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December 22, 2021 4:50 pm
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Award-Winning German Singer Can Be Called ‘Antisemitic,’ Federal Court Declares

avatar by Ben Cohen

Controversial German singer Xavier Naidoo playing to a sell-out crowd at the Lanxess Arena in the city of Cologne. Photo: Reuters/Kadir Caliskan

One of Germany’s most popular singers has lost a legal battle over whether he can be legitimately labeled an “antisemite” as a result of his public statements and ties with an extremist group.

On Wednesday, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe overturned previous lower court rulings in favor of the singer, Xavier Naidoo. The recipient of several music awards in Germany, Naidoo has a long record of promoting conspiracy theories and has spoken at meetings of the “Reichsbürger” (“Reich Citizens”) — a proscribed organization of Nazi sympathizers who believe that the Federal Republic of Germany created after World War II represents the occupation of the country by foreign forces.

The latest court battle began in 2017, when the litigious Naidoo was described as an “antisemite” by an analyst working for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a German NGO that combats racism and antisemitism. Asked how Naidoo should be classified, the analyst responded: “He’s an antisemite, I can say that, I think, but not so openly because he likes to sue. But that’s factually verifiable.”

Naidoo launched a legal campaign to clear his name following that statement, insisting that being identified as antisemitic would severely damage his reputation and career. Two regional courts found in his favor before Wednesday’s higher court ruling overturned those earlier verdicts.

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The judges in Karlsruhe observed that Naidoo had “voluntarily entered the public sphere with his controversial political views” and claimed “appropriate public attention for himself.” Their ruling argued that providing him with “special protection would make it impossible to criticize the political views he has spread.”

Born to parents who immigrated to Germany from South Africa, Naidoo began his recording career in the mid-1990s, working with musicians in the US and Germany. He has frequently attracted controversy for his songs and public statements, including a 2012 track titled “Wo sind sie jetzt” (“Where are they now”) that contained lyrics accused of being homophobic. More recently, he has promoted the QAnon movement along with various conspiracy theories regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite his links with the far-right, Naidoo was initially selected to represent Germany in the 2015 Eurovision song contest before withdrawing amid a storm of protest. In March of this year, similar protests forced Naidoo to abandon his role as a juror on a popular TV show, “Germany’s Next Superstar.”

Responding to Wednesday’s court decision, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation — named in honor of Amadeu Antonio Kiowa, an Angolan contract worker who was brutally beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs in the town of Eberswalde in 1990 — hailed the verdict as “an enormous success for political education and for the fight against antisemitism.”

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