The Syrian refugee crisis has sparked a plethora of problems never before seen in modern society and has provoked world leaders to extreme reactions.
In the US, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump seeks to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country. Across the pond, Chancellor Angela Merkel has launched an anti-hate campaign that many consider to be a serious infringement on civil rights.
As the presumptive GOP nominee, Trump has reiterated his controversial idea to temporarily ban all foreign Muslims from entering the US. “I’m doing the right thing when I do this,” he stated. “And whether it’s Muslim or whether it’s something else, I mean, I have to do the right thing…I’ve been guided by common sense, by what’s right,” he told MSNBC.
“You see what’s happening,” he continued. “We have to be careful. I mean, we’re allowing thousands of people to come into our country, thousands and thousands of people being placed all over the country that frankly nobody knows who they are. They don’t have documentation in many cases. And we don’t know what we’re doing.”
Meanwhile, Western Europe’s most populous nation faces rising crime rates, religious tension, and a surge of incendiary online comments after opening its doors to more than one million refugees. Chancellor Merkel’s response to this influx can be seen as a parallel yet opposite reaction to Donald Trump’s xenophobia.
Germany’s Nazi past has led to the formation of some of the world’s strictest laws when it comes to protecting minorities from hate crimes. Today, offenders face fines and probation time for hateful comments against any particular race, religion, or ethnicity. More recently, Germany authorities have even drawn up contracts with Google, Facebook, and Twitter to censor online content.
Critics complain that enforcing political correctness is a serious infringement on freedom of expression. Should they refrain from commenting on the relationship between rising crime rates and Muslim immigrants, for example, for fear of being charged with incitement?
“It’s not politically correct to say anything against migrants. We don’t have freedom of opinion anymore,” complained a German Twitter user.
Last October, a 26-year-old was slapped with a €300 fine and five months probation for writing on Facebook that refugees should “drown” in the Mediterranean. In September, police raided the house of another young man who has posted a hateful message on social media. The police confiscated his computer and phone.
Proponents of these controversial policies are praising Germany’s government for respecting its new inhabitants while trying to control the most savage and hateful voices in society.
“After WWII, it was clear that anything that could recreate National Socialist or racist thinking had to be stopped,” explains German lawmaker Volker Beck of the Green Party. “I’m a civil rights defender, but there has to be a red line.” The lawmaker recently endured death threats from an anti-refugee group after defending the right for Muslim women to wear veils at school.
Even left-wing groups are starting to admit that Germany’s anti-hate campaign has gone too far. Democracies “must be able to bear” a certain measure of xenophobia, says Chairman Stefan Körner of Germany’s liberal Pirate Party. The country’s agreements with social media outlets will “lead to too many rather than too few comments being blocked,” he complains. “This is creeping censorship, and we definitely don’t want that.”
Merkel’s stance is exemplified by a speech she gave on New Year’s Eve, during which she encouraged Germans to ignore “those with coldness, or even hate in their hearts.” That same night, over 100 sexual assaults and thefts were committed (allegedly by gangs of Muslim men) in the city of Cologne.