Europe seeks to remove extremism from politics

BERLIN — For years, the conversation about extremism across Europe was about Islamic extremism and terrorism, but now the debate has shifted toward far-right ideology, which governments say needs to be regulated to protect democracies.

The problem is arguably most pronounced in Germany, where calls are growing for a ban on the country’s second-most popular party, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the government hopes Cutting off funding for right-wing extremist networks. In the UK, the government wants to stop extremists from meeting lawmakers or receiving public funds and plans to publish a new list of groups it considers “extremist,” Focus more on faith than violent tendencies.

The debate over extremism has been going on for a long time, since the early 2000s and the terrorist attacks in the United States and Britain. As recently as 2015, then-prime minister David Cameron declared, “I believe the fight against Islamic extremism is one of the greatest fights of our generation.”

The threat now is no longer extremists planting bombs and carrying out violent attacks, but the spread of undemocratic ideologies in society.

“The emphasis has changed since the early 2000s. It’s much broader now. It’s about thinking about what we want the public to discuss rather than focusing on any particular threat,” said Rod Dacomb, a politics expert at King’s College London .

He pointed out that in the UK, there are more people who hold far-right views than extreme Islamic ideologies. See Prevention and Diversiona counter-extremism plan signed by the government.

In Germany, where history has made the existence of right-wing movements one of the most sensitive issues, efforts to protect democracy in recent months have focused on growing far-right extremism in the country, which the interior ministry now considers to be the biggest threat facing society. threaten. In February this year, the government announced a 13-point plan to “use all means of the rule of law to protect our democracy”. Proposals include new laws that would make it easier to freeze bank accounts and cut funding sources for extremists.

The country’s domestic intelligence service classified the AfD as a “suspected case of far-right extremism” and placed it under surveillance. The Alternative for Germany, which has higher public support than any of the three parties in the ruling coalition, is appealing the classification.

If the intelligence service gathers evidence that the party is “confirmed extremist”, it could step up efforts to ban it – a dangerous process that could take years.

The German constitution does allow for the banning of political parties that “seek to undermine or abolish the basic order of liberal democracy,” but the threshold for doing so is extremely high. The country’s Constitutional Court has done so only twice – in 1952 against the Socialist Reich Party, the successor to the Nazi Party, and in 1956 against the German Communist Party.

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Calls to ban the AfD outright have grown louder in recent weeks after a group of senior party members met with far-right extremists in January to discuss plans to forcibly deport immigrants.As soon as the report came out, it caused a nationwide uproar. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in demonstrations Described as “pro-democracy, against the right”.

Earlier this month, German regional broadcaster Bayerische Radio also reported that more than 100 people working for Alternative for Germany lawmakers were part of a group classified as right-wing extremist.

Germany’s deep-rooted concept of “radical democracy” allows for restrictions on the rights of those considered enemies of democracy in the name of protecting democracy.

Andreas Busch, a political scientist at the University of Göttingen, said of Germany’s post-World War I situation: “The idea of ​​’radical democracy’ originated at the end of the Weimar Republic, when we saw democracy There was no way to defend themselves.” The government was powerless to stop the rise of the Nazis.

Support for far-right parties has increased in many European countries in recent years, and analysts predict that sharp right turn In the upcoming European Parliament elections in June, 400 million people in the EU can vote.

Joseph Downing, a security expert at the London School of Economics, said that across Europe, voters are increasingly feeling unrepresented by mainstream parties, and groups such as Germany’s Alternative for Germany and France’s National Front “certainly feel that way.” development. “

He said extreme political views were becoming increasingly popular, in part due to growing inequality and falling living standards. “People look at the structure of the economy and say, ‘Something isn’t working here.'” “Why can’t people in their 40s afford a house?”

Meanwhile, in the UK, views on immigration, once unique to the far right, have been adopted by the Conservative Party and become mainstream. Downing said that for many years there had been a “gentleman’s agreement of sorts that governments would not politicize immigration”, but “that agreement clearly broke down during the 2016 Brexit referendum”.

In the UK, some groups are expected to be labeled “extremist” under government sanctions in the coming weeks. A new definition of extremism This one is more ideological than the one in 2011, which was more focused on violence. The government said the change was made because of a surge in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents. Israel and Hamas war.

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Conservative politician Michael Gove, the head of the department that drew up the new rules, said five groups were being assessed, three of which had “Islamist tendencies” and two promoted “neo-Nazi ideology”.

Gove said: “Our democracy and our values ​​of inclusion and tolerance are being challenged by extremists.” tell parliament March 14th. “To protect our democratic values, it is important to both strengthen our commonalities while clearly and accurately identifying the dangers posed by extremism.”

Downing said the government’s new definition of extremism – “promoting or advancing an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance” – would mean more groups would be considered extremist than before.

Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system in part insulates it from the threat of extremist groups winning at the ballot box without overwhelming support, making German-style “radical democracy” less necessary. However, critics fear the new rules will undermine free speech and sow division in the community.

“We all agree that promoting certain types of violence is bad, whether it’s blowing up subways or attacking mosques. When it comes to ideology, it becomes even more imprecise,” Downing said.

Case in point: Gove was recently asked on the BBC whether pro-Palestinian demonstrators in London chanting “from the river to the sea” – about a future Palestinian state – would be considered “extremist”. He said no, not if this was a “one-time use” of the phrase. Asked if people would say the phrase repeatedly and send it to Big Ben, Gove said if there was “a pattern of behavior from an organization that promotes a particular ideological view, people could point to that ideology and others Action” and then evaluate. “

Analysts warn that labeling groups “extremist” can actually help them thrive. They can then portray themselves as being persecuted by the system, which may strengthen their cause.

Oliver Decker of the University of Leipzig warned that repression alone would not be enough to address the threat to democracy from extremism.

“Categorizing a party as ‘suspected of extremism’ or banning a party outright just puts the emergency brake on,” Decker said. “The question is: what do we do when we label something ‘extremist’? The task of politics and the public sphere is also to deal with the what and why of this growing threat to democracy.”

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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