Berlin launches task force against anti-Muslim racism on anniversary of Hanau attacks

Berlin on Friday became the first German state to found an expert commission against racism targeted towards Muslims.

Berlin launches task force against anti-Muslim racism on anniversary of Hanau attacks
A memorial set up in Hanau on February 9th to remember victims of the attacks. Photo: DPA

The move comes on the one-year anniversary of the racist-motivated terror attacks in Hanau in Hesse. On February 19th 2020, a man shot dead nine people of Muslim backgrounds in two Shisha bars before killing his mother and himself.

Following the attack in Hanau, Dirk Behrendt (Greens), Berlin's State Senator for Justice and Anti-Discrimination, asked himself whether enough was being done to fight anti-Muslim racism. 

READ ALSO: Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau

“It is intolerable when women's headscarves are torn off in Berlin or even small children are attacked,” Behrendt told the Tagesspiegel.

“We want to put the actions of politics and administration to the test with an expert commission.”

The commission will hold its first meeting in Berlin on February 26th. Eren Ünsal, head of the state anti-discrimination office, will be the moderator. 

“We've been able to put together a great panel with a lot of scientific expertise,” said Ünsal.

The project is set up for one year, she said. The first task is to develop a good definition of anti-Muslim racism, and then the commission will work out strategies to prevent it.

“The concrete result should be tangible recommendations for administration and civil society,” Ünsal said. 

“We've been dealing with anti-Muslim racism for a long time, promoting projects, but Hanau was another watershed: we now have to see where we can step up our efforts.”

In 2020 at least 184 cases of Islamophobic attacks on mosques, cemeteries, meeting places, cultural associations or other religious sites were recorded. That means that a Muslim site was attacked every other day.

What’s already being done to fight racism?

The State Anti-Discrimination Agency had already expanded its state program against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism in 2018 to include the funding area of anti-Muslim racism. 

The new expert panel is now to “critically accompany” the work of the Berlin administration until spring 2022.

Around half of Germans perceive Islam as a threat, according to a study “Weltanschauliche Vielfalt und Demokratie” (Ideological Diversity and Democracy), which was published last year on the basis of the Bertelsmann Foundation's representative “Religion Monitor”.

Based on the study, and in response to the attack in Hanau, the German government last year established the “Independent Group of Experts on Muslim Hostility” (UEM).

READ ALSO: What is Germany doing to combat the far-right after Hanau attacks?


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Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

In the Afrocensus, a first-of-its-kind survey charting the lived experiences of black people in Germany, the vast majority revealed they experienced 'extensive' discrimination in almost all aspects of public life.

Dr Karamba Diaby
Dr Karamba Diaby, an SPD politician and anti-racism advocate, carries out voluntary work in his constituency of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“The results of the Afrocensus indicate that anti-Black racism is widespread in Germany and anchored in institutions,” the authors of the new report said in a press release on Tuesday. “There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems.”

Though the overwhelming majority of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at least ‘sometimes’ in almost all areas of life, housing was the area where they said they were discriminated against most often.

Just two percent of respondents to the Afrocensus said they had ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ experienced racism in the housing market, compared to more than 90 percent who said they had experienced it ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

Experiences with police and security personnel also counted among areas of life where racism was particularly prevalent: 88 percent of respondents had experienced discrimination from security staff ‘often’ or ‘very often’, while around 85 percent had had the same experience with police.

More than 85 percent had also experienced racism in their education or in the workplace ‘often’ or ‘very often’ in Germany. One in seven had lost their job during the Covid crisis. 

According to the report, 90 percent of respondents had also experienced having their hair grabbed, while more than half (56 percent) had been stopped by the police or asked for drugs by strangers.

Meanwhile, 80 percent said people had made comments about the colour of their skin or sexualised comments about their race on dating apps. A vast majority – 90 percent – also revealed they hadn’t been believed when they’d spoken out about racism in the past, or that people had said they were “too sensitive”. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

In spite of widespread discrimination, almost half (47 percent) of the respondents were engaged and active in their community – mostly carrying out some form of social or voluntary work.

First of its kind

Based on wide-ranging data, the findings paint a vivid and concerning picture of what life is like for the one million or so black people living in Germany today.

To produce the report, researchers from Berlin-based Black community group Each One Teach One and Citizens for Europe conducted an extended survey of 6,000 black people from the Africans and Afrodiasporic community to try and discover more about on the everyday lives and experiences of this group. The survey was carried out between July and September 2020. 

It represents one of the first attempts to gather a wealth of quantitative data on this subject, and as such offers some of the first truly scientific insights into anti-Black racism in modern Germany.

“With the Afrocensus, we have succeeded in doing exactly what has long been demanded within the black community for a long time: making the realities of our lives visible within the framework of qualitative, but above all quantitative research,” Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana und Dr. Karamba Diaby wrote in a foreword to the report. 

Diaby, a high-profile politician within the centre-left SPD party, was one of only two Afro-German politicians in parliament when he first took his seat in 2013. He has since become known for promoting political engagement and empowerment within the migrant and black community. 

In January 2020, an unknown gunman fired shots through the window of his constituency office in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, in a suspected racially motivated attack. 

READ ALSO: How people with migrant backgrounds remain underrepresented in German politics

Since the Second World War, Germany has avoided gathering data that allows people to be traced by ethnicity as a means of protecting persecuted groups.

However, critics say this approach only works to make the issues faced by these groups invisible. 

Writing on Twitter, Daniel Gyamerah, Division Lead at Citizens For Europe, called for an “action plan for tackling anti-Black racism and for empowering black, African and Afrodiasporic people” and the establishment of advice centres for people facing racism and discrimination.

More research into the intersectional experience of black people in Germany is needed, he added.