Rising Islamophobia, xenophobia threatens East Germany

November, 2019

Germany marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this week, but growing xenophobia and Islamophobia in especially formerly communist East Germany is seriously threatening the country's national security.

Three decades after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, German authorities are grappling with the rise of far-right ideology in the eastern part of the country.

The most damning evidence is the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which crept into the Bundestag in 2017; in parts of eastern Germany, it is the most popular party.

The AfD is, in fact, riding a shocking rise of German Islamophobia and xenophobia. In its annual report on the state of German unity, the German government has warned that Eastern Germany's xenophobia represents a danger to social harmony.

Repeated attacks against refugee centers and Islamic centers in Eastern Germany are proof of the fact that these xenophobic violent acts are a serious danger to Germany's national security.

A case in point was the East Germany-based neo-Nazi terror cell the National Socialist Underground (NSU) which was involved in anti-foreigner killings from 2000-2007.

It took German authorities almost a decade to connect 10 murders against mostly Turkish business owners and trace them to the NSU, sparking an investigative committee in the German Parliament and a national outcry about authorities' blind spots to right-wing terrorism.

The NSU's racially motivated attacks still resonate to this day. Over the past week, high-level politicians from parties representing the whole German political spectrum have received death threats.

This past summer, one of those threats became reality when regional politician Walter Lubcke was gunned down in his home in central Germany. And in October, a right-wing extremist gunman killed two in the eastern city of Halle, after failing to gain entry into a synagogue to carry out a massacre on a Jewish holiday.

While Germans are generally viewed as tolerant, their attitude toward Muslims is different. This is indicated by a study published by the Bertelsmann Stiftung's 'Religion Monitor.'

According to the research, the majority of German citizens (87%) are open to other world views.

But 52% perceive the religion of Islam as a threat. For Germans living in eastern states, the number of people who feel this way (57%) is higher than those in the west of the country where 50% view the religion as a threat.

"Obviously many people currently see Islam less as a religion than as a political ideology and therefore exclude it from religious tolerance," said the foundation's religion expert Yasemin El-Menouar.

In her view, social debates and media reports in recent years, which often put Islam in a negative light, have contributed to these attitudes.

El-Menouar said there was cause for concern because these fears over Islam can be exploited by far-right populist groups.

Source: DS