Stuttgart Despatch International

Far-Right is not a fringe any more


Last week, German politician Alexander Gauland, leader of the right-wing Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), shocked many by his statement in an interview. He claimed that Aydan Özoguz, the Commissioner for Immigration, Refugees and Integration, needs to be “disposed of in Anatolia”. Ms. Özoguz has Turkish roots and had recently criticised the notion of ‘German culture’ used by conservative and right-wing politicians to attack refugees and immigrants. Many people believe Mr. Gauland crossed the tolerable limits of political discourse. Thomas Fischer, a former federal judge, denounced Mr. Gauland, a jurist himself. However, Mr. Gauland doesn’t have a second thought on what he said. He later said that he would not withdraw his words, and many of his supporters agree with him. “What’s the problem with such a statement?” one of them asked on social media. Even renowned media outlets like Der Spiegel preferred to focus on Ms. Özoguz’s statements instead of Mr. Gauland’s tirade.

All this does not come as a surprise. The AfD’s rise in popularity has led to a normalisation of the language of right-wing populism and extremism in German political discourse. Its rhetoric of hatred has now become salonfähig (acceptable), at a time Germany is preparing for parliamentary polls later this month. “The AfD has become mainstream and other politicians imitate them not to lose their voters,” Ali, 23, told this reporter. Mr. Ali, who was born and raised in Germany and has Turkish roots, fears the possible success of right-wing politicians in the September 24 elections.

There are different reasons for the AfD’s rise. One of them is the space its leaders get on the media. Despite the AfD being a very small party, not a day passes without it making the headlines in German media. Politicians like Mr. Gauland, the AfD leader, regularly occupy prime time space. And many times, the party’s representatives cross new limits.

The strategy works. Recently, German state television declared that it will stop constantly referring to the AfD as a “right-wing populist” party. Some said the party had become mainstream enough to defy the label. AfD politicians were only too happy about the decision.


In reality, it is wrong to describe the AfD even as a “right-wing populist” party. It is a right-wing group with a philosophy underpinned by a strong element of racism and rhetoric that borders on fascistic arguments. The party regularly subjects immigrants, especially Muslims, to its racist rhetoric. Additionally, many of its leaders have connections to other right-wing groups and even neo-Nazis.

‘March of fascists’

Many German voters fear the rise of the AfD. “I’m not a political person. But now I have to vote to prevent the marching of these fascists into the Bundestag [German Parliament],” Stephanie, 24, a student from the city of Cologne, told this reporter.

The most worried, however, are Germany’s Muslims. “Since the AfD appeared on the country’s political landscape, it has become much easier to attack Muslims, not just verbally but also physically. Islamophobia is on the rise. Other major political parties do not prevent that. Instead, they imitate the AfD’s rhetoric and make the hatred acceptable,” said Samira, who has just finished her medical studies. Ms. Samira, who has Afghan roots and wears a Muslim headscarf, believes that her future in Germany is not secure. “I think dark times are coming for Muslim immigrants in this country. For that reason, I’m thinking about leaving Germany.”

Emran Feroz is a freelance journalist based in Stuttgart

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 10:13:29 AM |

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