attack on eight Indians in the small town of Mügeln in former East Germany over the weekend, the debate about racism and right-wing extremism in Germany has been given a new impetus.
Wolfgang Thierse, vice president of lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, and belongs to the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), said he feared for the consequences for the country as a business location. "The worse Germany's reputation becomes, the fewer people who we need for our progress and prosperity will come here," he told the newspaper Berliner Zeitung in remarks printed in its Tuesday edition.
Fellow SPD politician Sebastian Edathy also told the paper, "People with dark skin color have a much higher risk of being a victim of an attack in Eastern Germany than in Western Germany." He accused municipalities in the east of not investing enough in the prevention of right-wing extremism.
However the deputy leader of the Brandenburg branch of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, Sven Petke, rejected Edathy's comments. He told the news Web site Netzeitung that Edathy was showing prejudice against Eastern Germany and that much had been done to combat right-wing extremism.
The eight Indians were chased from a street party in Mügeln, a small town in the state of Saxony, in the early hours of Sunday morning by a mob numbering around 50. They took shelter in a pizza restaurant which the mob then tried to storm as a crowd of spectators looked passively on. A force of around 70 police were needed to quell the violence. All eight Indians were injured, one seriously.
There are suspicions that the crime was motivated by right-wing extremism, as witnesses reported hearing attackers shout racist slogans such as "foreigners out." However police on Monday played down speculation about a right-wing extremist motive, saying that they were keeping an open mind.
A special 16-member police task force has been set up to investigate the crime but is not expected to issue a report until Tuesday afternoon at the earliest. The police presence in the town has been increased and additional witnesses have given statements, a police spokeswoman told the news agency DPA.
In remarks to the TV news station N24, Mügeln Mayor Gotthard Deuse confirmed that there had been warnings of a possible right-wing extremist incident ahead of the street party. However he made a distinction between right-wing extremism and racism, saying that the crime "probably did not have a right-wing extremist motive but racist slogans were said." He repeated previous assertions that Mügeln did not have a problem with right-wing extremism.
Commentators on Tuesday called for more action against right-wing extremism and warned against playing down the incident as a simple street brawl.
The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Since the debate over so-called 'no-go areas' in the run-up to the 2006 soccer World Cup, sensitivity has increased to Germany's day-to-day racism, played out in countless small incidents. Today these are only rarely played down. The fact that a person is in danger in some places simply because he or she has the 'wrong' skin color or origin is a scandal which we must not get accustomed to. The same applies to the fact that people cannot always count on the civil courage of their fellow citizens, who, as in Mügeln, prefer to look on as indifferent spectators."
The center-right Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"It is almost symptomatic for failed integration in Germany that Turks and other immigrants are clearly under-represented at street and village celebrations, compared to their presence elsewhere. Just the fact that a group of Indians were partying and dancing with the locals in a beer tent after midnight is a point in Mügeln's favor. That would probably not have happened in other small towns with right-wing extremist problems. But now Mügeln is being depicted as just such a hotbed of racism in the media reports which have made the town infamous overnight. The talk is of a race-hate attack on Indians, of racist slogans and an applauding mob of onlookers. The police task force should clarify what really happened."
The center-left Berliner Zeitung writes:
"The attack on eight Indians by approximately 50 Germans is a scandal, but the evil in Mügeln is not yet over. The mayor of the municipality played down his original statements one day after the incident: If the act was committed by right-wing extremists, then they came from somewhere else, and he did not hear the racist slogans which others reported. … There have always been brawls at street parties -- fights have been part of the celebration for centuries. But in the case of Mügeln the violence was directed against foreigners, against an outwardly recognizable minority, and not against the usual drinking buddies. The epistemological hair-splitting of the German authorities therefore looks like an appeasement. The attack, the curious onlookers who did not intervene, the late arrival of the police and then the authorities' attempts to play down the incident -- are they not all characteristics of one and the same culture?"
The Eastern German regional newspaper Ostsee Zeitung writes:
"One should not under any circumstances play down the cowardly and brutal attacks at the town party by claiming they are simply an escalated brawl typical of such festivities. Right-wing extremist slogans such as 'foreigners out!' were heard in Mügeln. Here was a horde of neo-Nazis and sympathizers intent on hunting foreigners. Here were onlookers who did nothing. Here, where intolerance and racism have become obvious, is zero tolerance necessary -- because Mügeln is not a unique case. Last year there were on average at least two right-wing extremist attacks daily in Germany. Peaceful municipalities such as Mügeln are also threatening to become 'no-go areas' dangerous to foreigners. Such zones have long existed in Eastern Germany. Therefore the civil courage which pundits demand in platitudinous speeches is not enough. Right-wing violence must also be countered with all legal means available."
-- David Gordon Smith, 12 noon CET
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