Hostility to Muslims on the rise in Germany - report

2015-01-08 20:46
(Thibault Camus, AP)

(Thibault Camus, AP)

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Berlin - Anti-Islam attitudes in Germany are on the rise, according to new data released on Thursday amid a public outcry in response to the deadly shooting in the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Among non-Muslims in Germany interviewed in November 2014, 57% regarded Islam as a threat, up from 53% in 2012, said the Bertelsmann Foundation, a think-tank, in its annual appraisal of attitudes towards religion.

About 61% believed Islam could not assimilate to Western lifestyles. The data showed a sharp disconnect, however, with German Muslims generally emerging as open-minded, democratic in attitude and sociable towards Germans.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas defended the country's Muslim community on Thursday, saying it had nothing to do with violence like the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris.

"This was an attack against Islam. The vast majority of Muslims in Germany consider it a betrayal of their beliefs and they are saying so loudly and publicly," Maas told a news conference in Berlin.

Maas spoke after 10 weeks of demonstrations by Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida), a right-wing group that is expected to capitalize on the Paris attack at its next rally on Monday in Dresden, eastern Germany.

"The mainstream here in Germany has to understand that these were extremists who have nothing to do with Islam. Extremists exist in every society," Maas said, adding that his ministry wanted to avert as "war of cultures" in Germany.

Earlier, two state-level leaders of right-wing political upstart Alternative for Germany (AfD) voiced support for Pegida, which has argued that Islamist terrorism is a reason to place stricter controls on immigration.

AfD regional leader Alexander Gauland said the Paris attacks were a justification of Pegida's political goals.

AfD regional leaders had a meeting with seven Pegida leaders in Dresden on Wednesday to explore what Saxony state AfD leader Frauke Petry called their "areas of overlap." She said both advocated immigration reform and boosting police numbers.

But she said after the talks the two groups were not in alliance, nor had Pegida asked for this.

"We think it's important for politicians to engage in dialogue with citizens," she said in justification of the meeting.

Islamist radicals

Germany has an estimated four million people with a Muslim background, not all of them active believers, made up mainly of immigrants from Turkey or Arab nations, in a population of 81 million.

The social survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation reported that 90% of German Muslims who consider themselves highly religious agreed in interviews that democracy was a good form of government.

Nine out of 10 of all Muslims surveyed said they knew non-Muslims outside of work. Half of respondents said their social contacts were evenly balanced between Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Germany has become their home country, yet the apparently negative image generated by a minority of Islamist radicals touches on them all," said Yasemin El-Menouar, Bertelsmann's expert on Islam.

Bertelsmann's data is based on representative surveys conducted in 2013 in 13 nations with 14 000 respondents.

About 63% of those describing themselves as moderately Muslim or devoutly Muslim said they often reflected on their own views and were capable of changing their minds, for example about gay marriage.

Read more on:    germany  |  paris shooting

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