NEWS - Archive December 2012

Headlines 28 December, 2012

Far-right vacuum could trigger 'lone-wolf' attacks (UK)

Warning about potential for a 'British Breivik' 

28/12/2012- The fragmentation of the far right could spark a new wave of political violence and Anders Breivik-style lone-wolf acts of terrorism, according to the head of the UK’s first research centre into contemporary fascism. The warning comes as new figures reveal that there have been nearly 500 anti-Islamic attacks since March, with more than half linked to supporters of far-right groups. Professor Nigel Copsey told The Independent that the electoral decline of the British National Party (BNP) and the splintering of street-based protest organisations such as the English Defence League (EDL) had created a potentially dangerous political vacuum on the far right. He said the relative success of right-wing groups in recent years had radicalised thousands of people online who could seek new and more violent ways to express their opposition to Islam, immigration and economic stagnation.

“We have disturbing levels of hate crime in this country which gets under-reported, and we need to know more about the level to which the far right is involved in this,” he said. “This fragmentation and disintegration of the far right could increase the potential for political violence from small aggressive groups or lone-wolf or sole-actor terrorism.” Speaking to mark the launch of the new Centre for Fascist, Anti-fascist and Post-Fascist Studies at Teesside University, he said there was no room for complacency: “We ignore them at our peril because the demand for and the causes of the far right are still with us – they haven’t gone away and in some cases are getting worse.” New figures from the interfaith conflict resolution organisation Faith Matters reveal that there were 496 self-reported Islamophobic incidents in the past nine months. More than six in 10 of these were against women while one in 10 was against a mosque.

Fiyaz Mughal, the director and founder of Faith Matters, said there had been a significant change in the atmosphere. “The fact is that in the past six or seven months we have seen more threats of violence online. In the past six months we have seen a lot more calls to do something physically to mosques. It is moving from what is happening in their heads to actually doing it.” Electoral support for the BNP has declined spectacularly since its peak in 2009 when its leader, Nick Griffin, appeared on the BBC’s Question Time. He and a fellow party member, Andrew Brons, went on to win seats in the European Parliament. But by the 2012 local elections the party was riven by financial troubles and in-fighting and found itself reduced to just two councillors – from a peak of 57 in 2009. In October, Mr Brons, a former member of the National Front, quit the party after claiming to have been described by Mr Griffin as “vermin”. He has since joined the rival Britain First as president.

Meanwhile, the English Defence League, formed in Luton in 2009 following Islamist demonstrations against British soldiers, has seen attendance plunge at its street demonstrations. It was also hit by revelations that the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik had extensive links to the EDL and had met its leaders during a visit to London. Splits in the EDL have led to the emergence of the North West and North East Infidels, largely through social media, which have sought to exploit anxiety over child sexual exploitation and the opening of new mosque sites.
The Independent

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Seeking to increase his parliamentary share, far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders said Thursday, December 27, that anti-Islam policy will be his top priority in the new year.

27/12/2012- "Next to all things about Europe and the economic situation the people will hear from our resistance against the Islamization of the Netherlands," Wilders told Dutch TV channel NOS in an interview. Wilders, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, said the new year will see his party intensifying his anti-Islam campaign both in the Netherlands and abroad. "I will intensify this battle, both in the Netherlands, but also internationally from Australia to America to Switzerland, or anywhere else.” Wilders is notorious for his rants against Islam and Muslims. Since storming onto the political scene in 2004, Wilders has influenced Dutch immigration policy and set the tone of public debate, whether on Muslims and burqas or bailouts and the euro, in what once would have been regarded as politically incorrect language.

He has called for banning the Noble Qur’an, describing the Muslim holy book as “fascist”. In 2008, Wilders released a 15-minute documentary accusing the Qur'an of inciting violence. Wilders’ anti-Islam message has helped his party becoming the third biggest party in the Netherland after winning 24 seats in the Dutch parliament in 2010. The anti-Islam lawmaker, however, caused the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte in April 2012 over a dispute on austerity measures. Ahead of the September election, Wilders downplayed his party’s platform against Islam to focus on criticizing the European Union. But the new strategy has failed to lure voters, resulting in granting Wilders’ party only 15 seats in parliament.
On Islam

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Website helps Dutch Catholics de-baptize over gay marriage

Thousands of Dutch Catholics are researching how they can leave the church in protest at its opposition to gay marriage, according to the creator of a website aimed at helping them find the information.

27/12/2012- Tom Roes, whose website allows people to download the documents needed to leave the church, said traffic on ontdopen.nl - "de-baptise.nl" - had soared from about 10 visits a day to more than 10,000 after Pope Benedict's latest denunciation of gay marriage this month. "Of course it's not possible to be 'de-baptized' because a baptism is an event, but this way people can unsubscribe or de-register themselves as Catholics," Roes told Reuters. He said he did not know how many visitors to the site actually go ahead and leave the church. About 28 percent of the population in the Netherlands is Catholic and 18 percent is Protestant, while a much larger proportion - roughly 44 percent - is not religious, according to official statistics.

The country is famous for its liberal attitudes, for example to drugs and prostitution, and in April 2001 it was the first in the world to legalize same-sex marriages. In a Christmas address to Vatican officials, the pope signaled the he was ready to forge alliances with other religions against gay marriage, saying the family was threatened "to its foundations" by attempts to change its "true structure". Roes, a television director, said he left the church and set up his website partly because he was angry about the way the church downplayed or covered-up sexual abuse in Catholic orphanages, boarding schools and seminaries. A report by an independent commission published a year ago said there had been tens of thousands of victims of child sexual abuse in the Netherlands since 1945 and criticized the church's culture of silence.
Reuters

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Hitler statue unveiled outside Warsaw Ghetto (Poland)

27/12/2012- An Italian artist reportedly placed a statue of Adolf Hitler in a building outside what used to be the Warsaw Ghetto. The statue, which depicts Hitler kneeling and is titled “Him,” is part of a new exhibition by Maurizio Cattelan titled "Amen," according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In a statement Thursday, the center called the display a "tasteless misuse of art." Efraim Zuroff, the center's Israel director, referred to the statue as "a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis' victims." The statue reportedly was placed in the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw last month and recently opened to the public. The art center’s website describes the exhibition as an exploration of the notion of “love thy enemy,” adding, “What does forgive those who trespass against us mean? Evoking the traumas of history, they deal with memory and forgetfulness, good and evil.” In the summer of 1942, about 300,000 Jews were deported from Warsaw to the Nazi death camp Treblinka.
JTA News

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Serbia to Remove Monument to Albanian Fighters

As the Serbian PM called on the authorities in South Serbia to remove a monument dedicated to ethnic Albanian fighters, a group of Serbian extremist tried to tear down the memorial by themselves.  

24/12/2012- Fourteen men were arrested on Sunday evening on the road towards the south of Serbia, under suspicion that they were planning to violently remove the monument dedicated to the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, an ethnic Albanians guerrilla force whose goal was to unite South Serbia with Kosovo. According to the police reports, some of those arrested were carrying cold arms including two sledgehammers, and several knives, metal bars and knuckledusters. Previously, speaking at his party’s rally on Saturday, the Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, had called on the authorities in south Serbia to remove the monument. “Some say that I would not dare to remove the monument dedicated to those who killed the Serbian police officers. Either you remove the monument by yourself or it will be destroyed because the Serbian government has the executive power over the whole of its territory,” Dacic said.

The monument, dedicated to the war veterans of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, was erected in November in front of the municipal building in the town of Presevo, in south Serbia. The creation of that ethnic Albanians guerrilla force in the late 1990s resulted in the conflict between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in south Serbia in 2000. It was disarmed in 2001 following an internationally brokered peace deal, after which the Yugoslav Army re-entered the demilitarized area near the border with Kosovo with the approval of NATO. After the conflict ended in South Serbia, the authorities signed the Amnesty Law, which freed all armed men who had participated in the conflict from the threat of prosecution.

The law applies to all those accused of terrorism or joint criminal enterprises in the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja in relation to acts carried out between January 1999 and May 2001. When the monument was erected, Ragimi Mustafa, the president of the municipality of Presevo said that the history of every nation needs to be respected, including the history of the ethnic Albanians in that area. As a response, the Serbian government filed criminal charges against the representatives of the Presevo municipality as the monument was not erected in accordance with the Serbian procedures.
Balkan Insight

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24/12/2012- A Jewish Italian lawmaker has launched an online petition to bar “neo-fascist, neo-Nazi and racist” movements from fielding candidates in upcoming elections. Milan Member of Parliament Emanuele Fiano launched the petition addressed to Italy’s interior minister after the newly formed Italian section of Greece’s extremist Golden Dawn Party announced it wanted to run candidates in general elections scheduled for February. Golden Dawn Italy held its constituent assembly in Rome on Dec. 21. Fiano called on authorities to prevent this by enforcing a 1993 law that bars incitement to racial, ethnic and religious discrimination, and Nazi and fascist ideology. “We appeal to you and the judiciary that this law be rigorously applied,” reads the petition, distributed on the website www.change.org. It urges authorities not to be “indifferent” to the “increasingly aggressive and arrogant recurrence of neo-fascist movements, neo-Nazis and racists in our country: They are an affront to our national community and to our constitution … and a real danger for free and civilized coexistence. We believe that any underestimation of these phenomena is serious and guilty.”
JTA News

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Indian student brutally attacked in Germany over Islam conversion

An Indian man in Bonn claims to have been attacked and had his tongue lacerated by Islamists. He told police that a pair of perpetrators demanded that he convert to Islam before the assault. Police believe his story to be credible

27/12/2012- Police in Bonn are investigating a possible attack on a 24-year-old Indian man who claims to have been the victim of an assault by two Islamists on Christmas Eve. The man, a university student had to be treated at a local hospital for a lacerated tongue following the attack. According to the victim, he was approached by two men who asked him what his religion was before demanding that he convert to Islam. Otherwise, the men said, he was an infidel and his tongue would have to be cut out. Then, as the man tried to walk away, the two assailants attacked him from behind, the victim told police. A passerby happened across the bleeding victim and called an ambulance. He was treated at the hospital and then released.

Police investigators believe the man's story to be credible and also believe that the incident could indeed have been the work of Islamists. He described the perpetrators as having long beards but no moustaches, a style often preferred by Salafists. There were, however, no witnesses to the attack and police are currently searching for suspects. It is not the first time this year that Bonn has hit the headlines as a result of possible Islamist activity. In May, a Salafist was arrested after stabbing two police officers during a counter-demonstration against a display of Muhammad caricatures by a local right-wing populist party. Earlier this month, another member of the orthodox Muslim group threatened to take a hostage in order to force the perpetrator's release from prison.

Also in Dember, a bag full of explosives was found on a platform in Bonn's main train station in an apparent attempted bomb attack. While no charges have been filed in that case, clues reportedly lead to the Salafist community.
The Spiegel

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New German party has its eye on the far-right torch

If authorities succeed in banning the neo-Nazi NPD, its successor is ready and waiting  

24/12/2012- Christian Worch claims to be proud of his family's far-right credentials. His father was a member of Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS fighting force. His grandmother is said to have helped the infamous Gestapo torturer Klaus Barbie – "The Butcher of Lyon" – escape capture. His grandfather was a devoted Nazi party member. Worch's own track record is almost as disturbing. He has spent more than five years in jail for incitement to racial hatred and Holocaust denial. He has campaigned for the return of the Nazi party and attended rallies where participants brandished banners with the slogan: "I am such a donkey that I still believe the Jews were gassed in the concentration camps." The 56-year-old, the educated son of a doctor, is described in Germany's authoritative "Far Right Handbook" as one of the "most experienced neo-fascists in Germany". Yet although he has been written off as a figure without a following, Worch could experience his long hoped-for political breakthrough in 2013.

He is the founder and leader of Germany's latest far-right political party, Die Rechte ("The Right"). The name is a deliberate play on the socialist Die Linke ("The Left") party, which is an established feature of the reunified Germany's political scene. Launched in the summer, "Die Rechte" threatens to become the outright political winner of a new legal battle to impose a nationwide ban on the vociferously racist and anti-immigrant National Democratic Party (NPD), which has been around for the best part of 40 years. Germany's upper house of parliament, which represents the leaders of the country's 16 federal states, has begun legal proceedings to ban the NPD at the constitutional court following the emergence of new data which allegedly exposes the party as fundamentally unconstitutional, overtly racist and a threat to German democracy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has said it will decide in March whether to back the federal states. Legal experts have said, however, that the states can go ahead and attempt to ban the NPD without federal government approval. If the ban is implemented by the constitutional court it could be effective ahead of Germany's September 2013 general election. Opinion polls show that about 70 per cent of Germans are in favour of the ban. But experts on the far right have little doubt that if the 6,000-member NPD is eventually banned, its membership will immediately see Mr Worch's Die Rechte as their new home. A foretaste was provided by a regional NPD party near Frankfurt, which in early November simply switched allegiance to Die Rechte. Bernd Wagner, a former police officer and one of Germany's most experienced observers of the far right, told The Independent: "Die Rechte is simply waiting in the wings. If the NPD ban goes ahead, then it is a virtual certainty that the party will step in to replace it."

Mr Wagner maintains that in a democratic society, the outlawing of one extremist party almost automatically means a replacement will form in its wake. "In this case Die Rechte has been set up before any ban has been imposed," he said. "This makes it even more problematic. The only answer would be another ban." Mr Worch himself has cautiously admitted that any eventual NPD ban could be "useful". However, he has deliberately sought to distance his party from the NPD. Die Rechte claims on its website to be "less radical" than its far-right sister party. It claims to fully adhere to the constitution and insists that its core concern is the "preservation of German identity". Critics say such language is merely an attempt to lend the party's essentially racist manifesto a veneer of middle-class respectability. Although Die Rechte casts itself as a rallying point for all conservatives to the right of Ms Merkel's governing Christian Democrats, it is strongly supported by more radical, militant neo-Nazi groups which Mr Worch himself set up in the mid-1990s.

Unlike the neo-Nazi NPD, which has won parliamentary seats in two east German states, Die Rechte has not had enough time to notch up any election successes since its founding in May this year. The party would need to overcome Germany's 5 per cent voter popularity hurdle if it were to stand any chance of running in a general or regional state election. But the same rule does not apply in elections to the European parliament which are due in 2014. Mr Worch says that the run-off will be Die Rechte's first major popularity test. If Germany goes ahead and bans its NPD bedfellow, Die Rechte may have enough willing canvassers on hand to easily replace its condemned political predecessor.

A legal challenge: The National Democratic Party
Germany's largest neo-Nazi party has 6,000 members, seats in parliament in two east German states and more than 2,020 members on local councils. Founded in the 1960s, it was partially funded by donations from members of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party who went into exile in South America after the Second World War. Its programme is overtly racist but the party takes care to avoid displaying banned Nazi symbols to escape prosecution. Government attempts to outlaw the NDP backfired in 2003. The constitutional court ruled that evidence against the party was inadmissible because it had been collected by "agent provocateurs" from the intelligence service.

Germany's 16 federal states have now launched a second attempt to ban the party. Politicians are under pressure to take action because of a series of immigrant murders uncovered last year, carried out by a far-right terrorist group. However, several leading government members oppose the ban. They argue that it could fail a second time at the constitutional court or in the European Court of Human Rights and hand the NPD a major propaganda victory.
The Independent

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Golden Dawn members implicated in assault by BBC recording (Greece)

24/12/2012- Police in Greece have submitted a BBC tape to prosecutors investigating an alleged assault on an MP by members of the far-right Golden Dawn party. A BBC crew recorded a party member remarking at a meeting that Golden Dawn members had not beaten radical left MP Dimitris Stratoulis hard enough. The party sued Mr Stratoulis when he accused them over the attack. Contacted by the BBC, a party spokesperson dismissed the remarks at the meeting as a "joke". Greek police spokesman Lt Col Christos Manouras told the BBC on Monday that as soon as police heard the BBC broadcast, they recorded the clip of the Golden Dawn meeting and sent it to the office investigating the alleged attack on Mr Stratoulis. The MP from the Syriza bloc was reportedly attacked after a football match in the Olympic Stadium on 16 December by three men who, he says, threatened to kill him. He is said to have suffered light injuries. Golden Dawn is one of the most right-wing parties in Europe and its anti-immigrant language and logo, redolent of a swastika, underline why many call it neo-Nazi, the BBC's Tim Franks reports from Athens. A recent opinion poll suggests the party's support has grown since the last election, when it won 18 seats in parliament. Golden Dawn denies involvement in violence.
BBC News

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Headlines 21 December, 2012

Police report: Increase in racism and abuse (Finland)

19/12/2012- The number of cases of abuse with racist undertones has increased, according to a new report by Finland’s Police Academy. The report revealed that the number of suspected racism cases more than tripled last year compared to the previous year. Nearly 800 infractions classified as hate crimes reported to police last year contained elements of racism. Police have kept records of such crimes for more than ten years. However Finland’s penal code does not recognise racism or hate crimes as criminal offenses. “The study classifies hate crimes as primarily those suspected crimes in which police officers, the victims, or other parties suspect motives of prejudice or which involve slander of the victim’s peer group,” explained researcher Iina Sahramäki of the Police Academy. In more than half of the cases reported, the victims had no prior relations with the suspects.
YLE News.

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