Not just bull necks and tattoos by a long shot

Mario looks thoughtfully at the photo. Two girls look at him, smile friendly, have long blond hair, wear colorful T-shirts – it's summer. "It's hard to say," mumbles the 12-year-old. "Maybe in the middle?"Completely wrong," responds Micha. "The two girls are the U.S. singing duo Prussian Blue, who are now icons in the American Nazi rock scene," explains the 29-year-old, who has invited people to a workshop on right-wing extremism in Bocholt this Saturday. And proves that you can't judge other people's political attitudes by outward appearances alone. Mario is amazed: "I wouldn't have thought that."Micha holds up the next picture: "What do you think, right, left, center??"Thirteen young people between the ages of 12 and 20 came to the "Cafe Karton" of the Catholic Student Youth (KSJ) in the town on the Dutch border. They want to "learn more about the right-wing scene in Germany" and also "get to know their own prejudices better". A workshop that may no longer be possible in this form next year: funding for the Cologne-based "Arbeitsstelle Rechtsextremismus und Gewalt" (ARUG), for which Micha works, is only secure until the end of the year. The federal funding program XENOS prefers to invest in "mobile outreach teams" in the future. Micha now shows a photo of a burly man with a bald head, holding a microphone in his hand. "He's right-wing," everyone agrees. "Unfortunately, bull necks and tattoos are no longer a guarantee today," the workshop leader said. Micha knows what he's talking about. The 29-year-old, who works for ARUG, was himself part of the "scene" for more than 15 years, with contacts throughout Europe, as he reports. Then, after the birth of his child, came the abrupt exit. He doesn't want to talk about the exact reasons, only this much: "At that time, I wanted to check off the chapter completely."In the meantime, however, Micha is doing everything he can to ensure that other young people don't have to go through the same experience as he did. "The right-wing populist potential in the population is great, we are just not sensitive enough to recognize that," the 29-year-old warns his audience. "What constitutes right-wing extremism??" Micha asks the group. "To be against foreigners", says Sarah. The answer is not enough for Derya: "Being right-wing also means being against homosexuals, disabled people and other religions. Actually against everything that is somehow different."The 20-year-old Turkish woman straightens up on the crumpled sofa: "Unfortunately, you don't hear enough about it because it's not talked about enough."Micha now divides the group into pairs that should know each other as little as possible. At the "silent interview" everyone will assess his counterpart – without words. Steffi chews thoughtfully on her ballpoint pen: I wonder what music her interview partner Alexander listens to? What is he afraid of? Has he already had experience with violence and exclusion?? The results are astonishing: Most of the time, behind the facade there is not what one would have suspected. "It's about you questioning prejudices," Micha wishes. But it should not stop there: On this Saturday it is also about quite tangible political questions. "Wouldn't it be simplest to ban the NPD??" Derya throws into the round. Micha thinks that banning the NPD in Germany is the wrong way to fight right-wing extremism. The people would continue to work in the same structures. He focuses on the preliminary stage: "We have to start much earlier and invest much more in prevention work that is long-term. The need in violence prevention is huge."Micha is pleased that everyone discusses so animatedly. He regrets all the more that permanent funding for the ARUG is still in the stars so far. He is not convinced by the "mobile outreach teams" planned by the federal government instead of the permanent institution of a workplace: "For people who are in trouble, a mobile team cannot replace permanent contact persons."

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Christina Cherry
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