, this time in the heart of Europe. 

The terrorist, named as Tobias R with his last name omitted as is the German practice, attacked two shisha lounges in Hanau near Frankfurt in Germany. 

Tobias was carrying legally licensed firearms and proceeded to shoot dead nine victims before escaping the scene. He was later found by German police after he had apparently also killed his elderly mother at home before shooting himself and ending his life, perhaps in an attempt to escape justice.

Racism roots

Before he so brutally ended the lives of almost a dozen people, including himself, the 43-year-old terrorist had left behind a video and a letter of confession where he expressed racist views towards non-whites including ethnic minorities in Germany such as Turks. 

Indeed, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin confirmed that some of the victims were of Turkish origin and called on the German authorities to fully investigate.

It's no secret that racist and destructive views are being popularised and introduced by mainstream political parties across Europe. There is a strong argument to be made that, just as abhorrent political views expressed by extreme but non-violent Muslims are assessed as being signs of radicalisation, so too then must racist views expressed against ethnic minorities be viewed as signs of right-wing extremism with possible violent tendencies taking root.

Before the anti-politically correct brigade pile in with their faux outrage, it is probably worth pointing out that the perpetrators of the largest genocidal act in Europe were also avowed racists and despised anyone who was different to them. 

Germany’s history with Nazism should not be overlooked as the horrors of the Holocaust, a racist, antisemitic crime the likes of which has rarely been matched in history, was tragically not that long ago. 

If it happened once, it can quite easily happen again, and this time with Muslims being the primary victims. Such right-wing bigots always remember their ancient hatred of the Jews and other minorities even when distracted by new “racial threats” from Muslim-dominant minority groups.

I am the first person to say that not all discussion on radicalisation within Muslim communities is born of racism, and indeed it has shown itself to be a problem time and again with extremist clerics like Abu Hamza and Anjem Choudary in Britain alone. 

I have myself worked to curtail the influence of extremist Muslims within British Muslim communities, so I am all too aware of the dangers there.

However, just as radical Muslims are a grave danger, there can be no doubt that right-wing terrorism and radicalisation is just as bad and in fact, feeds the propaganda of groups such as Al Qaeda and Daesh. 

Well-known Dutch Islamophobic politician Geert Wilders is a prime example of this, as he actively heaping hateful opprobrium on Islam’s Prophet Muhammed and the Quran, the prophet and holy book of 1.8 billion Muslims from different ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds. 

Wilders' harsh views towards Islam, while not strictly and properly defined as racism, cannot simply be called criticism as they are so venomous, and they do feed racist views because it then opens up other characteristics to abuse.

Growing up in the United Kingdom, I have lost track of the number of times I have been slurred as a “Paki”, “Taliban”, “dirty Muslim”, and “terrorist” from complete strangers. This all happened despite the fact that they had no way of knowing for certain that I was Muslim apart from the “Muslim-ness” of my appearance. Yet, they linked me to an ethnic group I am not a part of, radical Muslims, and terrorism as a default. Why? Because in the right-wing lexicon, “Muslims” look a certain way, making them easy to stereotype and even easier to target. 

I am not the only example of this, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself believing Muslim women wearing veils look like bank robbers and letterboxes, a position the Conservative party found to be “respectful”.

Time to punish racism as radicalism

Racism has not only been behind attacks on Muslims, but it has also been behind terrorist attacks against Jews.

Again in Germany, two people were shot dead in October last year after an attack on a synagogue in Halle by neo-Nazi Stephan B. The white supremacist terrorist attempted to break into the synagogue where 50 people were observing Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. When he failed to enter, he killed a woman on the street outside before shooting another man dead in a nearby shop.

As I have argued elsewhere, there appears to be very little difference between the far-right and Daesh. Their methods are similar, they espouse similar extreme views but from opposite sides of the trenches, and their understanding of the culture and the ideas they claim to be defending is often remarkably superficial. But the increasing spread of right-wing terror and radicalisation is now too large to ignore, and it has its roots in the actions of the media and politicians who have popularised hateful rhetoric and allowed it to become part of the mainstream consciousness, further emboldening such attacks.

The far-right politicians who feed such hatred and popularise it in the mainstream need to be held to account. It is no longer feasible to say that they should be allowed to freely express their views and discuss their political programmes in a democracy. 

Hitler also had political views and programmes and it ultimately led to the brutality of World War II and the Holocaust.

This is no exaggeration, as the threat is very real. 

Only last Friday, German police arrested 12 members of a right-wing terror cell who were actively planning on attacking mosques and asylum seekers to “incite a civil war”. This is absolutely no different to the ideological underpinnings of the Nazi-era concept of Rassenkrieg, or Race War, and seeks to mobilise the masses against minorities.

Only when extreme expressions of racism, particularly by politicians, are criminalised and actively curtailed will we see a slow removal of racist and violent tendencies that have infested the European mainstream. 

Another outcome of inaction is for another genocide to take place in Europe, a continent that has tried so very hard to prove that its violent history had long since passed.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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