Racists gather for Cologne anti-Islam rally

Racists gather for Cologne anti-Islam rally

By Hans-Peter Killguss

Searchlight, September 2008

SEVERAL HUNDRED racists from all over Europe are expected to flock to a so-called Anti-Islamisation Congress staged by the German fascist pro Köln (pK) organisation to discuss “the foreign infiltration of our cities”.

The congress, in Cologne from 19 to 21 September, comes amid growing racism in Germany. According to one poll, more than 50% of the population favours a ban on mosques. Echoing this, Markus Wiener, a “scientific staff member” of pK, claims there should be “no mosques, no minarets, no muezzin” because “the native population is justifiably worried about creeping Islamisation and the danger of Islamist terror.”

PK was set up in 1996 to campaign against prostitution and only really targeted Muslims after 2000. It recently protested against a new mosque in the Ehrenfeld district of Cologne, distributing tens of thousands of stickers, leaflets and posters and gathering almost 20,000 signatures on a petition.

Although many pK officers and members have been well-known activists in fascist and openly nazi parties, pK claims to be a democratic citizens’ initiative. It styles itself as a “populist” party for the man-in-the-street in contrast to the other parties, which it denounces as corrupt, arrogant and “in hock to the false ideology of multiculturalism”.

After pK gained seats on Cologne city council in 2004, a carbon copy called pro-Deutschland emerged in 2005 followed by pro NRW (Nordrhein Westfalen) in 2007. The primary purpose of September’s Anti-Islamisation Congress is to kick-start the racist campaign for next year’s regional elections in NRW.

Another aim is to improve collaboration between ultra-right groups in Europe ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections. PK already has close links with the Belgian far-right Vlaams Belang whose chairman, Filip Dewinter, will speak at the gathering alongside Andreas Mölzer and Heinz-Christian Strache from the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ).

Henry Nitzsche, a former Christian Democrat from Saxony, will also appear. Nitzsche, who is still an MP, once claimed patriotism was vital to prevent Germany from being ruled by what he termed “Multi-Kulti-Schwuchteln” (multicultural poofters). He is an important figurehead because pK is now trying to appeal mainly to conservatives.

The most prominent speaker invited is Jean Marie Le Pen, president of the French Front National. Another well-known speaker will be Mario Borghezio of the Italian Lega Nord (see below).

Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, had been on the guest list but after German anti-fascists, with help from Searchlight, published his comments denying the Holocaust, his name was withdrawn just before Cologne city council and the German Interior Ministry condemned the congress.

A broad front, the Alliance for Mass Blockades, is mobilising opposition to the congress and has urged mass civil disobedience in an appeal backed by many different political groups, artists, musicians and pubs. Anti-fascists from all over Europe have pledged their support and trade unionists in Cologne will organise active protests.

Italy: Government party MEP to attend anti-Islam congress

By Alfio Bernabei

Searchlight, September 2008

THE NORTHERN LEAGUE, which has four ministers in Silvio Berlusconi’s Cabinet, including the Interior Ministry, is to take part in an international meeting aimed at channelling racist and islamophobic sentiments into a common strategy for the 2009 European elections. The meeting in Cologne from 19 to 21 September is expected to attract nazis and fascists from across Europe.

The “No to islamisation” meeting is organised by the German far-right group pro-Köln and is being advertised through several websites, including one bearing the slogan “White Pride Worldwide”, as “the very first Anti-Islam congress the world has ever seen”.

Some of the most inflammatory names in European race politics are expected to speak at the meeting, including Jean-Marie Le Pen from France, Heinz-Christian Strache from Austria and Filip Dewinter from Belgium.

The Northern League will be represented by Mario Borghezio, an MEP and one of its most prominent figures. He would certainly have declined the invitation had he felt that his attendance was contrary to the wishes of a key member of his party, the Home Secretary Roberto Maroni, and of Prime Minister Berlusconi himself.

Borghezio has excellent credentials for this kind of meeting. He began his political career as a member of the fascist group Ordine Nuovo led by Pino Rauti, who is still under investigation for terrorist activities. He later joined the Northern League, which has been at the forefront of the xenophobic trend since its inception in the 1980s.

Once an insignificant regional movement led by the rabble-rouser Umberto Bossi, whose first targets were southern Italians who he considered parasites, the League was given legitimacy by Berlusconi who brought it into his first government in 1994 alongside the fascists led by Gianfranco Fini. Never a mass party – it got 4.1% of the vote in the 2005 elections and 8.3% last April – the League acquired a high profile nationally thanks to Berlusconi’s granting of important Cabinet posts to its MPs.

While Bossi held the stage entertaining the media with his secessionist demands and latrine jokes (he said would use the Italian flag to wipe his ass) his foot soldiers were infecting the political and cultural climate of the whole country by encouraging violence against immigrants, staging Ku Klux Klan-style torch-lit demonstrations against the building of mosques and mounting attacks against Roma camps. Borghezio made his mark by setting fire to the tents of immigrants in Turin and later fought hard to convince people that immigrants were responsible for the spread of dangerous diseases such as TB.

Italy’s semi-official government presence at the Cologne meeting is probably intended as a slap in the face to the European Commission for Human Rights, which in a recent memorandum (CommDH 2008-18) accused the Italian government of virtual collusion in the xenophobic and racist trend that has taken a turn for the worse with the continuing attacks against immigrants and Roma people.

The 14-page memorandum speaks of over 1,000 Roma dwellings destroyed in Rome alone, of violent attacks by the police against camps and destruction of property, and of unaccountable delays in launching investigations into attacks conducted by individuals who set fire to the camps. In a damning passage the memorandum notes that “the hostile environment … has recently been fostered by statements of certain national and local political figures as well as by a number of mass media in the country. In meetings with the Commissioner [Thomas Hammarberg] representatives of important NGOs deplored an almost total lack of rejection of xenophobic statements by senior politicians.”

The memorandum also notes with concern that in 2006 “anti-racism legislation [in Italy] was modified by Law 85/2006 which seriously reduced the sentences provided for in cases of propaganda advocating racial or ethnic superiority or hatred, and instigation to commit or the commission of discriminatory or violent acts on racial, ethnic, national or religious grounds”. It recommends the restoring of the old, more severe penalties.

This is unlikely to happen. The Berlusconi government returned to power after an electoral campaign centred on xenophobia, and followed it up with a “security package” that includes fingerprinting of Roma children, soldiers in the streets, expulsions of irregular immigrants and the declaration of a state of emergency in three regions – measures which are unlikely to reduce crime and which do not affect the Mafia. The most likely prospect is that the government will continue to play the racist card to strengthen its position in order to make further gains at the European elections in June 2009.

Borghezio’s presence in Cologne fits within this framework. He is refurbishing his credentials in case people forgot the slogan he shouted at a public meeting: “no to immigrant shits, no to Muslims who are f***ing up our schools”. Last month he walked into a Catholic Church in Genoa to swear an oath that he would oppose, by force if necessary, a plan by the municipality to build an Islamic centre. This act alone will probably guarantee him a round of applause when he steps on the podium in Cologne, next to Le Pen and co, with the difference that he is in a position to hint at a subtext to his speech, namely: “I represent the Italian government”.