Anti-Muslim and anti-refugee hate crimes are on the rise in Germany. According to official government data, there were 2,219 attacks against refugees and refugee shelters in 2017. During the same period, at least 950 attacks against Muslims and Islamic institutions were registered, though the real figure is believed to be higher. These attacks on minorities are part of an increasing rate of Islamophobia within German society.
Since the right-wing, extremist party AfD joined the political establishment, celebrating a historic success in the 2017 parliamentary elections, racism has become more open and visible. The party has used the recent arrival of Middle Eastern refugees, together with Islam’s decades-long presence in Germany, to promote racist hatred in the country. In the last years, demonstrations against the so-called “Islamization of Germany” have become omnipresent in city squares across Germany. AfD politicians have glorified the country’s Nazi history, minimized the impact of the Holocaust, and generally applied racist slurs against people who are not white, Christian, ethnic Germans.
Regularly relying on Nazi language, the AfD’s discourse regularly dehumanizes Muslims, Blacks, and refugees. For example, a leading AfD politician called for a government advisor with Turkish roots to be “disposed of in Anatolia” like garbage. Insults like these have become routine.
In the media, these racist incitements and attacks are continuously treated as isolated incidents. Although most German newspapers have mentioned the new statistics about anti-Muslim and anti-refugee violence, they have failed to express any clear criticism of these events or present Islamophobia as a grave danger. Recently, Germany’s largest TV news outlet even described the AfD as “a normal party,” and announced it would not refer to it as a “right-wing populist” group anymore.
The lack of public discourse about these issues is alarming. There is no substantial discussion in Germany about why and how racist attacks against non-white minorities have become the standard. Like the media, politicians from left, center, and right, including the ruling government, have hesitated to criticize the AfD or describe it for what it is – racist and fascist. They have also failed to condemn the increase in racism in general. And so the scapegoating of Muslims and refugees is passing without consequence.
Meanwhile, the AfD’s popularity continues to grow. According to polls from March 2018, the party has surpassed the Social Democratic Party for the first time ever, and is now the second most popular party on the federal level. Currently, there is no counter-narrative and no resistance to its extreme rhetoric, as well as a continuing lack of structural support for refugees and particularly for Muslim Germans, who after more than six decades in the country are still confronted by the ugliest form of racism in their daily lives.