Muslim Press has interviewed Victor Grossman to discuss the issues of Muslims who live in European countries, especially Germany, and the rise of PEGIDA.
Here’s the full text of the interview:
MP: Mr. Grossman, what’s your take on the anti-Islam measures taken by Germany's PEGIDA movement?
Victor Grossman: The PEGIDA movement in Dresden and similar movements in other parts of Germany, are extremely dangerous, and are now strengthened by a related party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and some smaller parties. As in other countries and other periods, they have misused the genuine worries people have about their jobs, high rents, pension problems when they retire and such matters and directed their legitimate if unclear anger against people who are least to blame for them, in fact suffer from the same problems, often more than anyone else – the Muslims. This even though in Dresden, where “anti-Islamist” actions strongest, there are relatively very few people of Muslim background. Although these movements are not nearly as strong and earnest, at least at present, their marches and their election successes are growing and force me to think back to events in the early 1930’s in Germany.
MP: How does this movement affect Muslims living in Germany?
Victor Grossman: The largest number of Muslims now living in Germany consists either of Turkish or Kurdish people who came here in the 1960’s to find decent work or of their children and grandchildren. They have constantly faced discrimination here and while very many have carved out jobs and professions, from kitchen worker and retail salesperson to film director, lawyer or journalist, a large number still must face discrimination based on appearance, clothing or name.
In addition, in recent years, many Muslims have arrived from war-torn areas, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, also a smaller number from countries in northern Africa. Many of these refugees have terrifying stories to tell of the horrors of war, destruction and poverty, and of frightening trips through dangerous waters and difficult transport routes, in icy snow, great heat, mud and barbed wire and sometimes violence on the route through southern Europe. While many Germans did all they could to offer them a welcome and help them to adjust to very different living conditions, there was also a nasty and vicious movement of hatred against them, resulting in personal attacks and the burning down of their temporary homes. Both these attitudes, the one of welcome and the one of hateful rejection, are reflected to varying degrees in political parties and government circles, with occasional nasty incidents often used as an excuse for ever tighter restrictions.
MP: What similarities do you see between the rise of PEGIDA in Germany and Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States?
Victor Grossman: The rise of PEGIDA and other groups, as well as the AfD party and other extreme right-wing parties, all building on the racist and anti-foreigner feelings of too many people, encouraged by too many journalists in the media, is very similar to the swift ascendency of Donald Trump in the USA. He, too, misdirects the unhappiness and the fears of many Americans, not against those elements which are really responsible, but against minority groups, trying to increase fear and hatred of them. His targets have been Blacks (without specifically naming them), Mexicans, and now, more and more, Muslims, both those already living in the USA and the new refugees from war zones, whom he wants to keep out. This old trick, used in so many countries for so many years or even centuries, always seems to work, at least with part of the population. It is just as dangerous in the USA as in Germany and the rest of Europe.
MP: European countries, especially Germany, are facing a refugee crisis as thousands of Syrian refugees enter these countries. Who do you think is to blame for this crisis?
Victor Grossman: The Syrian crisis, like the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, is in great measure a result of the expansionist efforts of certain powerful elements in the USA, supported by similar forces in Britain, Germany, France and elsewhere. There is evidence of a definite plan to overthrow, one by one, governments which refused to bow down to pressures from Washington – not only in Western Asia (the “Middle East”) but especially there. A combination of motives was involved – currency matters (especially in Libya), sources of petroleum, especially in Iraq, and strategic advances in the entire region. Of course, local conflicts and differences and movements were also involved, as in Syria, but I think the main reason for the terrible conflict there, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan and elsewhere, was the drive toward achieving total world power– and the destruction of anyone and anything standing in its path. Germany’s share in these conflicts was mostly its huge and very profitable export of hand weapons and heavy weapons into the conflict areas, but it also had strategic interests in rearranging the political scenery in this area and expanding its military and naval expansion for whatever reason it could find, against pirates in the waters off Somalia, patrolling ships off the coast of Lebanon against smuggling weapons, AWAC planes over Syria or troops and police in Afghanistan.
Victor Grossman is an American publicist and author who defected to the Soviet Union in 1952, and is now living in Germany. He writes the Berlin Bulletin. He is the author of “Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany”.