terça-feira, 12 de janeiro de 2016

Cologne attacks create a defining moment for German tolerance / Financial Times

January 11, 2016 4:04 pm
Cologne attacks create a defining moment for German tolerance
Mariam Lau

The days when Germans stood in their thousands on railway platforms to welcome refugees entering their country are long gone. What happened in Cologne and other cities in Germany on New Year’s Eve put an end to that. Scores of young women were sexually assaulted and robbed by gangs of men of Arab or north African appearance. The police were not able to protect them. Some of the men checked by officers that night held refugee documents. Stolen mobile phones have been traced to refugee shelters.
It is Angela Merkel’s worst nightmare. Having pinned her political future on “showing a friendly face” to those fleeing war and persecution, the chancellor now acknowledges that there might be “questions that go beyond Cologne, such as: are there groups that harbour a contempt for women?”

It seems there are. There have been reports of similar incidents in Hamburg, Stuttgart and other cities. Last week, a group of Syrian refugees living in the southwestern city of Weil am Rhein was arrested for the alleged rape of two young girls.
Ascribing cultural traits to specific groups of people has long been taboo in Germany. It was a dark habit that took years to unlearn after the second world war. In the postwar period, sociology always trumped culture when it came to explaining social pathologies such as violence, crime or unemployment.
This is changing. An alliance, of the kind that has existed for some time in the Netherlands and Denmark, has formed between conservatives, feminists and gay rights activists. Kristina Schröder, the former minister for family affairs in Ms Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union party, tweeted: “For far too long, we have overlooked a misogynist attitude among Muslim men.” Meanwhile, the leading feminist Alice Schwarzer wrote: “Once again, I am being accused of racism by the usual suspects” for pointing out that Germans have been “naively importing male violence, sexism and anti-semitism”. In doing so, Ms Schwarzer added, “we not only endanger our own safety and our values. We also treat these brutish young men unfairly, who were not born as perpetrators. We should help them become decent people.”
But before Germany embarks on a giant re-education programme, it needs to restore public safety. Cologne was not the first occasion on which the authorities have been either absent or overwhelmed. There has not been a single conviction following the 400 attacks (including arson) on refugee homes recorded in the past two years. In Berlin and other cities there are neighbourhoods where there have been attacks on women on their own, Jews wearing a kippah and police patrols. In the capital, refugees camp in their hundreds outside the office of health and social affairs in the hope of acquiring permits or benefits.

These failures of the German state are due partly to budget cuts. In North Rhine-Westphalia, where Cologne is situated, police numbers have fallen dramatically. But attitudes are just as important. There is an old saying that when you ask a leftist about a social problem they will at first deny it, then say that it has always gone on, and finally that it is good for you. For some years, gangs of north African youths have hung around outside Cologne’s central railway station stealing mobile phones and harassing passers-by. But a strong police presence rarely goes down well in North Rhine-Westphalia, which has been ruled by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens since 2010.

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