Saturday, July 11, 2020

Germany’s evolving fight against the far-right extremism

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Holger Munch, President BKA, Germany | Source:  Olaf Kosinsky (kosinsky.eu) via Wikimedia | Under Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0-de

Several shocking incidents of attacks on racial or religious minorities in Germany are making headlines for the last few  years.

In June 2019, a pro-refugee regional official Walter Lübcke was gunned down at his home in Central Germany by a 45-year old man, Stephan-Ernt’s. According to the prosecutor, Dr. Walter Lübcke's argument in favor of accommodating refugees in the town of Lohfelden had instigated xenophobic and extremist thoughts in the mind of his killer.

Two people were killed by a heavily armed man during a failed attempt of massacre at a Synagogue in the city of Halle in October 2019. In yet another shootout, nine immigrants and ethnic-minority Germans were killed during an unrestrained shooting in Hanau on 19th February 2020.

The government investigations and media reports blamed individuals linked or influenced by the far-right extremists groups for these attacks.

In November 2011, government Investigations revealed that National Socialist Underground(NSU), a Neo-Nazi terrorist group has fuelled the Nazi idealogy for decades and is responsible for various killings including murders of immigrants and foreigners.

Another far-right group known as the Frietal Group, launched attacks on refugee shelter houses and political opponents in the town of Saxony in 2015, claiming that they are protecting Germany from foreigners.

The German law enforcement authority also arrested members of the Revolution Chemnitz in 2018, who were allegedly planning attacks on immigrants, journalists and political opponents. Eight members of the group were sentenced to several years in prison by a court in Germany on 24th March 2020.

Looking at the rampant spread of hate, Holger Munch, the president of Federal Investigative Police Agency of Germany (BKA), accepted that suspects of the right-wing extremist under the observation of BKA have increased from 4 in 2012 to 46 in 2020, adding that “the far-right poses a pernicious and growing threat with 3 acts of far-right violence every day”.

In order to curb the spread of hatred, xenophobia, and anti-semitism by the right-wing activists, the German Government drafted a nine-point strategy to combat the recent.

The key aspects of the nine-point strategy a) Internet Service Providers to report any hate speech forwarded/shared on Social Media or the Internet along with the IP address of the wrongdoer to the government authorities, b) Tighten Gun laws with a mandatory check on requests to keep arms by the domestic intelligence police (BfV) was another stance of the government, c) Revising the existing prevention programs aimed to tackle right-wing extremism, and d)  Special protection for the politicians at local, state, and federal level who were considered to be under the threat from right-wing extremists.

The BKA President, Holger Münch said that by deploying a police patrol team online just like police officers patrol streets, the government can ensure promising results. With the increase in funding and personnel in Germany’s security apparatus sanctioned in the state budget discussion 2020, Münch reflected optimism that agencies could now work better and more efficiently in battling crime and violence.

Keeping aside the various controversies, it is also imperative to acknowledge the efforts of Dortmund, a western city in Germany, in curbing the rising trend of far-right extremism. Dortmund being an important city in the country invited migrants from Turkey and Southeast. More than 3000 immigrants from over 70 countries including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan live here making it a hotspot, attracting xenophonic and far-right crimes.

In 2015, a special task force was set up in Dortmund to take action against far-right extremists and the city to a large extent has been successful in curbing their activities. According to the city's police chief, Gregor Lange, Offenses such as sedition, verbal assault, racist propaganda, and damage to property were down by 25%. Violent crimes such as arson and bodily assault went down by 35% year-on-year. The drop is even more impressive compared to five years ago, when figures were 50% and 80% higher, respectively.

The success of Dortmund city in fighting far-right extremism gives a hope that the nationwide implementation of nine-point strategy will help in curbing the rising trend of violent extremism in Germany

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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