Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

German Muslim politician takes the fight to Nazi group after racist death threats

Right-wing group told Sawsan Chebli it added her to its ‘kill list’ and signed off hate-filled note with the words ‘Heil Hitler’

Sawsan Chebli, Berlin’s state campaigner for civil engagement, has become one of Germany's most attacked political figures.  DPA / AP Images
Sawsan Chebli, Berlin’s state campaigner for civil engagement, has become one of Germany's most attacked political figures.  DPA / AP Images

A prominent Muslim German politician has refused to stand down after murderous threats from a far-right group, saying she will not be silenced.

Sawsan Chebli, Berlin’s state campaigner for civil engagement, told The National she had become one of the most attacked politicians in Germany because of her Palestinian Muslim background.

But she would not resign despite receiving a letter from neo-Nazis threatening to kill her.

“I have never experienced this kind of continuous and daily hate,” said Ms Chebli, who is from the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

The most recent death threat had only spurred her into further action, she said.

“I even feel encouraged to be even louder. They are not going to silence me,” Ms Chebli said.

This week she shared on social media an intimidating letter she had received from a right-wing extremist group referring to itself as the Atomwaffen Division Deutschland.

The note, littered with racist epithets, threatened Ms Chebli with death if she did not stand down from her appointed position in the Berlin state government.

It also threatened her family and was signed off with the infamous Nazi salute, “Heil Hitler”.

Ms Chebli, whose Palestinian parents arrived in Germany from a Lebanese refugee camp in 1970, has attracted racist hatred because of her heritage and her outspoken condemnation of Islamophobia, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism.

“As a Muslim, as a Palestinian, as a woman and a woman of colour who is very outspoken, I am their enemy,” she said.

While the extreme right has focused on Ms Chebli because of her background, she says her heritage has always been a source of motivation.

“It is the reason why I am in politics," she said. "It is what encouraged me and motivated me.

"It triggered me to go into politics and not to let others decide upon my life as politics always decided my parents’ lives."

In recent months, support for the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has grown significantly as its leaders exploited anti-migrant, populist sentiment, particularly in the east of the country.

In October in local elections in the eastern state of Thuringia, it came second with 23.4 per cent of the vote.

The regional poll placed the populist, right-wing party ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union.

In 2017, the AfD won 12.6 per cent of the vote in parliamentary elections, winning 94 seats. It was the first time the party entered the lower house, becoming the third largest party in the national legislature

Ms Chebli says she draws a direct line between the rise of the far-right in mainstream German politics and the threats she has received.

"I never expected in my life before that a party that has fascists in its ranks would sit in the Bundestag," she said. "After our dark Nazi history I thought we would be immune."

Ms Chebli said that ultimately it was her hope to battle the right-wing minority in Germany and inspire others to speak out.

“The majority is pro-democratic and a tolerant and wants an open society,” she said.

“I want to fight to help others so they don't have to suffer and don't have to have the same obstacles."

Updated: December 6, 2019 03:05 AM

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