German Hooligans Declare War on Islam
German soccer hooligans and neo-Nazis allied together on October 26 under the banner “Hooligans Against Salafists” to protest Islam. The violence sent shock waves throughout Germany.
The streets of Cologne succumbed to chaos as approximately 4,800 extremists raged through them, throwing bottles at police and stores. The 1,300 police officers were unable to subdue the violent mob. The protesters injured more than 40 officers and damaged several police cars.
The protest marked the largest display of right-wing extremism in Germany since the 1990s when, following the reunification of East and West Germany, extremists attacked foreigners.
Hooligans from rival football clubs put aside their differences to unite against a perceived common enemy: radical Salafists, who are introducing Islamic sharia law to Germany. Currently, 3 to 3.5 million Muslims live in Germany.
“These groups are marginal but dangerous phenomena, as they have an insatiable, boundless hunger for violence,” Hajo Funke, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said. “The issue of Salafism and Islam, which society hasn’t fully digested yet, is an easy prey for them.”
One newspaper wrote: “The hooligans are more dangerous than ever. They have a new opponent. German security authorities are on high alert! A state security official has warned: ‘If hooligans actually meet Salafists next time, there will certainly be severe injuries or deaths.’”
This display of right-wing extremism was not a spur-of-the-moment event. German right-wing extremism has increased steadily over the last few years. In February 2012, security officials received evidence regarding the alliance of opposing hooligan groups and their drift to the right.
Speaking of their fight against Islam, one hooligan forum member posted in a chat room, “The grannies will love us.” A yearning is growing in Germany for someone to stand up to Islam. Germans want protection from the perceived Islamic threat. Far-right extremists get support because they promise to provide that protection.
While right-wing extremists are a minority of the German population, this violent protest shows how quickly people can come together when confronted with a common enemy. The “Hooligans Against Salafists” had several more protests planned throughout Germany. Those were subsequently canceled after the Cologne protest. One of the planned protests had received 3,700 attendee notices.
For those acquainted with Germany’s bellicose path through the pages of history, these facts are not shocking. Germany has tried to live down its Nazi past, but the steady escalation of right-wing violence shows reactionary ideologies live in Germany today. These outbreaks provide insight into Germany’s general sentiment and mood.
To understand why this escalation of violence is significant and where it is ultimately leading, read the chapter titled “The Resurgence of Nazi Germany” from our booklet Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.