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The German authorities on Friday tied asylum seekers for the first time to the wave of violent assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve as debate intensified over whether the country had made a mistake in opening its doors last year to more than a million migrants.

The Interior Ministry said 18 of the 31 people identified so far as suspects in the violence in Cologne had applied for asylum in Germany. The disclosure further stoked fears about security and culture clashes between the newcomers, mostly from Muslim countries, and Germans who are confronting the costs of assimilating them…

The Interior Ministry identified the 31 suspects as nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, four Syrians, five Iranians, an Iraqi, a Serb, an American and two Germans. Most of the crimes they were accused of involved theft and violence, said a ministry spokesman, Tobias Plate, but at least three acts were considered sexual assaults…

“It is all still incomprehensible,” said Ulrich Karpen, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at the University of Hamburg. “And the effect is that, in the general public, people no longer feel safe.”

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Nearly 50 women in Hamburg complained to police about sexual harassment by ‘North African’ men, who called them ‘bitches’, shouted ‘Fikki, fikki’ to indicate they wanted to rape them, and ‘chased’ them ‘like cattle’ around the streets.

One victim there was a 19-year-old girl called Lotta, who’d gone out to celebrate in a chic dress and high heels with friends. While they were walking from one nightclub to another, they were surrounded by men of ‘foreign origin’ who separated the girls from each other.

‘I was suddenly alone,’ said Lotta. ‘Twenty to 30 men were standing round me … every time a hand went away from my body, the next one arrived. I felt helpless.’

Like her friends, the teenager was sexually assaulted, had her hair pulled and was finally thrown to the ground after the men had finished with her.

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One woman said: “All of a sudden these men around us began groping us. They touched our behinds and grabbed between our legs. They touched us everywhere. I thought to myself that if we stay here in this crowd they could kill us, they could rape us and nobody would notice. I thought we simply had to accept it.” One woman told BuzzFeed News that when she saw what was happening that night, she called an officer over and told him. He told her: “Well, take care of your stuff, I can’t do anything right now.”…

“I was in Munich last month,” she told BuzzFeed News, “and a lot of the men came up to me there, some in groups, and harassed me, and made me feel afraid. What happened to us at New Year’s Eve was the same – we didn’t know what to do. My friend was groped – it was disgusting. The whole situation is disgusting. I don’t know how this was all allowed to happen.”…

Distrust in the politicians and police’s reports of that night has been matched only by anger at the initial media reporting of the attacks. Early media reports said there were 1,000 men involved in committing criminal acts, a figure later dismissed by police chief Wolfgang Albers, who said only “a number of suspects” were believed to be involved and that smaller groups were the individuals targeting victims. A reporter behind one of those news stories who wishes to remain anonymous doesn’t believe the number was far off.

“It depends on how you define an attack,” she said. “I come from a country where these attacks are common during festivities. If someone grabbing your bum or randomly touching you is considered by police as an attack – and it should be – then there’s no reason to believe that 1,000 men doing it is an imaginary number.”

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Security authorities are growing increasingly concerned by the rising number of sex attacks by gangs of migrants which appear to be spreading across Europe.

Finland and Sweden today became the latest European countries to issue warnings to women to be wary of the threat of sex attacks following fresh reports of sexual assaults in the last week, while the Viennese police chief adviced women not to go outside alone in Vienna…

Further cases have emerged of identical sex attacks being reported in neighbouring Austria as well as Switzerland, where six women reported identical crimes in Zurich on New Year’s Eve.

Swedish police say at least 15 young women have reported being groped by groups of men on New Year’s Eve in the city of Kalmar…

Thousands have pledged their support to a German vigilante group which has vowed to protect women from migrants in the wake of the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne.

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“We have to consider when someone forfeits their right to our hospitality,” said Mrs Merkel. “When crimes are committed, and people place themselves outside the law, there must be consequences.”

Under current rules, asylum-seekers can only be expelled if they are sentenced to three years or more in prison.

Privately, Mrs Merkel is said to be deeply disturbed by reports that refugees were among those who sexually assaulted some 150 women in the heart of Cologne, while outnumbered police looked on helplessly.

“I sometimes hear it said I’m happy that so many refugees are coming,” she is reported to have said at a meeting with political allies in Bavaria this week. “I don’t see this as a success of mine.”

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Carrying banners and signs bearing slogans like “Rapefugees not welcome,” the far-right protesters took aim at Merkel, accusing her of allowing migrants to running amok in Germany through her liberal stance towards those fleeing war.

“Merkel has become a danger to our country. Merkel must go,” a member of PEGIDA told the crowd, which echoed the call…

“These women who fell victim will have to live with it for a long time. I feel like my freedom has been robbed from me,” a mother of four introduced as Christiane told the rally.

“That’s impossible. Frau Merkel, Frau Reker, you are women! Where is your solidarity? What are women worth in this society?” she said, referring to Henriette Reker, who is mayor of Cologne, and who was stabbed in the neck last October by a man with a far-right background.

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A German interior minister has said right wing campaigners discussing the mass sexual assault in Cologne on New Years are as “awful” as the offences committed on the 100 victims…

Ralf Jaeger, interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, within which Cologne is situated, warned that anti-immigrant groups were using the attacks to stir up hatred.

According to the BBC he said: “What happens on the right-wing platforms and in chatrooms is at least as awful as the acts of those assaulting the women.

“This is poisoning the climate of our society.”

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[I]t is beyond doubt that there are people living in Europe now who have been brought up in a culture where a woman would be publicly and viciously punished for allowing herself to be the victim of a sexual assault. It is utterly unrealistic to expect all those brought up in fundamentalist religious cultures – conservative Islam being the largest, but by no means the only such culture – to be able suddenly and completely to ditch all aspects of the pervasive environment they were brought up in…

Men who have been raised to believe that only a worthless woman walks through the street alone – even when her head and body are covered – only come to an understanding that this is not the case through consistent intellectual effort. There’s no excuse for not making this effort. But the fact is this: some people will heavily resist it. That, too, is human.

Consistent intellectual effort needs leadership. Unfortunately, help with such effort from secular and religious leaders in the Middle East and north Africa seems to be in very short supply. In Europe, the leader who both champions and embodies such efforts far better than anyone else is Angela Merkel. It’s sad that folk are willing to seize on the tawdry, cowardly actions of a bunch of destructive, selfish, dangerous sexual abusers to disparage and traduce her bravery, optimism and humanity. Merkel is the one to take guidance and inspiration from, not them.

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But as quick as the right was to use the attacks as a wedge against refugees, the left moved just as fast to deflect the blame. Heiko Maas, the minister of justice and a member of the Social Democrats, said on Tuesday that “organized crime” was behind the attacks, though no evidence exists for such a connection (he has since threatened to deport foreigners found guilty in the attacks)…

Integration will fail if Germany cannot resolve the tension between its secular, liberal laws and culture and the patriarchal and religiously conservative worldviews that some refugees bring with them. We cannot avoid that question out of fear of feeding the far right. But integration will also fail if a full generation of refugees is demonized on arrival…

The real question we should be asking is not whether there is something inherently wrong with the refugees, but whether Germany is doing an effective job of integrating them — and if not, whether something can be done to change that.

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Heitmeyer believes it is incorrect to speak of organized crime, as German Justice Minister Heiko Maas did this week. “Organized crime has a stable structure with targeted and obscured courses of events. But in Cologne, we are looking at the absence of structure. I assume that the perpetrators coordinated using modern communication devices and social networks. We are familiar with that from violence-prone football fans.”

Because words can generate reality, Heitmeyer warns against speaking of sexual attacks. “That trivializes the phenomenon,” he says. “It’s about violence. And violence is a demonstration of power — in this instance, women’s right to self-determination, in order to express their inequality.”…

The leader of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, presented his party’s new stance on the issue during a breakfast with other Social Democratic cabinet members at the Economy Ministry on Wednesday. “The time for understanding is over,” he said. “Something must now be done — otherwise the people won’t understand us at all anymore.” Parliamentary group leader Thomas Oppermann tweeted after the meeting in a manner that would usually be ascribed to members of the right-wing AfD: “No pardon for sex attackers. Investigate, arrest, punish harshly. And deport them if possible. To protect the victims and the refugees.”…

“Those who were already afraid see Cologne as confirmation,” says a Merkel confidant. “And those who are fundamentally open to refugees are now saying: It can’t go on like this.”

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As my colleague Ian Tuttle notes, this sexual violence is part of a “disturbing trend” in European countries with large Muslim-immigrant populations. Sweden now has the “third-highest rate of rape per capita in the world.” Britain’s horrifying Rotherham rape scandal — where 1,400 children were systematically raped and abused over a period of 16 years while authorities turned a blind eye — still shocks the conscience.

But the challenges go well beyond terrorism and sexual violence. Immigrants and refugees are pouring into the West from regions overrun with anti-Semitism and featuring vast numbers of people who support the imposition of sharia law. For example, 99 percent of Afghans want sharia to be the “official law of the land” in their home country, along with 91 percent of Iraqis, 89 percent of Palestinians, 84 percent of Pakistanis, and 83 percent of Moroccans…

Further, as I’ve discussed before, Western soldiers are coming home from conflict zones describing cultures that feature systematic child rape in Afghanistan, brutal treatment of women in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and a shocking level of fatalism and disregard for human life.

Simply put, there are powerful cultural reasons why many of the nations of North Africa and the Middle East are miserable places to live — and those reasons go well beyond terrorism. And while it’s true that some immigrants are intentionally fleeing that culture and hoping to embrace more humane Western values, bitter experience in Britain, France, and elsewhere teaches us that a substantial number hope to enjoy the material blessings of the West while maintaining and defending many of the worst beliefs and practices of their home nations.

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But the most disturbing effects occur when the Muslim sense of superiority over non-Muslims combines with the Muslim males’ sense of superiority over women. Last year that combination produced the scandal in Rotherham, in which no fewer than 1,400 young women, most of them white, working-class “Christian” girls, were raped, tortured, beaten, abused, prostituted, passed from hand to hand, and abused in almost every conceivable way by gangs of Muslim men of Pakistani background who despised their victims as sluts and “worthless.” Their story, which is heart-rending, is told here. But the same basic narrative, varying only in the details, was replayed in Oxford, Birmingham, Oldham, and about 20 more medium-size English provincial towns in the last decade…

What happened this week to the women in Cologne differs in important ways from the abuse of the young girls in Rotherham. But it proceeds from the same Muslim group loyalty and sense of superiorities inherent in Islam. What the rioters in Cologne demonstrated in the crudest possible way was that among the things they wanted to take were “our” women. Our own society finds such logic hard to follow: In what sense are modern independent women anyone else’s property? But by the logic of the societies and religion from which the rioters and most migrants come, women are either behind the veil, and thus the property of the family, or on the street, and thus the property of anyone. And the rioters were imposing their logic, values, and identity on us on the significant date of New Year’s Day…

Either the misogynistic rioters included a significant number of recently arrived migrants or they did not. If they did, then the migration fed directly into the riots; if they did not, then the rioters were people of “North African and Arab appearance” who had previously been law-abiding but who now felt able and entitled to assault local women in public without much fear of the consequences. What changed them? What gave them that confidence? The obvious answer is that those rioters who had been living in Germany for some years, maybe even having been born there, have been emboldened by the arrival of many others of similar origin, faith, or “appearance,” and the potential arrival of many more. They sense that the German authorities are restrained from halting immigration or imposing Western values on the migrants, or even preventing them from imposing their values on the locals. And as the feminists say, they feel “empowered” as a result.

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The Muslim men used a tactic that has escaped the notice of fantasy Islam devotees but is well known to those of us who’ve followed the scant reports on the rape jihad as it has proceeded from Tahrir Square to Malmö to Rotherham: A group of men encircles the targeted woman or girl, trapping her while walling off police and other would-be rescuers. Knowing they are a protected class, the Muslim men have no fear of the cops — “You can’t do anything to me,” and “Mrs. Merkel invited me here,” are just some of the reported taunts. By the time “help” reaches one victim, the assailants have moved on to the next…

In the Western ministries of fantasy Islam, the pols and their note-takers will thumb their chins and wonder what could possibly have motivated the German attacks — just as they wonder what could possibly explain the European sexual-assault crisis that has, by some mysterious coincidence, coincided with mass Muslim migration.

The rest of us will know that there is a strategy: conquest. Just as in the Middle East, women and girls in the West are the spoils of jihad, the vehicle for intimidating non-Muslims into surrendering sovereignty over the streets. If they want to be safe, Sheikh Qaradawi warns, they must submit to Islam’s sartorial suffocation. If not, well, they have it coming.

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