By Hassanal Noor Rashid
With 2016 still at its infancy, the beginning of the year has been marked with extraordinarily explosive events that may very well set the trend for the year and will continue to persist for a longer time.
New Year’s eve saw reports of mass sexual assaults in Cologne, termed Taharrush in the Arabic tongue or known also as the rape game.
This incident had provoked mass outrage among German citizens towards immigrants and Syrian refugees, mainly due to the fact that those in custody as suspects of the crime were primarily asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa.This had also resulted in a backlash against Chancellor Merkel’s administration and its decision to open Germany’s borders to Syrian refugees fleeing persecution from Islamic State militants in Syria. Criticisms range from the poor institutional processing of refugees to the failure to
empower law enforcement personnel to effectively handle the influx of crime brought on by such large migration of people.
What is most distressing however is that the harshest reaction was reserved for the refugees themselves. Soon after, protests adorned with signs reading Rapefugees Not Welcome and other such derogatory slogans began emerging in the public space. Right wing groups in Europe such as Pegida had found their proverbial smoking gun to finally prove once and for all of the
encroaching threat of Islamization to further reinforce their bigotry and racist ideology. Distinction between criminals and other refugees mattered very little in the eyes of right-wing Pegida ; the whole lot of the refugees were the problem.
Another similar parallel could actually be found in Australia, where another right wing movement has taken shape, calling itself Reclaim Australia. Quite similar in many regards to the right wing groups of Europe, Reclaim Australia promotes fear-mongering among Australians, such as an encroaching halal industry, as well as reports of cultural and racial dilution.
Australia has a long history of racism institutionalized in its political and social discourse which borders on outright xenophobia, and this is most evident in the state’s appalling treatment of illegal immigrants as well as the highly discriminatory practices in its refugee policies.
Such attitudes are entrenched within the right wing movements in Australia, with supporters of Reclaim Australia advocating for the outright ban of Muslims from gaining citizenship in the country and even the registering and monitoring of Muslim groups who already reside in
When the Syrian refugee crisis was at its peak, Australian Federal Cabinet Minister Scott Morrisson highlighted that there would be more focus on persecuted minorities among the Syrian refugees, in particular the Christian Syrians. It seems that when Muslim groups are persecuted by other Muslim groups, they rest on the lower scale of importance for humanitarian assistance.
On the larger international stage, Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump is perhaps one significant element in the recent rise of the right wing movements. His call for the banning of Muslims from entering the United States and his own bigoted anti-immigrant views have
made him a favourite among right wing groups and has further empowered their cause.
Another dimension which is leading to the rise of right wing movements is perhaps economic. Apart from the refugee crisis which, it appears, will persist for a long time more to come, there are harbingers of world-wide economic instability, evidenced by the poor performance of industrial superpowers such as China, the lowering of oil prices, and the bleak outlook for
the Eurozone, with many proclaiming that the European Union is on the verge of collapse.
As noted by Jason Wilson, a contributor to the Guardian, it is a common occurrence that when the economic situation is at a negative state, right wing movements will find it much easier to ignite resentment among the local population. Social ills can then be blamed upon the Other and
resentment towards this external group can be further exacerbated to a point where violence can be made justifiable.
With all these elements coming together, the Western world and Europe in particular is experiencing what can be called a Right-Wing Renaissance. Through the conjuring of deeply rooted cultural phobias along with hate-filled rhetoric, the right wing movements continue their march fuelled by their bigotry and ill informed prejudices. Their conviction in their ideology is
only matched by their lack of compassion for their fellow human beings.
(Hassanal Noor Rashid is the Program Coordinator of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
By Hassanal Noor Rashid