in , ,

Which endangers democracy

just who  Wanting to protect a group from discrimination and persecution is not really defending democracy

Instead of racism, let’s talk about “group-related misanthropy”. Hopefully this will eliminate the need for discussions about whether one should juxtapose “racism and anti-Semitism” or whether one is a specific form of the other. And hopefully also discussions about whether hostile attitudes towards a religious group can be described as racism. The generic term also includes, for example, sexism, the devaluation of the homeless, homosexuals and the disabled.

Passive, active and political group hostility

I essentially see three levels of group-related misanthropy:

  1. Passive group hostility such as prejudices, stereotypes, belief in conspiracy theories and the like.
  2. Active group hostility such as insults, violence, hostile and discriminatory actions such as smearing swastikas on synagogues or mosques, desecrating cemeteries, openly or under a pretext denying members of certain groups a job, renting an apartment or entry into a bar, etc .
  3. Political anti-group hostility: advocating or publicly advocating for the disenfranchisement, expulsion or murder of certain groups.

The first stage also represents a threat to democracy because it makes people vulnerable to the second and third stages. Actions in the second stage are usually also related to agreement with the third stage. The third stage is a direct threat to democracy: it aims to destroy democratic structures and restrict human rights.

Now let's look at two studies: the Anti-Semitism Report 2022 on behalf of Parliament and the Social Survey of the University of Salzburg 2018 Attitudes towards Muslims in Austria. In all tables, the percentage represents the sum of the two ratings “very true” and “somewhat true.” I will come to the highlights later.

Anti-Semitism Report 2022 commissioned by Parliament

  • Jews dominate the international business world: 36 percent
  • Today, the power and influence of Jews in the international press and politics is becoming increasingly evident: 30 percent
  • Jews have too much influence in Austria: 19 percent
  • Jewish elites in international corporations are often behind current price increases: 18 percent
  • You can't expect a Jew to be decent: 10 percent
  • When I get to know someone, I know within a few minutes whether that person is Jewish: 12 percent
  • For me, Jews are basically Israeli citizens and not Austrians: 21 percent
  • Jews have little interest in integrating into the country in which they live. This is the main reason for their constant problems: 22 percent
  • It is not just a coincidence that Jews have been persecuted so often throughout their history; They are at least partly to blame: 19 percent
  • Jews today are trying to take advantage of the fact that they were victims during the Nazi era: 36 percent
  • In the reports about concentration camps and the persecution of Jews in the Second World War, many things are exaggerated: 11 percent
  • I am against the fact that people repeatedly rehash the fact that Jews died in World War II: 34 percent
  • If the State of Israel no longer exists, then there will be peace in the Middle East: 14 percent
  • Given the policies that Israel is making, I can well understand that people have something against Jews: 23 percent
  • The Israelis basically treat the Palestinians no differently than the Germans treated the Jews in World War II: 30 percent

The following appendix to the anti-Semitism report is also exciting. Three times as many people would feel disturbed by Muslim neighbors as by Jewish ones, but most of all by Roma·nja and Sinti·zze.

  • Roma and Sinti:zze: 37 percent
  • Muslim people: 34 percent
  • Black people: 17 percent
  • Jewish people: 11 percent
  • Homosexuals: 11 percent
  • Austrians: 5 percent

Attitudes towards Muslims in Austria – Results of the Social Survey 2018

    • Muslims in Austria have to adapt to our culture: 87 percent
    • The state should monitor Islamic communities: 79 percent
    • Muslims do not represent a cultural enrichment: 72 percent
    • The headscarf is a symbol of the oppression of women: 71 percent
    • Islam does not fit into the Western world: 70 percent
    • Muslims should not be allowed to wear a headscarf at school: 66 percent
    • I'm afraid that there are terrorists among Muslims in Austria: 59 percent
    • The practice of faith among Muslims should be restricted: 51 percent
    • Muslims sometimes make me feel like strangers in Austria: 50 percent
    • We should not tolerate mosques in Austria: 48 percent
    • Muslims should not have the same rights as everyone in Austria: 45 percent

Obviously the questions asked in the two studies are different. However, a survey usually examines in advance which questions are actually relevant. For this purpose, scientific literature is used or preliminary studies are carried out. In any case, the anti-Semitism report does not even ask the question of equal rights for Jews or the acceptance of synagogues, presumably because no relevant results were expected.

Demands for political disenfranchisement

In the anti-Semitism report I only found one statement that directly amounts to the domestic political disenfranchisement of Jews: “For me, Jews are basically Israeli citizens and not Austrians.” A disturbing 21 percent agree with this statement, which implies that Jews should be treated as foreigners. Perhaps this percentage would be a reason to directly ask the question of equality. The statement “If the State of Israel no longer exists, then there will be peace in the Middle East,” which is shared by 14 percent, is foreign policy-related, but not precisely formulated. If it aims to expel or kill the Jews in Israel, it is clearly anti-human. It is something different if this means a one-state solution, a democratic state for all its citizens - as illusory as that may seem. That would no longer be the current Israel, which defines itself as a Jewish state.

In the social survey on hostility to Muslims, however, I found five statements that I consider to be political hostility to groups: What is most worrying is that 45 percent openly say: “Muslims should not have the same rights as everyone in Austria.” 48 percent do not want to tolerate mosques, 51 percent want to see restrictions on the exercise of faith by Muslims, and 79 percent want the state to monitor Islamic communities. There could possibly also be pedagogical motives behind the demand for a headscarf ban in schools, which is shared by 66 percent, if it is generally aimed at the demand for the separation of religion and school. However, insofar as it refers exclusively to Muslim women, it represents a demand for disenfranchisement.

Combat all forms of group hostility 

All Forms of group-related misanthropy endanger democracy because prejudices and stereotypes can easily turn into actions, especially if they are deliberately fomented and exploited by political adventurers. But who? only wants to combat specific form Seeing form as a threat to democracy doesn't really defend democracy. There is one in Austria Anti-Semitism reporting center, a Documentary center for anti-Muslim racism, an advice center for Roma and Sinti, which produces a report Antigypsyism in Austria issues. As far as I know, only the club gives Zara Reports on all forms of racism and provides advice and support those affected by group-related misanthropy who turn to him.

We should be clear: you can fight anti-Muslim sentiment and be anti-Semitic at the same time. You can fight anti-Semitism and be anti-Muslim at the same time. You can fight anti-Romaphobia or homophobia or sexism and at the same time despise other groups or want to disenfranchise them. You can fight a specific form of racism and be a racist yourself at the same time. If you really want to defend democracy and not just specific group interests, you have to stand up against it each form of group-related misanthropy, especially against political forms.

Cover photo: March Against Racism 2017, photo: Garry Knight, public domain

This post was created by the Option Community. Join in and post your message!


Written by Martin Auer

Born in Vienna in 1951, formerly a musician and actor, freelance writer since 1986. Various prizes and awards, including being awarded the title of professor in 2005. Studied cultural and social anthropology.

Leave a Comment