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Fighting Extremists of All Stripes

Good sense versus extremism in Germany.

2:47 PM, Jan 15, 2010 • By ULF GARTZKE
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Kristina Koehler, Germany’s new Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, has come under sharp attack from the political left for stating the obvious, namely that it is important to fight all forms of extremism. Last October, just a few weeks before the 32-year-old Bundestag member was made the country’s youngest minister in a surprise cabinet reshuffle by Chancellor Merkel, Koehler issued a press release lauding the fact that Germany’s new center-right CDU/CSU-FDP government had agreed to combat vigorously all extremist groups:

A differentiation between good and bad extremists is absurd....In the previous Grand Coalition it was impossible to reach an anti-totalitarian consensus in the fight against extremism. There was only agreement on the need to combat right-wing extremists. In contrast, the governing left-wing SPD party systematically downplayed and ignored the threat posed by left-wing extremism and Islamic fundamentalism, which it viewed as a taboo.

In this context, Koehler was referring to government-sponsored prevention and deradicalization programs that had previously been limited to combating young right-wing extremists only. According to the new German government’s coalition treaty, such programs are now going to be extended to left-wing extremists and Islamic fundamentalist youth. Not surprisingly, politicians from the post-communist Left Party, the Greens, and the SPD quickly launched polemic attacks on Minister Koehler, accusing her of trivializing right-wing extremism.

Those who follow events on the ground in Berlin will know that left-wing thugs enjoy torching (luxury) cars in the German capital on an almost daily--rather, nightly--basis. Violent attacks on police officers in Berlin and other major German cities like Hamburg are on the rise. According to estimates by Germany’s internal security services, there are about 6,000 hard-core left-wing extremists in the country. In 2008, felonies perpetrated by left-wing extremist groups jumped up 13 percent to more than 6,700 incidents nation-wide.

The domestic security threat posed by the roughly 30 different Islamic fundamentalist groups operating in Germany is even more serious and has definitely increased in recent years. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the number of hard core Islamists has grown from roughly 33,170 in 2007 to 34,720 in 2008.

Despite the blowback, it is encouraging to see that Germany’s new government is determined to fight vigorously against extremists of all stripes.

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