German authorities have announced a plan to place anti-Islamic websites under surveillance because of growing concern that they are becoming more radical and fomenting right-wing violence.
The attack by Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in July and posted a “manifesto” on the internet, threw a spotlight on the role played by websites as a forum for spreading hatred of Muslims in Europe.
Right-wing populists and websites condemned Mr Breivik as a crazed loner. But many of the arguments in his 1,500-page declaration matched their own rhetoric, sparking accusations that they have been breeding violence by railing against Muslims.
In Germany, calls for greater scrutiny of the far-right intensified after the revelation in November that a neo-Nazi terrorist cell murdered at least 10 people, eight of them Muslim immigrants of Turkish origin, in a killing spree spanning more than a decade. The case has embarrassed German authorities and exposed them to criticism that they have been blind to the threat posed by racists.
The head of the Hamburg branch of the intelligence agency, Manfred Murck, said there were clear signs that the operators of many anti-Muslim sites “had a disturbed relationship with the democratic rule of law” and often espoused “infringements of human rights protected under our constitution”.
A member of parliament for the opposition Left Party, Ulla Jelpke, said closer supervision of such sites was long overdue. “Blogs and websites such as Politically Incorrect or Nürnberg 2.0 clearly promote a racism that extends deep into society,” said Ms Jelpke.
“They call into question the dignity and the rights of a whole group of people solely because of their origin or their faith. They thereby clearly run counter to core values of the constitution.” She said it was “scandalous” that authorities had been ignoring such sites, and alleged that institutional racism may be to blame for the lack of determination to crack down on them. “Prejudice against Muslims isn’t a problem of the periphery but of the heart of society. That’s why it’s so dangerous.”
Separately, the state prosecutor’s office in Munich said last week it had launched an investigation into Michael Stürzenberger, a politician who has written blogs for Politically Incorrect, on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred.
Mr Stürzenberger, a former spokesman for the conservative Christian Social Union party, wrote on January 5: “The totalitarian claim to power inherent in Islam and its legitimisation of violence and killing cannot have a place in a democratic and free society.”