A recent documentary by Deutsche Welle illustrates a new trend in international extremism. Other events suggest that this may represent a rising wave of violence and intolerance.
Mo Asumang of Deutsche Welle did a documentary titled The Aryans. There are villages in Germany where Jews and "foreigners" (presumably people of color) do not go out at night, and where other Germans who are not extremists are afraid to talk about the takeover of their home towns.
Extremism is always with us, whether it comes from Salafis or Neo-Nazis. It is the duty of every generation to keep it under control. But a number of events worldwide lead me to believe that the re-emergence of neo-Nazism is part of a rising wave of international violence and intolerance that is, to some degree, abetted by reactionary business and political leaders. That this should be occurring within the living memory of the Holocaust is a scandal.
The article that inspired me to write this diary is this one by Libby Brooks of The Guardian. Part of the victory celebrations by British loyalists on Scottish streets after the independence vote included people who "shouted loyalist slogans and racist abuse, and appeared to make Nazi salutes."
That's not so much on its own. But a recent news story regarding the neo-Nazis in the ranks of Kiev's army has also been nagging at me:
A German news outlet aired video Monday showing some Ukrainian soldiers with helmets and gear displaying Nazi symbols, according to reports.
The footage on TV station ZDF showed volunteer soldiers with swastikas and the “SS runes” of Adolph Hitler’s elite corps, NBC News reported. Videojournalists for a Norwegian broadcaster captured the video in eastern Ukraine last week.
The soldiers are reportedly members of the Azov battalion, a volunteer military force in Ukraine with nationalist tendencies. Members of the battalion, however, deny that they believe in a fascist ideology, the International Business Times reported.
These are not just a few misfits. The Azov Battalion is the spearhead, or one of the spearheads, of an otherwise ineffectual Ukrainian Army. Shaun Walker, The Guardian:
"I have nothing against Russian nationalists, or a great Russia," said Dmitry, as we sped through the dark Mariupol night in a pickup truck, a machine gunner positioned in the back. "But Putin's not even a Russian. Putin's a Jew."
there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine's most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists, they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over. The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members.
Dmitry claimed not to be a Nazi, but waxed lyrical about Adolf Hitler as a military leader, and believes the Holocaust never happened. Not everyone in the Azov battalion thinks like Dmitry, but after speaking with dozens of its fighters and embedding on several missions during the past week in and around the strategic port city of Mariupol, the Guardian found many of them to have disturbing political views, and almost all to be intent on "bringing the fight to Kiev" when the war in the east is over.
The US has been indirectly supporting the Azov Batallion, and elements like it, before, during, and after the coup. In so doing, in the name of opposing the aggressive authoritarian Putin, we may be bringing to power in the heart of Europe a group that could replace the Poroshenko government with something far more sinister. Fighting fire with fire usually ends with getting oneself burned.
There are many other cases of the emergence of neo-Nazism from obscurity to the headlines, such as the Breivik massacre. These are easy to write off as lone madmen. But Mo Asumang's documentary asks us to consider why Germany's national government cannot make its own citizens feel safe from extremism in some German towns.
Of course, then perhaps we should also ask the same of our own government why Leith and Bonner County (and many other places where the white supremacism is less adaptable to tabloid journalism) are similarly embattled.
As our experience with Salafi extremism has demonstrated. extremism can only survive if it receives support from wealthy, powerful interests. Ed Husain, NYT:
Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.
Most Sunni Muslims around the world, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim population, are not Salafis. Salafism is seen as too rigid, too literalist, too detached from mainstream Islam. While Shiite and other denominations account for 10 percent of the total, Salafi adherents and other fundamentalists represent 3 percent of the world’s Muslims.
Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. The kingdom also grants compliant imams V.I.P. access for the annual hajj, and bankrolls ultraconservative Islamic organizations like the Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth.
What is religious extremism but this aim to apply Shariah as state law? This is exactly what ISIS (Islamic State) is attempting do with its caliphate. Unless we challenge this un-Islamic, impractical and flawed concept of trying to govern by a rigid interpretation of Shariah, no amount of work by a United Nations agency can unravel Islamist terrorism.
In our eagerness to bring down dictators like Saddam, Assad, and Qaddafi--and in our eagerness to revenge ourselves on Iran--we have inadvertently helped bring to power dangerous elements like ISIS. Let us hope that in our eagerness to opposed Russian and Chinese imperialism, we do not bring to power the neo-Nazis of Ukraine or Japan
Barely a week after Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, overhauled his administration amid flagging popularity, two of his senior colleagues have been forced to distance themselves from rightwing extremism after photographs emerged of them posing with the country’s leading neo-Nazi.
Update: Although I didn't think that the presence of Nazi salutes in a unionist rally in Scotland wasn't much, maybe it was. The Scottish BNP apparently supported the unionist vote. The BNP, while not outright neo-Nazi, certainly is admired by them.