Islamist extremism: Germany invests millions to prevent radicalization

Berlin — Germany's Family and Youth Minister Katarina Barley on Wednesday called for her country to strengthen its efforts to prevent all forms of extremism, calling for a federal law on the prevention of extremism to stabilize projects and initiatives against, for example, right-wing extremism.

Although there is now more money available for prevention, "we aren't yet on target," Barley said on Wednesday. Announcing the findings of a report into extremism prevention, Barley said at a press conference in Berlin that in fighting Islamist extremism, "we must not wait until young people have become radicalized."

"Security and prevention must go hand in hand," she added.

According to Barley, prevention work must begin where the threat is particularly high, for example in the school yard, on the Internet, and also in the prisons.

100-million-euro investment

As part of Germany's 2018 "national prevention program" against extremism, some 100 million euros ($112 million) will be invested into specifically combating Islamist extremism. Some funds will be allocated to supporting mosque communities, while money will also be invested in expanding the prevention of radicalization online.

"Every euro we invest (in prevention) is a very well-spent euro, as it serves to create security," Barley said.

In the crackdown on Islamist radicalization, Barley rejected demands made earlier this month, however, to allow the surveillance of minors who may be involved in Islamist groups.

"Minors have already committed serious acts of violence," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the Funke media group, adding that Germany "must consequently deal" with such cases.

Barley on Wednesday described Herrmann's demand as a "misguided approach," arguing that children should be protected from slipping into radicalized violence.

Germany's governing "grand coalition" has already reduced the minimum age for monitoring by Germany's intelligence agencies from 16 to 14 years.

National anti-racism action plan

Together with Parliamentary State Secretary in the Interior Ministry, Günter Krings, Barley also presented on Wednesday the updated National Action Plan against Racism.

In principle, the aim is to "show clear boundaries, regardless of where discrimination occurs, whether in leisure time, online or in the workplace," Barley said.

At the center of the new action plan are issues including human rights policy, protection against discrimination in daily life, for example in the workplace, as well as the punishment of criminal offenses.

Other elements include education and political education, as well as racism and hate speech online.

On the basis of the coalition agreement, the action plan has also been expanded to cover the issues of homosexuality and transphobia.

Greens politician Volker Beck criticized the plan, saying it was lacking in concrete proposals for action.

"Instead of binding measures, only the current situation of gays, lesbians, bi-, trans- and intersexuals was described," Beck said.

Petra Pau, a member of the executive committee of the leftist Linke political group, and member of the inquiry committee into the right-wing extremist National Socialist Underground, welcomed the action plan and increase in subsidies for social initiatives against right-wing extremism and racism.

"So far so good," she said in a statement, adding, however, that the subsidies are limited in time: "This is ineffective and short-sighted, as the fight against right-wing extremism and racism requires continuity and endurance."