It was a startling statement from the woman that The New York Times described, only last month, as the “liberal west’s last defender’, and who belongs to a centrist party that celebrates freedom of expression and religious tolerance. The German head has been vigorous in support of Middle East immigration into her country – allowing 1 million refugees into Germany since the start of the Syrian crisis.
But Germans are fast losing their patience for Merkel’s liberal views, and suspect she is valuing the rights of refugees over her own citizens. The mass sexual assault that took place in the German city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve as well as several terror attacks committed by refugees is fuelling a rise in nationalism in Germany that mirrors the sentiment growing all over the globe - from Brexit in Britain to Trump in the U.S. to Pauline Hanson at home.
Whether Merkel will be able to follow through with any ban is a matter of debate – it’s likely that the European Court of Human Rights would rule any moves to suppress it as unlawful.
But whether it passes or not, the symbolism is unshakable. The world is fast losing its appetite for anything that looks like conciliation or tolerance. We’re moving into a new, and very volatile era, and even the ‘last defender’ is falling to her knees.