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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 5:17 pm on March 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual submission toward the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2012 

    The 2013 Pro Igual submission for the OSCE-ODIHR Annual Report on Hate Crimes highlights the deficient Spanish legislative framework regulating political parties whose goals and activities contravene democratic values of the Spanish Constitution. As a result, political parties which openly propagate xenophobia and intolerance are allowed to exist and operate, gain adepts and even attain legislative seats.

    As in previous years, Pro Igual calls to attention of the national authorities and international monitoring bodies that hate crimes are not isolated incidents and do not take place in a vacuum. Activities of the legally permitted extreme right parties in Spain are one of the strongest factors contributing to a fertile climate for xenophobic hate crimes. It should come as no surprise that the hate crimes committed by adherents of extreme right and neo-Nazi ideology are becoming ever more brazen and premeditated.

    Notwithstanding some steps taken by the Spanish State to address hate crimes, even despite the simultaneous decrease of net immigrant population, the number of such crimes in Spain does not diminishes but continues to steadily rise.

    The Pro Igual Report is available here.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 1:54 pm on February 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    The extreme right in Spain: Neo-Nazis in Catalonia 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH PRO IGUAL

    Backround

    Neo-Nazis in Catalonia are by far not a new phenomenon. One of the first legal cases involving neo-Nazis in Spain took place in Barcelona, most importantly the case of the notorious Libreria Europa. Its owner, Pedro Varela, was sentenced in 1998 to five years in prison and a large fine for the denial of Holocaust and incitement to hate. However, Libreria Europa has never been closed and to this date serves as an important congregation center for neo-Nazi and extreme right elements from around the world.

    In recent decades, Catalonia has seen the most considerable increase in the numbers of organized and violent neo-Nazi groups, alongside Madrid and Andalusia. The Catalan authorities have tended to downplay the seriousness of the situation, although the authorities did commission a White Paper analyzing the phenomenon of xenophobic juvenile violence and possible motives behind it as early as in 1999. Since then the number of extreme right elements in Catalonia has at least doubled, from an estimated 1000 members to approximately 2000 of followers today. Most are aged under 25 and often come from a humble socio-economic background.

    Neo-Nazis in Catalonia oppose the region´s aspirations towards independence, instead promoting the idea of a unified national Spain. This difference of opinion apparently does not preclude close ideological links between them and the ultra-nationalist Catalonian parties, such as Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC), in so far as both violently oppose non-European immigration, particularly from Muslim countries.

    Recent violent incidents

    There have been a number of high-profile violent incidents involving neo-Nazi elements in Barcelona over the recent years.

    • In June 2011, an anti-racist immigrant activist was attacked entering her own home in Sitges (Barcelona) by three hooded men, alleged neo-Nazis. The victim was severely beaten and burnt with a cigarette, while being racially abused and insulted. The attackers managed to escape.
    • In October 2011, a group of anti-fascist activists attempted to stop the neo-Nazi concert in Poblenou (Barcelona). Only involvement of the police (Mossos d´Esquadra) prevented full-blown clashes between the adversaries.

    As recently as in 2012, neo-Nazis have been responsible for several brazen premeditated attacks in Barcelona and vicinities:

    • In March 2012, skinheads attacked and brutally beat a group of anti-fascists at a discotheque in Manresa; several persons were critically injured, one nearly killed. The attack was carefully planned and carried out by a well-organized group committed to propagating its openly neo-Nazi ideology. The attackers displayed a military formation while throwing firebombs inside the concert venue to create confusion, and then used metal bars, knives and brass knuckle to inflict damage onto their victims.
    • In July 2012, during the European football championship, a group of c. 30 skinheads attacked several immigrants in the center of Barcelona; some of the victims required considerable medical attention. The skinheads displayed Spanish flags – including those from the Franco era – as well as Nazi symbols, and engaged in acts of vandalism setting on fire street containers and Catalan flags, and throwing stones and other heavy objects at the police that came to stop them.

    Present state

    The most recent trend in the neo-Nazi movement in Catalonia has been tactical transformation, focusing less on the external manifestation, such as shaven heads, swastikas and Nazi salutes, and more on inconspicuous but sinister popularization of xenophobic slogans and recruitment of disenfranchized young men disillusioned with their chances in life and without any prospects for the better.

    The extreme right movement is currently also much better organized and financed and enjoys connections to the officially registered parties of the racist and xenophobic breed, such as National Alliance and the Social Republican Movement, in addition to the previously mentioned PxC. (To read more about the Spanish extreme right parties, please see PRO IGUAL´s earlier article available here.)

    Today, more than ever, the extreme right movement in Catalonia poses a clear and present threat to the established democratic principles and fundamental rights and freedoms, something to which the Catalonian authorities should start paying much more serious attention.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:39 am on August 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Extreme right and xenophobic parties in Spain, Part I 

    By Daria Terradez Salom, CIDH Pro Igual

    This article continues the Pro Igual series of blogs exploring the connection between the extreme right movement and hate crimes in Spain. Part I reviews the three biggest ultra-right parties legally existing in Spain. Part II analyzes the Spanish legislative framework on political parties and movements and exposes its weaknesses.

    Introduction

    Freedom of opinion and expression are among the most treasured values in a rule-of-law state. They ensure diversity that must be guaranteed and protected in any democracy. However, there are groups that wrap themselves in constitutional protection while attacking and undermining the very freedoms upon which the democratic states are based. Such groups use their fundamental freedoms to spread the message of hate that has no place in a rule-of-law social democracy.

    Among the multitude of extreme right, racist and xenophobic parties currently populating the Spanish political landscape, we have chosen in this analysis to focus on Plataforma x Catalunya, España 2000 and Democracia Nacional. The choice of these particular three is based on the following objective criteria: their active involvement in government structures on different levels; their considerable media presence; and their ever hardening xenophobic rhetoric and stance during the election campaigns. The parties are reviewed in order of increase of their radical extremism, the latter party being the most candid proponent of fascism and the Nazi ideas of racial superiority.

    Plataforma per Catalunya

    Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC) was formed in April 2002, after the entry into force of the Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties that was much more lax in its legality requirements than the previous legislation. Led by Josep Anglada, PxC advocates the priority of setting up the national, especially Catalan, front to stop the “hordes of immigrant invaders” that undermine the national Catalan identity and way of life. PxC estimated that “Catalonia was Number 1 in Europe and Number 2 in the world (after the US) in reception of immigrants” (without providing figures or sources). This did not square with the data of the National Institute of Statistics which showed that in 2011 there was negative net migration in Spain, with the biggest drop in immigration registered in the province of Barcelona.”

    To stop the advance of the hordes, PxC proposed the following program during the 2011 election campaign: absolute priority for Catalans in access to jobs, as well as to benefits and subsidies provided by the Catalonian administration; making illegal immigration a criminal offense; and total elimination of the budget for social integration policies for immigrants. The proposed measures would require reforming the Spanish regulatory framework on immigration, the Penal Code, and even the Constitution (article 14) in order to be implemented. Notwithstanding this program, as well as some questionable public statements from its leaders, PxC does not define itself as a xenophobic party.

    For example, in an interview to the program “Between the Lines” in 2008, a high-ranking member of the PxC, Sergio Serralvo declared his admiration for Adolf Hitler. Among other things, he insisted that “it cannot be denied that our race is superior, because while the rest of the world did not exist we already had culture and civilization,” and “cultural mixing does not bring us anything. The only consequence of it is unemployment, crime and price inflation. Since the world started, it has been proven time and again that the only thing mixing does is destroy civilizations. I am a racist, but I am not a xenophobe.”

    During the latest elections held in May 2011, PxC launched a polemic video: the first image subtitled “Catalonia 2011″ shows three girls jumping rope, with a typical Catalan song playing in the background; the next image subtitled “Catalonia 2025″ shows three girls clad in burqa with an Arabic melody in the background. In the third image Mr. Anglada appears to promise salvation.

    As a result of the elections, PxC support increased fivefold, especially in the areas with high concentration of immigrants from outside the EU. Although in absolute terms this was not significant, the media registered this increase in xenophobic vote as popular support for stopping immigration.

    España 2000

    This political formation was established in July 2002. It defines itself as “part of anti-immigration movement concurrent with the opinion of large sectors of the Spanish and European population opposed to massive and illegal immigration altering the European landscape.” Among its main program points is cancelling residence permits for family reunification. Other proposals are very similar to those advanced by PxC and both groups reportedly maintain close relations and coordinate their positions.

    Like PxC, España 2000 does not openly proclaim itself racist or xenophobic, since it could hurt its election chances as well as run afoul of the Spanish laws. However, its position formulated during the II Congress does not leave doubts: in addition to outspoken preference for immigration from the European Union, it rejects “massive influx from other cultures and religions,” proposes “barriers for immigration from countries whose nationals, as statistically demonstrated, have over-proportionately contributed to worsening of security situation,” and demands that “the State cracks down on bands of delinquents that arrived with immigration.” España 2000 intolerance goes beyond immigrants, extending to other “marginal” and “overprotected” groups, such as gays, feminists, and transsexuals.

    Setting aside their attitudes towards immigration, another preoccupying aspect of such formations is their stress on security as “the primary human right without which no other right could be realized” and the demand of “the law on legitimate defense.” There is no fundamental right to security, outside of personal security, while legitimate self-defense in face of unlawful aggression, as defined in the Penal Code (article 20), entails very strict criteria to be considered as such. In other words, the political program of España 2000 not only justifies but encourages violence, and taken in conjunction with its notorious anti-immigration stance, is precisely something that Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties sought to prevent.

    During the last elections, the campaign of the España 2000 candidate in Alcalá de Henares (the province of Madrid), Jesus Dominguez, launched an unconcealed attack on immigrant businesses in the area: “Alcala has totally changed. Due to uncontrolled immigration the foreigners already exceed 25% of the local population. Our streets are filled with their bazaars, call centers, fruit stalls, butcher shops… On top of making our streets look ugly, lots of those establishments host shady business. I am not saying all immigrants are criminals, but without a doubt more immigration means more crime.”España 2000 managed to get representation in Alcala.

    As other extreme right organizations, España 2000 is not merely an abstract idea. It actively utilizes social networks and other media to mobilize sympathizers and spread their xenophobic message. For example, on its Facebook profile, followers rooted for Marine LePen to win the election in France so she would throw away foreigners (Muslims) and lead the rest of Europe to do the same, as well as insulting various groups of immigrants.

    From the legislative point of view such conduct may seem harmless and falling into the scope of freedom of expression. However, in the words of the late Constitutional Judge Roberto García-Calvo y Montiel, this conduct is also degrading to the freedom of expression as well as to human dignity.

    Democracia Nacional

    Democracia Nacional (DN) was founded in 1995 merging together several extreme right groups, including the openly neo-Nazi CEDADE. DN is also part of EuroNat, formed in 2005, a bloc of ultra-nationalist parties in the European Parliament and led by the extreme right National Front from the neighboring France. DN explicitly propagates ideas of racial superiority of the white race, idealizes the past Nazi or fascist regimes, and demonizes foreigners.

    DN leader, Manuel Canduela, is a former frontman of the RAC band Division 250, and in 1993 was sentenced to prison for participating in the activities of the outlawed neo-Nazi group Radical Action and his role in assassination of anti-fascist activist Guillem Agulló, as well as violent attacks against gays, foreigners and left-wing activists. Following his criminal conviction, Canduela changed his tactics but not his ideology: “We had to decide what was more important, our ideas or shaven heads. …When we abandoned our skinhead style (and I repeat, this was the only thing we abandoned), our lives stayed exactly the same. Fighting the system.”

    DN insists on strict discipline among its members during the public manifestations: “Above all – absolute DISCIPLINE. Give good image, surely TV will be there. It´s an opportunity to show we are normal Spaniards. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT CLOTHING. They hope to snap a photo of a skinhead – don´t give them a chance. NO MISTAKES. ”

    DN so far has minimal political representation in Spain, obtaining less than half a percent of votes in the general elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008. During the general election 2011, DN slogan “Our people first!” was nearly identical to that of España 2000 (“Spaniards first!”), while their electoral program was nearly entirely focused on restricting immigration. Like other extreme right movements, DN members talk of “invasion” by illegal immigrants (especially Muslims) yet deny their racist or xenophobic persuasion: “we are neither racists nor xenophobes… we defend our national sovereignty and the rights of the Spaniards and to do that we consider necessary to effectively restrict illegal immigration…”

    However, DN managed to attract considerable following among disenfranchised youth and, owing to their style, also among military. It is not by chance that some of the highest profile violent attacks in the recent years had been committed by DN sympathizers, for example the murder of Carlos Palomino. Considering the unfolding economic crisis affecting ever great numbers of Spanish people and the DN aggressively populist message, they are likely to attract even more supporters.

    In the next article, we will discuss the Spanish legislative framework on political parties highlighting its weaknesses that allow parties, such as PxC, España 2000, Democracia Nacional, among others, to exist and poison the political discourse on immigration.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:57 pm on April 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Anti-discrimination “crisis cards”: know your rights and defend them 

    Low awareness about one´s rights and opportunities for redress for rights violations can be a serious obstacle to attaining equality. Unfortunately, groups which are most likely to experience discrimination are also the ones which are least likely to know their rights and of the existing remedies. Thus, despite considerable evidence of discrimination and harassment against minorities, foreigners, and other vulnerable groups – in Spain as elsewhere, – reporting of discrimination is rather low. Known cases most probably present only a tip of the iceberg.

    In response to this problem, CIDH Pro Igual has developed anti-discrimination “crisis cards.” The AD “crisis cards” provide key information for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and other most likely victims of discrimination in Spain on steps to take if they experienced discrimination or harassment from public or private entities. The “crisis cards” are currently available on the Pro Igual website: http://www.cidh.es/ in EnglishSpanish, and  Romanian for downloading, printing, and sharing. In future, translations into other languages spoken by the principal minority and immigrant groups in Spain will be also available. In addition, Pro Igual will look into opportunities to disseminate this practice among other NGOs, as well as official bodies, and develop other thematic cards.

    USER INSTRUCTIONS: Each A4 sheet contains five cards that should be cut along the horizontal lines and folded in half, so they become a size of an average credit card. If desired, the cards can be also laminated and kept along with other cards in one´s wallet.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 11:03 am on February 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Germany´s neo-Nazi terrorism: time for reflection 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In February 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had apologized to the families of the victims of apparent hate crimes for the failure of the German state to find and prosecute perpetrators. The so-called “döner murders” of mostly ethnic Turkish entrepreneurs had taken place between 2000 and 2007, but had remained unresolved until a recent and accidental discovery of the neo-Nazi link.

    “Most of you were abandoned in your time of need. Some relatives were themselves for years suspected of wrongdoing. That is particularly oppressive. For this, I ask for your forgiveness,” stated Ms. Merkel.

    Establishing the neo-Nazi connection to the murders had prompted soul-searching among the German authorities trying to understand how and why so many hate crimes against immigrants could have been overlooked for so long. The answer to this mystery may be closer than many think, as Ms. Merkel´s apology stands in a stark contrast with her earlier speech on the failure of multiculturalism in Germany. Then, in no uncertain terms, the German Chancellor suggested that the immigrants bore at least partial responsibility for failing to integrate… or to leave:

    “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone,’ but this isn’t reality.”

    That is the crux of the problem, isn´t it? Immigrants would not leave. Immigrants would not put their lives on hold while giving their best years and energy working in host countries. Immigrants would go on to have families and children. Immigrants would not abandon their identity, culture, religion, food, or dress code. And so they are charged with being responsible for inspiring distrust, hate, or envy, or all of the above. The long tradition of xenophobia and blaming (perceived) outsiders for political, economic, or social failures of the country is carefully omitted.

    Of course, immigrants are still needed, just as they were needed after the WWII rebuilding their host country from the ruin in which extreme xenophobia and racism had left the entire continent. Today as ever Germany depends on the immigrant labor to power its economy. This is why Ms. Merkel´s belated apology, albeit welcome, seems somewhat disingenuous and self-serving. But genuine or calculated, this is a high time for reflection, in Germany and elsewhere, as to who their real enemies are.

    There is poignant symbolism in the “döner murders” affair. The law-abiding, entrepreneurial immigrants were slain by German criminals that hardly made any contribution to German society. However, even the reputably efficient German police could not escape the usual stereotyping and by default looked for perpetrators among the immigrant community. That, despite the growing evidence that the threat of violence emanates not only or not as much as from immigrants or minorities, as from poorly educated, disenfranchised, racist and increasingly extremist majority youths falling prey to clandestine yet highly organized right-wing organizations. Suffice it to mention the Breivik´s killing spree in Norway and his ideological influences to underscore the reality of the threat.

    While even mainstream politicians across Europe try to score cheap victories by engaging in demagogic populism and indulging public intolerance with myths about immigrants “stealing jobs,” “scamming welfare,” or “engaging in terrorism,” the much deadlier threat comes to fruition: the neo-Nazi terrorism.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:33 pm on December 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Looking Back at 2011: From Arab Spring to Occupying Indignation and Winter of Russian Discontent 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    It has been one tough year: tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear calamities, not to mention suffocating economic crises across the world. Yet 2011 has also witnessed remarkable awakening of human social consciousness which seemed dormant if not atrophied after decades of dumb self-centered consumerism and prevailing political apathy.

    Spring started with revolutions in several Arab countries, putting out of business long-term dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, as well as putting to shame “old” European democracies. The stereotypes of radical Islam and autocracy-leaning Muslims hostile to human rights have been shaken, while the self-proclaimed “beacons of liberty” – France, the UK and the USA – were exposed for their cozy dealings with the dictators at the expense of oppressed populations.

    The effect of the Arab Spring has been so powerful that it would spill over into the West. The movement of the indignant started in Spain, catching on in other European countries; various Occupy offshoots – from Wall Street to DC to smaller communities — started in the USA; and demonstrations for social justice swept Israel.

    Anti-corruption protests have also taken place in India and even in parts of China, where the affluent and increasingly vocal middle class has demanded bigger say in the countries´  affairs.

    Last but not least social awakening of the year happened in Russia where allegations of blatant election fraud proved too much even for proverbially patient and politically disengaged public. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators showed daily to protest corruption and demand new elections, ultimately forcing grudging concessions – if not of the elections rerun, then at least of cleaner elections next time around.

    While concrete and positive outcomes of new social movements across the globe remain to be seen, this unprecedented in recent history awakening of public social consciousness gives hope for the new 2012 year: the year when political accountability, financial transparency, social justice and human rights may be a touch closer.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:48 pm on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Tyrant is gone. Long live the Tyrant. 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Finally, the Libyan rebels produced a draft “Transitional” Constitution. Although the title suggests that it is provisional, or temporary, human experience teaches us that there is nothing more permanent than temporary, take for example the German Basic Law (although these two documents are further apart than the continents).

    Article 1

    “… Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)”

    Not a word about international treaties to which Libya is a party and peremptory norms of international law (such as most fundamental human rights).

    Article 6

    “Libyans are brothers (SIC!) … Libyans shall be equal before the law. They shall enjoy equal civil and political rights, shall have the same opportunities, and be subject to the same public duties and obligations, without discrimination due to religion, belief, race, language, wealth, kinship, or political opinions or social status. The State shall guarantee for woman all opportunities which shall allow her to participate entirely and actively in political, economic and social spheres.”

    Article 7

    “Human rights and his (emphasis added) basic freedoms shall be respected.”

    So, in the new Libya, women will have opportunities to participate “entirely and actively,” but they are not equals of men, regardless of religion, belief, race, language, wealth, kinship, or political opinions or social status? The new regime would have to do some convincing that for Libyan women this is going to be better than a travelling harem of the MIA colonel. Tyrant is gone, Long Live the Tyrant?

    One could say no great surprises there, but a bitter aftertaste of disappointment remains.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:05 pm on August 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Right-wing terrorism and racial profiling 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    For quite some time now, the European police resort to techniques known as “racial profiling”: singling out and targeting for stops and searches non-Caucasian-looking men. Arrests and detentions, often without an objective need, of people of Mediterranean appearance have risen dramatically, even leading to a number of lawsuits and protests from the human rights community.

    In the wake of the terrorist attack in Norway carried out by a native Christian extremist violently opposed to immigration, Norway’s Prime Minister has warned his compatriots to exercise tolerance and restraint and avoid a “witch hunt.” However, the right-wing Progress Party – whose views are closest to the perpetrator of the Norway massacre – indicated that it would press for tougher judicial measures. That party´s MP was quick to promise a parliamentary discussion “about sentences, searches by the police and everything else” adding: “My party has always wanted that.” He forgot to mention his party always wanted tougher justice for foreigners par excellence.

    It is interesting how some forces are ever-ready to use even the national tragedy as an opportunity to pursue their goals – the goals that may be responsible for that tragedy in the first place. It will be also interesting to see how this would play out and what kind of a criminal profile the Norwegian police would use in the wake of the right-wing, extremist Christian, anti-Muslim terrorist attack.

     
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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 6:14 pm on July 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    When hate kills 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In the first place, sincere condolences to the victims and families who endured or lost their loved ones in the massacre in Norway. Then comes reflection on this heinous crime of hate.

    There has been considerable coverage of the terror attack itself and of the perpetrator, some coverage bigoted (especially before any facts came to life), some thoughtful and balanced. In a nutshell: an extreme right-wing Christian terrorist took out his hatred of immigrants and especially Muslims on scores of innocent people. The response of the Norwegian government has been noble: so far, it has pledged to respond to terror with more democracy, not with hunting ´em down. But how long and how effectively can democracy withstand attacks on democracy itself?

    Breivik, Wilders, LePen, Griffin, and Co. enjoy talking about “Western” values which are presumably “threatened” by immigration (read: Muslims). But their demagogy is ridiculously plain to see when they call to stop that mythical “threat” with as undemocratic means as could be. Banning mosques and minarets means not only restricting freedom of religion but doing so in a discriminatory fashion; outlawing headscarves and dictating personal dress codes amounts to violating not just religious expression but privacy and personal integrity; deporting foreigners is often breaching not only freedom of movement but elementary, non-derrogable due process. And now merciless mass killing.

    Even though not every right-wing leader has explicitly called for violence, the fact of the matter is that terrorism as a weapon against immigration in general and against Muslims in particular has been in place for some time now, undeniably inspired by the toxic populist rhetoric. Just last Autumn a “lone gunmen” terrorized the immigrant community in a Swedish town of Malmo. Muslim mosques had been burned in the Netherlands just a few years before that. Daily verbal if not physical harassment against ordinary Muslims in Europe is as common as it is impunible. But these things do not get reported and speculated about as much as alleged attacks by “Islamic terrorists”, who are about as representatives of Muslims as breiviks are of Norwegians.

    Hate kills, we have just witnessed that, yet again. Moreover, there are concerns that the massacre in Norway can be a template for others. And while the intention of responding to terror with more democracy is respectable, it is useful to remember that even democracy has its limits, if it is to survive. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany — a country that knows these things first hand — stipulates: “Whoever abuses the (basic rights) in order to combat the free democratic basic order shall forfeit these basic rights.” Norway, and the rest of Europe where right-wing terrorism has taken hold, must resist to protect their democratic values. That means restricting rights of breiviks and especially people in the position of power who influence breiviks with their hate speech (Dutch courts that last month let Wilders off the hook should take note). Hate does not just speak, it kills.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:50 am on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Freedom of intolerance 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    As was to be expected, Geert Wilders was acquitted of hate speech against Muslims. The media reported that the case tested limits of freedom of speech in a “traditionally liberal” country. But could it be that the case merely tested the limits of intolerance?

    Indeed, The Netherlands has been traditionally considered a “liberal” country. But perhaps we should specify what we mean by “liberal”, as it may mean different things to different people. For some, the US democrats are “liberals”; for others, staunch free marketeers are “liberals”. Some assume that not killing opposition members is a sign of “liberalism”; yet others might mean something completely different. Let´s face it: for many people outside of The Netherlands, its “liberalism” essentially equals the red lights district plus permissive soft drugs policies (a propos, something that the Wilders´ party has vowed to do away with).

    But if you belong to the first, second, third or other generation of non-European immigrants, especially if you look Muslim (whatever that might mean to different people), and especially if you insist on doing “Muslim things” (whatever that might mean to different people), then you are entitled to have your doubts about the Dutch “liberalism.” The Volendam girl expelled from a school for wearing a headscarf is certainly entitled to have her doubts.

    Many critics point out that freedom of expression, including religious expression, is applied inconsistently across Europe; The Netherlands is no exception. For example, Muslim women are not permitted to wear headscarves in a number of countries, even though nobody has any issues with the nuns´ outfits. Holocaust denial is outlawed in several countries, but speech that offends Muslims´ religious feelings is permitted (remember the Danish cartoons?) And now hate speech against Muslims as a group has also been upheld in the Dutch court.

    In my opinion, there is formidable consistency of Dutch, or for that matter European, attitudes towards Muslims. This consistency is manifested in two clear patterns. Pattern I: religious expression of Muslims is curbed. Pattern II: anti-Muslim expression is protected. To put it bluntly, intolerance against Muslims is not intolerance, it is freedom.

    So, it appears that the Netherlands has just got itself a new right: freedom of intolerance. But this is hardly an achievement to be proud of.

     
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