27% of Germans believe rape can be justified — so why are refugees often singled out?
On Tuesday, the European Commission released results from a survey on European attitudes toward violence against women. The findings revealed an alarming percentage of native Germans, specifically men, believe non-consensual sex, or rape, is justified.
A higher percentage of German men, compared to German women, believe rape is justified in some circumstances. This includes 10% of men who believe it's justifiable to rape someone if they are drunk, drugged or wearing provocative clothing. According to the survey, 14% of men believe it's justified to rape a victim if they don't physically fight back or explicitly say "no," and 13% believe it's OK to rape someone if they voluntarily went home with them after a party or date. Mic reached out to the European Commission but has not yet heard back.
The European Commission's findings show that rape culture and toxic masculinity are an undeniable reality among native Germans. However, as Germany has led efforts in accepting refugees, at least 870,000 of them, a rise of myths and narratives of Syrian men raping white women or physically assaulting Germans have become a trend among much of right-wing media.
For example, Hoax Map, a site created by two native Germans frustrated with the slew of fake news stories demonizing refugees, reported that there were 44 cases of refugees falsely accused of sexual assault and rape, as of February, CBC reported. This includes the case of a 13-year-old girl from Berlin, who sparked international protests after falsely claiming Arab and Turkish men gang-raped her at a train station in Berlin on New Year's Eve.
The narrative of Syrian men as "brown sex-crazed savages" has filled Loubna Mrie, a Syrian activist and asylum seeker in New York City, with despair. Mrie says that a lot of these men were taking on professional careers before the Syrian Civil War. After witnessing death and war, they now have to deal with being vilified in their new home.
"[These Syrian men] were doctors, engineers and teachers, but now some of these Germans think of these Syrian men are just angry Arab men standing on a street corner cat-calling girls?" Mrie told Mic over the phone.
Despite the fact sexual assault and rape culture have been an ongoing epidemic in Germany, the Associated Press published a profile on Horst Wenzel — a 27-year-old German native known as "Mr. Flirt" — who teaches male Syrian refugees how to "pick up" women. Wenzel, according to AP, made a career out of teaching "wealthy, but uptight men" on how to approach men.
Muhammad Loutfi, a Syrian engineer by day and activist by night, says that courses, like ones provided by Wenzel, "attempt to pin misogynist crimes of white men on brown men."
"The whole thing is laughable when you realize that pickup classes are peak rape culture," Loutfi said. "It's almost as if European men want to teach refugees how to properly contribute to the white way."
Loutfi argues that the depiction of Syrian refugees as sexual predators is racist since it operates under the assumption that only Europeans are civilized or are the only ones capable of understanding consent. He says the racist narrative ignores a long history of misogynist and sexually violent Europeans.
Mrie agrees and says it's foolish to target Syrian refugees or Muslim men exclusively for sexual assault and rape culture.
"It's pretty ridiculous to say that only Syrian refugees have this problem with sexual assault, because it happens around the world from Sudan to Canada," Mrie said.
However, Loutfi also noted that Syrian women in refugee camps are at risk of gender-based violence like rape, but those attacks don't get nearly enough outrage or attention as reports of Arab men accused of sexually assaulting European women.
"It's important to point out that punishing black and brown men for even looking at white women has a very long history," Loutfi said, mentioning Emmett Till and fantasies of Turkish harems. "Sometimes this is for attention and sometimes out of fear. It's a common colonialist trope."
Through her work and studies at New York University's Middle Eastern Affairs department, and observing the 2016 presidential election, Mrie has frequently encountered trends of refugees and Muslims depicted as sexual predators. The whole anti-refugee and anti-Muslim hysteria has left Mrie, who immigrated to the United States in 2014, speechless.
"The refugee crisis, in general, has created so many misconceptions about Syrians and Muslims," she said. "It's scary. I just don't know what to say."