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German Arabs stunned by rise of Far Right

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a press conference at the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Berlin on Monday, one day after general elections. (AFP)
LONDON: Arabs living in Germany have reacted with horror at the rise of a far right party in Sunday’s election.
But pundits claim the result doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Angela Merkel’s welcoming of refugees.
While Chancellor Merkel won a fourth term, it came at a cost, with the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany party (AfD) polling 13 percent.
That means around 90 hard-right nationalists will take their places in the democratic process, the first time in almost six decades that an openly nationalist party will enter the Bundestag.
For Dr. Nicholas Martin, the director of the Institute for German Studies at Birmingham University, the rise in votes for the AfD can be explained by Merkel’s open-door policy to refugees.
“It seems as if it’s Germany’s turn to feel the populist wave, after Brexit and Trump,” Martin told Arab News.
“It is consistent with the deep mistrust by certain sections of society of the government and the governing class of elites, including the media.
“But it is also clearly a German reason (behind the vote) and it’s to do with Merkel’s refugee policy. In Germany they have four-year set terms so this has been the first time people have had a chance to express their feelings about it nationally.”
A poll showed that the AfD got 1.2 million votes from past non-voters and also revealed that 89 percent of AfD voters thought that Merkel’s immigration policies ignored the “concerns of the people”, with 85 percent wanting stronger national borders.
Ever since Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees, there have been fears the nationalist, anti-immigration tide, which has been seen across Europe, could affect Germany.
Arabs living in Germany reacted with worry to the news that far right politicians will be seated in the Bundestag.
Nadia Kneifed, a Syrian living in Germany said she fears the popularity of AfD will only increase.
“A lot of the refugees are only in Germany to improve their life and way of living,” she wrote on Syrian home in Germany, a Facebook group for Syrians living there.
“Some Germans hide what they think of us (Arabs) and in four years the far-right could rule.”
Mohamad El-Youssef, who lives in Berlin, claimed the popularity of the AfD could be explained completely by Merkel’s open-door policy.
“Most people in Germany are afraid of the far right,” he said.
“There are Arabs who have lived here for more than 50 years and until two years ago were never pointed at or viewed as the problem.
“But since the refugee influx we are seeing more anti-Arab feelings. The problem is if refugees get work then they are stealing people’s jobs, if they don’t then they are living off the state — they cannot win.”
While their worry is understandable, Dr. Martin said people should not expect any huge shift away from Merkel’s pro-refugee policies.
“I don’t think this will put a stop to the refugee policy,” Martin said.
“Clearly she will have to make some noises in the direction of the protesters but she will be able to form a broad-based government in favor of the policy and very much against the Neo-Nazis
“It’s dangerous to draw parallels with other movements in different countries, I am confident Merkel will be able to build a coalition and tough it out regarding her refugee policy.
“But if I was an immigrant, I would feel less secure. Results like these can embolden people to be more openly hostile and racist.”