By ATIFAH UBAIDILLAH
Amid the rise in terrorist attacks and hate crime throughout the world emerges another rising epidemic that has once again reared its ugly head in the streets of Germany and is now spreading wider. Nazi Germany has long gone, but its effects are profound and everlasting. The rise of neo-Nazism and white supremacy has left many in a state of justified alarm. The fact that these age-old ideologies survived over the years just goes to show that where there is love there will always be hate.
A contributing factor to this issue besides the residual effects of Nazi Germany and slavery in America is the influx of migrants from the Middle East. Many so-called nationalists are against their political leaders giving asylum to these migrants. Some, as in the case of Trump-led US, are pushing for more travel restrictions, stringent border checks and the sending of all illegal immigrants ‘back where they came from’. Movements such as the neo-Nazism are based on group identity and tribalism as opposed to individual freedoms. It is these mentalities that cause them to isolate themselves from others who are different from them and to act on the interests of their ‘tribe’.
Since most members of the alt right and neo-Nazi groups spread their ideologies anonymously online, it is hard to determine who among them are true believers and which are only there to have a good time and provoke an outraged response. Whatever the reasons are, it is clear from recent events in Berlin and Charlottesville that these threats are real and they are becoming even more so the longer we ignore them.
Neo-Nazis have been around in Germany since after the Second World War, bidding their time and waiting for the right moment to make a revival. The National Democratic Party of Germany emerged shortly after the war as “the most significant neo-Nazi party to emerge after 1945”. Despite many attempts to ban the party in later years, it was never deemed to pose a real threat to democracy and has thus survived to this day. It was only after the death of a woman during the alt right or white supremacist march in Charlottesville did both movements garner international attention. Not all Nazi sympathizers are white nationalists but both share one thing in common. Both their mindsets stem from an inborn sense of pride and superiority of their own race. Both feel that their race is in danger of being wiped out by the other and both are acting on fear.
Under the guise of helping youths get in touch with their cultural identity, these groups attempt to recruit fresh meat. Impressionable and naïve youngsters are the ones who often fall into this trap. To appear more palatable to the masses, these groups try to spin their fight into a movement of love rather than hate; claiming that fighting for special rights and protections is not the same as being racist. But apart from what is right and wrong, these groups have sparked another dialogue: whether it is wise to limit hate speech at the expense of threatening freedom of expression.
The United States prides itself in championing absolute freedom of speech, but the rise in hate speech and violence of late has led many to rethink this constitutional right. Everyone has the right to voice out their opinion, but as the recent speech at the University of Florida by white supremacist Richard Spencer has shown, many are unhappy with how this freedom is used to incite violence and hatred amongst communities. The demand for free speech comes secondary when pitted against public safety and national peace. In Germany, neo-Nazis are free to express themselves up to a degree. They are allowed to hold rallies but are legally prohibited from making hateful comments and using certain slogans. The concept of striking a balance in the democratic freedoms is applied to protect the minorities and democracy itself; it is a way to preserve freedom while preventing people from abusing it.
However, just like the debate on gun control, it remains doubtful whether the United States will try to impose restrictions where there has long been absolute and total freedom in all aspects. Seeing how such antiquated thinking still exists in these times, it seems apparent that the struggle for peace and harmony in a multicultural society will be a long and hard battle.