Guest post by Pink Prosecco
Economic instability is feeding extremism, leading to persecution of society’s scapegoats.
The rise of Greece’s fascist Golden Dawn party has gone hand in hand with violent attacks against immigrants. The police have been rounding up immigrants on a regular basis, and complaints have been made about both brutality and racial profiling. Also disturbing are the responses of various officials to attempts to house undocumented migrants in unused army camps. The mayor of Corinth threatened to cut off a camp’s water supply and rubbish collection if the migrants weren’t taken away.
In Sweden, a leading member of a party with representation in parliament, Sweden Democrats, has called for Islam to be banned and Muslims to be deported.
Pär Norling’s outrageous suggestion has been greeted with squeals of delight from the blogosphere’s bigots.
The Roma have long been subjected to discrimination in Europe. Hungary, which saw huge numbers of Roma murdered in the Holocaust, is undergoing a marked revival of anti-Roma feeling. The far right Jobbik party is particularly vocal on this issue:
“”We need to roll back these hundreds of thousands of Roma outlaws. We must show zero tolerance towards Roma crime and parasitism,” Jobbik chairman Gabor Vona told a rally of several hundred people in Heroes’ Square in central Budapest.”
For him too, the backup solution is deportation – even though the Roma have lived in Europe for centuries.
Antisemitism is another perennial problem. It’s one thing putting on a racist play as a curiosity, recognizing that times have moved on. But even though István Csurka’s play ‘The Sixth Coffin’, recently staged in Hungary, indulges in antisemitic conspiracy-mongering its director seems unconcerned; Eve Balogh writes about it here:
“What is truly frightening is the reaction of the play’s director, Zsolt Pozsgay. To him “Csurka only used a historical event in its historical reality.” As for its antisemitism, to Pozsgay “there are no antisemitic thoughts in the play. There are only historical facts.””
In Britain, such views are much less mainstream. However here too there are problems. To take just one example, disability hate crime is on the rise, with over 65,000 incidents reported last year. This crime, like racism, is aggravated by economic uncertainty and fuelled by irresponsible media reporting of benefit fraud. As Nicky Clarke points out in the Independent:
“These many articles fail to appreciate the fact that fraudulent benefit claims make up for less than 1% of the welfare bill. More is lost by the DWP annually in administrative error, yet hundreds of articles lay the blame for the welfare bill at the feet of disabled “scroungers” People don’t appreciate nuance as Peter Greener discovered. His neighbour saw genuine disability and automatically thought “scrounger”. The message is getting distorted and it’s disabled people who are paying the price.”
The government is not of course actively provoking such crimes, but it needs to reflect on the way its rhetoric may be helping to fan the flames of hatred and intolerance.