Sunday, November 25, 2007

Support for 'Sippenhaft' by Some Swiss Signals Growing Racial Divide

In recent years there have been steady reports in the media concerning an unsettling rise in the number of groups that embrace right-wing neo Nazi ideology in Europe.

An October 4th New York Times story highlighted the attempts of the Swiss People's Party, or SVP, a right-wing Swiss political organization, the largest in the Swiss federal parliment, headed by Christoph Blocher, a billionaire who also serves as the nation's justice minister.

The SVP garnered headlines when they created a flag (pictured above left) with images of a group of white sheep kicking out a black sheep. The SVP also mass-mailed the image on postcards to homes throughout Switzerland and even plastered the image on billboards.

SVP members argue that government statistics indicate that approximately 70% of the Swiss prison population are non-Swiss. Lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation that would make it mandatory to deport the entire family of any foreign-born juvenile found guilty of a crime. Tactics the Nazi's used to deport thousands of people from Germany, a process known as Sippenhaft, or kin liability.

The flag seemed to have an affect, on October 22, 2007 the BBC website reported that the SVP won 29% of the vote and gained seven seats on the national council.

It's important to note that many Swiss citizens, including the president of the country were outraged and offended by the SVP 'Sheep Flag'. And marches and rallies by SVP supporters have been disrupted by violent clashes by anti-SVP protesters.

Anti-immigrant feelings are not unique to Switzerland or Belgium, England, France, Germany and Italy are all dealing with internal unrest over the presence of large foreign populations - particularly those of Muslim descent.

It is the trend of these anti-immigrant feelings turning to violence that is most concerning.

On Thursday October 11, 2007 I blogged about the horrifying case of 19-year old Hans Van Themsche (the son of the founder a right-wing anti-immigrant Belgian political front) who shot and killed Oulematou Niangadou, an African nanny from Mali and Luna Drowart the two-year old in her care while the two were in a public park in broad daylight.

Von Themsche later confessed to police that he had planned to kill at least five foreigners; he was subdued after he wounded a woman of Turkish descent and was shot in the stomach by police.

It will be interesting to watch how the SVP Swiss election results of fall '07 affect other countries in Europe. With populations worried about their national identity and a growing multicultural makeup becoming more of a European reality, time will certainly tell.

No comments: