by Yojana Sharma
(IPS) BERLIN --
Nazi parties, normally known for their white supremacist views and extreme xenophobia against foreigners, including Muslims, have taken to the streets to protest the Western bombing of Afghanistan.
Some 60 members of the far-right National Party demonstrated in the center of Berlin on Oct. 7 shouting "Solidarity with Afghanistan" and "USA -- a center for genocide."
According to Hans-Joachim Kunz of the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), the internal intelligence organization which monitors far right activity, recent attacks on the U.S. by terrorists were applauded by the far right.
"Neo-Nazis and Islamic fundamentalists have a common ideology -- they both see the U.S. as their enemy," Kunz said. The neo-Nazi groups also pepper their websites with anti-Semitic slogans.
The OPC in Berlin also noted that there is as much danger of retaliatory action by neo-Nazi groups against U.S., Jewish, or Israeli targets in Germany in the wake of the air strikes against Afghanistan as by radical Islamic groups.
At a press conference yesterday just outside Berlin, the far right National Party, which the German government is trying to ban, condemned the U.S.-British attacks on Afghanistan.
The same evening, neo-Nazis demonstrated, some wearing checkered Palestinian headscarves, their leader Lutz Giesen accusing the U.S. of being "uncivilized."
Heiner Wegesin, an OPC official in the state of Brandenburg, said the extreme right in Germany had "even swallowed their hatred of Palestinians. The common enemy is the USA and world Jewry," he said. In the past, xenophobic attacks by neo-Nazis against Turks, Arabs and other Muslims were common.
Police believe such attacks against foreigners were unlikely to abate, despite the far right's professed sympathy for Afghanistan. Most far right groups in Germany have expressed only indirect sympathy with radical Muslim groups and mainly used the attacks on the U.S. as political capital in Berlin where local elections are underway.
National Party and other neo-Nazi groups such as the Republicans and German People's Party are fielding candidates in elections in Berlin on Oct. 21. They have characterized the mainstream parties as "war-mongering" and insist they stand for "peace for Germany."
But they have also warned of the "dangers of Islam."
The far right groups have borrowed slogans from elsewhere in the political spectrum to vent their anger against the U.S. In a long speech relayed through a megaphone, Giesen on Oct. 7 called on Germany not to join in the anti-terrorism conflict -- "not for America, not for Coca Cola, not for McDonald's" -- slogans used by anti-globalization protesters.
Earlier the National Party had rejoiced at the Sept. 11 attacks, burning the U.S. flag during a public demonstration while police looked on, an act which Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit described as "the most sickening kind of far right incitement."
"This is what the badge of terrorism looks like," yelled Mario Schulz, a well-known member of the Nationalist Party in the town of Neurippin, as the U.S. flag burned.
Other neo-Nazi groups, including the group Resistance, had welcomed the Sept. 11 attacks as retribution for the Allied victory over Nazi Germany during WWII.
But the most vocal and outspoken has been the National Party's most prominent neo-Nazi, Horst Mahler, a lawyer and formerly a member of the left-wing Red Army Faction terrorist group. In a controversial interview on television, which many politicians now say should not have been aired, Mahler last month praised the attacks on New York and Washington and said America had got what it deserved.
"At last the Americans have been struck at their heart," he said shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, describing the perpetrators as "warriors prepared to kill themselves" to "break the power of money." World finance is seen by neo-Nazis as controlled by Americans and Jews.
Germany is finding itself in the odd situation of having to deal with radical German groups, rather than, as it had previously expected, Muslim groups demonstrating against the attacks on Afghanistan.
Earlier Interior Minister Otto Schily had said: "We will not tolerate Islamic propaganda welcoming events in the United States."
However, Muslim groups are largely silent in Germany. Almost none have openly condemned the U.S. action against Afghanistan that began last weekend, and indications are that most have silently supported it, although with reservations.
Pacifist groups, including Germany's Green Party, have held more muted protests against the air strikes. Neither Muslims nor pacifists would see the Neo-Nazis as being on their side by condemning U.S. action.
But despite the surreal nature of the situation, police investigators and Germany's internal intelligence agency take a potential alliance between the far right and radical Islamic groups very seriously. The far right has stashed arms in the past and has been seen as capable of launching terrorist attacks within Germany.
Until now there has been no direct link between the attacks on the United States and the extreme right in Germany, according to Schily. However, recent activity by the far right "might support the (government's) application for the ban on the NPD (National Party)," he said.
Wegesin also said it was unlikely that radical Muslims, which had built up a web of "sleepers" in Germany, who had lain low until "activated," would cooperate with the far right. Neo-Nazi groups are closely watched and well-infiltrated by Germany's internal intelligence.
October 17, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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