What’s in a name? Asymmetries in the evaluation of religiously motivated terrorism and right-wing motivated violence in the context of the “refugee crisis”


  • Noreen van Elk


refugee crisis, terrorism, right-wing violence, xenophobia, radicalization


In the course of 2015, Germany was confronted with ever increasing immigration flows which resulted in the so-called “refugee crisis”. This sudden political and societal challenge brought about feelings of fear, anxiety and insecurity in many people. As a result, the right-wing Populist Party AFD and the populist movement PEGIDA steadily gained more support. Furthermore, the number of right-wing motivated crimes reached a total of 13 846 by the end of December 2015, of which 4183 were declared as motivated by “anti-migrant” or xenophobic sentiments. However, it appears as if the German government has difficulties reacting appropriately to those developments. This paper argues that the asymmetry between the moral and political evaluation of transnational religiously motivated terrorist violence and domestic right-wing extremist violence is untenable. Consequently, the emphasis on safeguarding national security against the risk of this kind of terrorist violence denies the importance of dealing with the right-wing risk “from within”. It is argued, that the increasing right-wing motivated violence shares certain dynamics with religiously motivated terrorism, even though both phenomena differ in fatality. The choice to call one form of violence terrorism and another form, in this case right-wing extremist violence, is not considered as terrorism, is not as neutral as is often presumed and is certainly not exclusively attributable to the differing character or fatality of the violence. It will be shown that instead, it reveals a lot about certain prejudices, a priori assumptions about the nature of terrorism, prevailing resentment and political interest. 

Author Biography

Noreen van Elk

Graduate School of Humanities, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands


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