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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/25/16

Sorry, We Could Not Quite Find the Time for Sexual Revolution!

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Message Deniz Bozkurt


German city Cologne was shaken with a spree of assaults against women perpetrated by about 1,000 Middle-Eastern and North-African-looking, drunk men on New Year's Eve. Reportedly, of the 516 reports filled by women almost 40% were sexual crimes, including two accounts of rape. Among the 32 suspects of the attacks are 22 asylum seekers.

The incident itself is terrifying enough, however the keywords that made the incident even more debated have been Middle Easterner, North African, and asylum seeker. The agenda of the country in aftermath of the attacks was determined by these three markers. While the far-right of Germany has strongly emphasized the Muslim origins of the criminals to strengthen the anti-refugee narrative, the pro-immigrant leftists have often preferred to ignore these roots suggesting sexism exists also within German society. Although the latter may sound more preferable for the sake of preventing a racist discourse, it fails to do a better job in explaining the nature of the incident. The negligence it offers shades the historical background which may illuminate the reasons for widespread sexist practices in Muslim countries. Unless the recent history of Muslim countries is analyzed in explaining the inferior position of women in the region, the ever-growing racist discourse will continue to attribute sexism and sexual harassment to people from these regions as essential qualities.

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Since the number of asylum applications to Germany rose by 60% due to the ongoing wars in Syria and Libya in late-2014, a strong anti-immigrant discourse has been representing itself with the weekly marches held a group called Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West). The "xenophobic" (quoting Merkel) group demanded more restrictive immigration laws. Although its demonstrations have so far been concentrated mostly in East German cities, the group organized a march in Cologne shortly shortly after the attacks.

Of course, anti-immigrant sentiment is only one side of the country. There are popular pro-immigration groups, which beside holding counter-demonstrations against Pegida each week, have created projects like refugees-welcome. The German government, until recently, was very welcoming, as well. Both sides of the coalition--Merkel's Christian Democratic CDU/CSU and Social Democrat SPD--agreed upon receiving asylum-seekers to the country despite some disagreements about limits, quotas and conditions. With her strong stance on the immigration crisis, Angela Merkel did not mind receiving harsh criticism and hostility from other member countries of the European Union, especially after the Paris attacks. Yet, even her strong stance seems to have diminished: On Saturday, January, 9, her party CDU announced their support for the idea of tightening the law on refuges committing serious crimes, in response to the public outrage following the Cologne attacks.

German extreme-right and anti-immigrant groups gloated over the attacks as a confirmation of their xenophobic ideas against asylum-seekers arriving from Muslim countries. Their blogs and online newspapers are filled with articles and comments that tie the attacks to the inherent and inexorable evil in every Muslim. Yet this connection is not only found in the writings by extremists, xenophobic, and Islamophobic. An editor of Deutsche Welle, the state-run broadcasting service of Germany, clearly writes that many young men arriving from Muslim countries would consider German women, "who can go out at night, dance and drink" to be whores.

Furthermore, the events in Cologne appear to reveal the unspoken hesitancies in the minds of pro-refugee individuals with regard to newly-arriving Muslims to the country. Being a Turkish citizen, I am often met with the politically-corrected and nicely-polished rhetoric of my European friends and acquaintances in topics regarding the Middle East and Islam. But ever since the Cologne attacks, relying on the mutual trust and understanding we have developed, some have expressed their frustration and concerns regarding the issue, which derives from their daily experiences, as well as from what they have been reading in the media about Muslim countries. The behavior of young male refugees in daily life, the lustful look in their eyes, the lack of refugee women in social life are all matters of discussions that eventually lead to the idea that Islam is essentially evil and sexist.

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Deniz Bozkurt is currently a student of the Masters program in American Studies at the University of Leipzig, Germany. Her previous publications include articles, and translations from dissident voices for the Turkish newspaper Birgun.

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Sorry, We Could Not Quite Find the Time for Sexual Revolution!