Racism Shadows Germany's World Cup Party
Is it safe to go to the World Cup soccer tournament?
The question is obsessing the German online media as the country prepares to host an estimated 3 million visitors for the month-long competition that opens June 9.
Beneath the anticipation generated by the upcoming showcase for the planet's most popular sporting event lies a greater question generated by the recent influx of millions of non-European immigrants. "So Is Germany Racist or Not?" asks Spiegel Online.
The debate was[initially ignited by Uwe-Karsten Heye, a former government spokesman, who told a radio station that there are towns around the capital Berlin "where I would not advise anybody with a different skin colour to visit" during next month's World Cup.
"They might not leave alive," he said.
Heye's comment was denounced by government officials and provoked "broadly negative reaction," according to Die Welt, a conservative daily and one of the country's leading newspapers. But other commentators defended Heye, according to a BBC survey.
Heye "told the truth," said Der Tagesspiegel, a leading liberal daily. The Berliner Zeitung said his warning was justified because there are indeed many places in Germany which "nobody can in all honesty recommend to a black African as a destination for an outing."
BZ said Heye should have also talked about the role of politicians, judicial authorities and the media in fuelling xenophobia.
The Guardian of London cited an attack this weekend on a Turkish-born politician, Giyasettin Sayan, known for his pro-immigration views, as lending credence to Heye's worries. Two youths hit Sayan over the head with a bottle and cursed him as a foreigner last Friday in the Lichtenberg district of east Berlin, "an area well known for its far-right hooligan scene."
Then on Monday, the government released a police intelligence report showing that the number of racially motivated acts of far-right violence rose by 23 percent to 958 last year while the number of far-right extremists deemed willing to engage in violence rose by 400 people to 10,400.
In Malaysia, the Bernama news agency noted the "ongoing heated debate amongst German politicians on how to curb immigration and make it more difficult for foreigners to be naturalised as Germans." These "endless discussions have contributed to a general anti-foreigner mood in the country and, more often than not, it is the innocent foreigners who suffer."
When Angola's team arrived in Germany on Sunday, they were greeted with the news that a neo-Nazi group is planning a march in Leipzig on June 21, the day Angola is scheduled to play Iran. Israel's Ynet News says German neo-Nazis admire Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for questioning whether the Holocaust actually happened.
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