Right-Wing Calls for Muslim “Internment Camps” Intensify in the US, UK and Germany

Activists display signs in the No Ban, No Wall protest at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, January 28, 2017. (Photo: Sarah Ji)Activists display signs in the No Ban, No Wall protest at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, January 28, 2017. (Photo: Sarah Ji)

White nationalists in the UK and US have once again begun to advocate for Muslim “internment camps” after the recent terrorist attacks in England.

Thanks in part to a viral, critical piece by New York Daily News writer Shaun King, these renewed calls for the immoral and unconstitutional mass imprisonment of Muslims have been quickly met with widespread condemnation and shock in the US and online.

The day after the recent attack in London, chief Brexit campaigner and white English nationalist UKIP leader Nigel Farage threatened that ” … if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow” during an interview on Fox News. In the immediate aftermath of the London attack, Farage sided with Trump in disparaging London Mayor Sadiq Khan for not enacting proposed illegal measures against Muslims.

The Fox and Friends panel then turned from Farage to their frequent UK guest contributor, Katie Hopkins, who quickly picked up on the signaling from Farage. “We do need internment camps,” she said, almost seemingly prompted. “Before, I would’ve bought the idea that, no, this gets more people radicalized. You know, that’s not the solution. But we’ve gone beyond the tipping point.”

Only two weeks earlier, after a bombing targeting an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, Hopkins had faced widespread condemnation for proposing a “final solution” to what she alluded to as the Muslim “problem” in Europe. The comments led to the cancellation of her talk radio show, and she was fired by Leading Britain’s Conversation — her former employer.

The next day, the argument had already reached conservative talk radio stations. “Why don’t you intern all of them before they run people over on a bridge or stab people in the street?” said white nationalist Michael Savage to his radio listeners. “It was done during World War II.”

This represents an old and sustained argument for imposing FDR-style Japanese internment camps upon Muslim communities in the West — an argument that has been consistently rehashed by white nationalists since 9/11. The idea was first popularized by Michelle Malkin in her 2004 book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror.

In fact, Malkin appeared on Fox and Friends that day to add her own endorsement to renewed calls for the mass imprisonment of Muslims made just the day before:

It’s Arnold Toynbee, the historian, who said that civilizations die by suicide — not by outside forces. And this is exactly what’s happening. You’ve got people who are exploiting 21st century technology to try and drag all of us back into the stone ages.

The following day, UK Prime Minister Theresa May appeared for her last interview only 36 hours before the British general election. If human rights laws stood in the way of combating terrorism, May stated, then “we will change those laws so we can do it.” To many following the story, particularly far-right voters whom May has been courting for support, the words were seen as even more signaling in favor of rounding up Muslims into camps for subsequent deportation.

The case highlights how rapidly the same old repetitious racist discourse of white nationalists can quickly gain steam nationally before disseminating internationally.

A Renewed “Warsaw Ghetto” Plan Surfaces After Trump

Meanwhile, a similar racist plan for the mass imprisonment of refugees and asylum seekers has been mulled over in Germany by the Holocaust-denying Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which has gained an alarming degree of support.

In December 2016 former AfD lawmaker Claudia Martin disclosed to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that her faction had been drafting their own legislation for what she called a “Warsaw ghetto” plan. Martin had resigned from the AfD only days prior to disclosing the plan. In the leaked document, AfD parliamentarians outline their plans for the mass imprisonment of all refugees and asylum seekers inside Germany before deporting them back to their nations of origin — many of which would be hostile to returning individuals.

Much like Theresa May’s calls for changing any human rights laws that get in the way of anti-terrorism measures, the working draft from the AfD advocates the suspension of numerous constitutional human rights articles in German Basic Law. The “inhabitants” of the proposed internment camps for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers — or the mass imprisonments that the leaked document refers to as being placed into separated “communities” — would be afforded only “limited basic rights.”

Since 2015, Germany has accepted a little under 1 million refugees, largely from Syria and Afghanistan.

Claudia Martin had uploaded a video to YouTube and then spoke to the press. Martin noted somewhat nervously that since Trump’s recent election, her party had now begun “proposing solutions for the refugee crisis that bring the Warsaw ghettos to mind” only a month later.

In her description of the proposed AfD legislation, Martin suggested that it bore striking resemblance to Hitler’s “Madagaskar-Plan” to detain all European Jews for imminent deportation to the former French colony in Africa.

The Madagascar Plan was announced in 1940. It led to the early establishment of enclosed camps and ghettos, such as the Warsaw Ghetto, which imprisoned more than 400,000 Jews. The network of camps and ghettos provided the Nazis with immediate slave labor, along with an expedient transition to the “final solution” after the 1940 plan was discarded to instead implement the Holocaust beginning in January 1942.

“I have to make the observation that we as a party are becoming less and less distinguishable from — but instead slowly becoming — the very thing that we have always been accused of,” Martin remarked in her warning to the German public.

A month later, the same AfD Baden-Württemberg faction tried to block state funding allocated for field trips to visit former death camp sites teaching German schoolchildren about the history of the Holocaust. AfD lawmakers demanded that the school trips involve “significant German historic sites,” such as medieval German castles, instead of teaching a “one-sided concentration” of Nazi crimes.

These actions were in support of the AfD state leader for Thüringen, Björn Höcke, who went so far as to denounce the national Holocaust memorial in Germany as a “monument of disgrace in the heart of our capital.” Much of the speech in a Dresden beer hall involved Höcke denouncing the three-day firebombing of the civilian city in Nazi Germany.

“The big problem is that Hitler is presented as an absolutely evil figure,” Höcke decried while being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal over the matter.

German Jewish groups were quick to point out that the speech delivered by Höcke came just three days before the 75th anniversary marking the Wannsee Conference. Nazi SS leaders first gathered in Berlin on January 20, 1942, to coordinate how their various departments would implement the “final solution” of genocide, which was then carried out on top of the existing Madagascar Plan networks of camp and ghetto slave labor that had been enacted only 18 months earlier.

A week later, for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Höcke attempted to enter the Buchenwald death camp during a memorial service that he was already barred from attending. Höcke was kicked out, as everyone anticipated.

Not long after that same day on January 27, President Trump signed the first of his two executive orders implementing a ban for Muslim migrants from legally entering the United States.

“On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, you forget the Jews, and later today you plan to issue new executive orders persecuting refugees and immigrants,” executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, Steven Goldstein, announced in a public statement over Facebook just hours before the signing.

“Have you no decency?”

Making Germany “Great Again” With a Lingering Nazi Past

AfD supporters and their party leaders have sought to normalize Nazi terms such as völkisch and introduce them back into German discourse. National AfD leaders claim that these efforts are an innocent attempt to rehabilitate highly charged taboo expressions of Nazi fascism “back into a positive light.”

Some of these Nazi-era words, such as Lügenpresse (“lying press”), which was favored by Adolf Hitler and Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, even made its way overseas and onto the national stage in the US during the 2016 presidential campaign. This term was largely accomplished through Breitbart News and the discordant so-called “alt-right” white supremacists online that Breitbart and others feed off of.

The former head of Breitbart News and current chief strategist for the Trump White House, Steve Bannon, has also sought to legitimize such discourse by injecting it into the Islamophobic narratives dominating US politics since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Two days after the recent attack in London, which have led to renewed calls for Muslim “internment camps,” Beatrix von Storch echoed the lingering sentiments of extreme right-wing populism that were once again trending in the international news. In her YouTube video replete with erroneous statistics, the AfD politician and member of the European Parliament tweeted out that “capacity is exhausted” in Germany.

“Close the borders! #AfD #Migrants,” the tweet continues.

Three days after Claudia Martin revealed the “Warsaw ghetto” plan from the AfD to German media, the Berlin attack took place and quickly overshadowed all other reporting. Another prominent AfD state leader on Twitter, Marcus Pretzell, quickly blamed German Chancellor Merkel for not securing the borders before the attacks by tweeting out, “These are Merkel’s dead!”

This new approach by the AfD leadership has been described as the party shifting toward an embrace of “Trump-style” politics beginning in early 2015. Parallel to the AfD’s recent shift in messaging, an unprecedented wave of xenophobic terrorism has risen in Germany since 2014 that currently amounts to 10 daily hate crime attacks targeting refugees or their housing.

Last May, at its national party conference, the AfD adopted a new party platform calling for an immediate halt to migrants entering Germany, the mass deportation of refugees, and the banning of all mosques and Muslim calls to prayer. In the same breath, the AfD went on to adopt the slogan: “Islam does not belong in Germany” — a statement that up to 60 percent of German adults reportedly agree with.

At their most recent party conference in April 2017, AfD members shot down their less extremist leadership and reaffirmed their previous platform. The AfD had instead nominated a Holocaust-denying Trump supporter as its main candidate for the upcoming federal elections, Alexander Gauland, who was elected alongside the little-known Alice Weidel.

Weidel harshly criticized German Chancellor Merkel for only banning burqas and has instead proposed that all headscarves should be banned in Germany.

However, one of the rebuffed national AfD leaders chairing the party, Frauke Petry, is still mostly known for advocating that German national police shoot refugees if they cross the border into Germany without permission.

“What are we to think of these ‘Germany is colorful’ campaigns?” Petry asked her party members in attendance at one rally. “A garbage dump is also colorful,” she responded to her own prompted question.

The top AfD candidate is viewed as a strong defender of the party, no matter the controversy, as opposed to the current AfD national chair. While Petry denounced Björn Höcke over his public Nazi apologism and attacks upon Holocaust victims, Gauland stated that Höcke had “not said anything for which he must be ashamed.”

Alexander Gauland has also embraced the calls for a Muslim travel ban issued by Trump since late 2015.

In a speech the following Monday after Trump signed his first Muslim travel ban on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Gauland castigated Chancellor Merkel for exposing Germany to the dangers of terrorism and economic inequality. According to Gauland, the current German leader was unable to “get a grip” on either the economy or security of the homeland.

“Trump’s voters are opposed to immigration from Southern nations like Mexico. We are opposed to immigration from Islamic countries that are geographically, so to speak, Europe’s Mexico,” Gauland stated when pressed to contrast developments in his party and Germany to the success of Trump in the US.

“Trump is against the establishment. We are also in line with him.”

The AfD had been polling at 16 percent of the national vote, although it has since fallen to 8 percent in March 2017. The party is still widely expected to pass the required 5 percent threshold of the national vote to enter German parliament for the first time later this September. Currently, the AfD has members seated in 13 out of 16 German state parliaments, and even two members representing Germany in the EU parliament.

Upon entering the national lower house, AfD members would then be able to introduce and vote upon legislation for the country with their fellow German lawmakers in the Bundestag.